MIAMI: South Korea’s Kim Sei-young rolled in a long birdie putt at the 72nd hole on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to win the LPGA Tour Championship and claim a record $1.5 million winner’s prize.
Kim, leader after each of the first three rounds, struggled to build momentum at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
But she came through when it mattered, edging England’s Charley Hull by one stroke.
She was one-under for the day through 17 and Hull had joined her atop the leaderboard at 17-under par with a bogey-free six-under 66 that included birdies at 16, 17 and 18.
A playoff looked more than possible, but Kim didn’t blink, rolling in her fifth birdie of the day at the final hole to seal the win with a two-under par 70 for an 18-under par total of 270.
Kim said she had “no idea” that she was putting for the win at 18.
“Last putt I was just trying make two-putt because I didn’t see the leaderboard,” Kim said.
“I just tried to make the right distance; made it. It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I was, like, so emotional, almost crying.”
Hull, who started the day five off the pace, said she knew after birdies at the second, 12 and 13 that she had a shot at the largest winner’s cheque ever in women’s golf.
“Kind of 15 I looked at the leader board and I thought I’ve got a chance,” she said. “I didn’t birdie 15, but I birdied 16, 17, 18 — I gave it my best shot.”
Kim acknowledged that she was feeling the nerves — even though she was feeling the pressure not from Hull but from playing partner Nelly Korda.
Telling herself it ws “no big deal”, Kim said she “just tried to play like a practice round”.
Even more than the prize money, Kim said, she was delighted to achieve her pre-season goal of adding a third title of the year to a resume that now includes 10 victories.
In the end her well-struck putt broke late and dived into the hole.