South Korea's Kim wins LPGA Founders Cup in record fashion
Los Angeles (AFP)
South Korea's Kim Sei-Young matched Annika Sorenstam's 15-year-old record for the lowest 72-hole score in LPGA history, firing a 10-under par 62 to win the LPGA Founders Cup.
The 23-year-old from Seoul completed four rounds at 27-under par 261 over the Phoenix, Arizona, layout to match the mark set by Swedish legend Sorenstam to win the 2001 Standard Register PING tournament at Moon Valley Country Club, also in Phoenix.
"It's a dream come true," Kim said. "Today scoring 10 under, it was my best score ever. I didn't know it was best score ever. I asked caddie, 'Did I hit 10-under?' He said, 'Yeah.' Amazing. Dream come true."
Kim, who matched the course record with her 62, had a chance to break the mark on the final hole -- and match the best final round in LPGA history -- but came up short on a 12-foot birdie putt and tapped in to tie the record.
World number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand made a late charge to finish second on 266 with American Jacqui Concolino third on 268.
"Congratulations to Sei-Young," Ko said. "Not many times you shoot 7-under and still finish five behind."
The victory will provide Kim a lift with the year's first major, the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, only two weeks away.
"Last couple of tournaments I lost my confidence," Kim said. "After this tournament, it has come back and I'm most happy for that."
Sorenstam fired the all-time LPGA low 18-hole round of 59 during her record run 15 years ago. Kim opened this week with a 63, making nine birdies without a bogey, and followed with rounds of 66 and 70.
Kim, last year's LPGA Rookie of the Year, advanced from seventh to fifth in world rankings with the victory, enhancing her chances of a place at the Rio Olympics.
Kim won three times last season -- at the Bahamas LPGA Classic, LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii and Blue Bay LPGA event in China -- and had her best major finish with a runner-up effort at the Women's PGA Championship.
She also shattered the prior Founder Cup 72-hole record of 23-under by Stacy Lewis in her 2013 victory.
- Four Ko birdies in a row -
Kim, who trailed compatriot Ji Eun-Hee by a stroke entering the last round, birdied five of the first eight holes -- including three in a row at the par-3 fourth, par-5 fifth and par-3 sixth -- and added an eagle at the par-5 11th to reach 24-under, her 5-wood second shot rolling to a stop two feet from the cup.
A birdie at the par-4 13th put Kim on 25-under, giving her a six-stroke lead with five holes to play and a chance to rewrite the LPGA record book coming down the stretch.
Kiwi teen Ko opened with a bogey, answered with birdies on three of the next four holes, added another to close the front nine and then birdied four more in a row from 13 through 16 to reach 22-under.
But Kim blasted out of a bunker to four feet at the par-5 15th and sank the birdie putt, then dropped another short birdie putt at 16 to reach 27-under overall.
"When it's kind of a birdie fest, you know you need to make one more. I knew I needed to make a lot of birdies," Ko said. "I'm proud of how I played this week."
At the par-3 17th, Kim rolled a long birdie attempt eight feet beyond the cup but made the comeback putt to stay on record pace, setting up the 18th-hole drama.
© 2016 AFP