Kim steals the show in first major

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Kim steals the show in first major

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Kim Hyo-joo celebrates after sinking a birdie putt on the last hole yesterday to win the Evian Championship in Evian, eastern France. [AP/NEWSIS]

Kim Hyo-joo of Korea made LPGA major history with a record low of 61 in the first round last Thursday at the Evian Championship, but that wasn’t enough. Two months after her 19th birthday, Kim became the third-youngest major winner by beating Australian veteran Karrie Webb by one shot Sunday with an 11-under 273 overall in her first appearance at a major.

Kim trailed Webb by a shot before the final hole, but she seized the day with a 12-foot birdie putt. Webb then missed a chance to force a playoff when her putt for par from the same distance drifted left of the hole.

“I feel like I’m walking on a cloud,” Kim said after the tournament. After being congratulated by her idol, Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, she said, “I feel like I’m in a dream. I’m extremely happy for this dramatic victory.”

Kim has suffered from an Achilles’ tendon injury that has been bothering her for a long time. She was spotted limping by several Korean reporters as she walked back to the clubhouse of the Evian Resort after the third round.

The injury worsened prior to the event, said Kim.

“Since I was in a very good mood in the first round, I was able to forget about that injury,” she said. “But the pain just got worse and worse in the third round.”

It didn’t help that the resort is at a mountain and the course has many ups and downs.

“It was really painful,” said Kim said. “But I kept telling myself that I can play for one more day. When things don’t work out, we can give hundreds and thousands of reasons for that, so I tried to forget about the injury and focus on the game.”

Kim said she received dozens of text messages prior to the final round, mostly saying “you must win this one,” but she tried to not think about the championship. She tried to just enjoy the experience, and that mindset paid off.

Webb tied the game by completing a birdie on the first hole of the final round, while Kim missed a birdie chance.

But Kim soon made a beautiful counter with a birdie on the par-three second hole, where Webb’s double-bogey left her three shots behind.

But the 39-year-old veteran showed her poise by birdying three straight holes, starting with the ninth, to take her to nine under.

Kim, however, regained her three-shot lead with birdies on the 12th and 13th.

It looked like her first major title was all but certain. Then the tension started to rise as Webb made a birdie, while Kim settled for a bogey after missing a 10-meter (33-foot) putt on the par-three 14th.

Webb then tied the game on the 15th. Kim’s approach on the 16th almost rolled into the water, then she missed her putt for par. Webb took the lead with a par from four feet away.

It appeared as though Webb, who was looking to win her eighth career major and her first since the 2006 Kraft Nabisco, was en route to a dramatic comeback win.

The tournament was decided on the final hole. Webb made a fine approach that gave her a chance to save par from about 30 feet from the pin, but her chip shot rolled just past the hole and carried downhill.

And Kim didn’t squander the opportunity.

“The last [18th] hole is hard to make a birdie,” she said. “But I played my best and was able to finish the game with a birdie. I’m very happy for it.”

Kim finished at three-under 68 for the final round.

“I believe in fate a little bit, and I wasn’t meant to win,” said Webb, according to the Associated Press. “I hit a lot of good putts this week. Probably the one on the last was the poorest I hit all week.”

Koreans Hang Ha-na and Hur Mi-jung tied for third at nine under, Choi Na-yeon was fifth at eight under and Park In-bee was tied for 10th at two under.

Kim earned $622,431 for winning the championship, and she has no idea what she will do with the money.

“Well I think I will buy a nice purse for my mother first,” she said. “I don’t know about the rest of the money. My father will manage the prize.”

BY kwon sang-soo[sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]




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