Women take swing at Open title before going for golf gold

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Women take swing at Open title before going for golf gold

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From left, Lee Mi-rim, Chun In-gee and Kim Sei-young. For Lee, the Ricoh Women’s British Open was a major event where she finished as runner-up. For Chun and Kim, it was a final run-up tournament before the Olympics starts in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will be played for the first time in a century. [AP/NEWSIS]

Chun In-gee and Kim Sei-young had a final tune-up at the Ricoh Women’s British Open on Sunday before heading to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the 2016 Summer Games, where golf will be returning for the first time in more than a century.

By the end of the Women’s British Open that took place from Thursday to Sunday in Milton Keynes, England, Chun was tied for eighth with fellow Korean Ryu So-yeon and Lexi Thompson of the United States, while Kim finished 50th.

Chun had a solid performance throughout the tournament, adding at least two birdies per round to remain within the top pool of the leaderboard. Her performance peaked in the third round when she grabbed seven birdies while bogeying only two holes. Chun added four birdies and two bogeys in the final round of the British Open and finished the tournament 8-under 280.

Kim looked as if she was in decent physical condition in the first and the second round, even grabbing an eagle at the par-4 13th hole in the second round. By the end of the second round, Kim was tied for eighth at 6-under and looked as if she could contend for the win. But the third round was the dealbreaker for the 23-year-old Korean. She had a double bogey at the third hole and added another bogey in the subsequent hole. The double bogey at the 11th hole robbed Kim of her chance for the title and she quickly climbed down the ladder in the leaderboard. Adding to the distress, Kim had another double bogey in the final round, losing eight strokes in the last two days and her position in the leaderboard took a nosedive along with it.

For Chun, it was her putting that kept her in the top 10 in the final round on Sunday. She had only 27 putts in the final round, the lowest of the four rounds. Chun has been working on taking things simple and straightforward, rather than making them hard by thinking too much. Perhaps because of her effort to think less, she is slowly regaining her pace, finishing in the top 10 for the seventh time this season.

In comparison, inconsistent performance has mired Kim’s season so far and was blamed once again for her poor showing in the late rounds of the British Open. In the first two rounds, Kim’s green accuracy was 80%, hitting the green in regulation 15 times in the first round and 14 times in second. Green in regulation is when the ball is on the putting surface and the number of strokes taken is at least two fewer than par. But on the third round, she hit the green in regulation only seven times.

Kim had three wins and one loss during the UL International Crown a week before the British Open, giving rise to expectations that Kim may be the ace for the Korean team at Rio Olympics. However, her performance during the British Open brought skepticism once more.

Kim will be the first of the four Korean golfers to arrive in Brazil on August 11. Chun will rest in Korea before arriving in Rio on August 14.

Lee Mi-rim, the compatriot of Chun and Kim, finished the major tournament behind the winner Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand.

Lee started out strong at the British Open, matching the tournament record on Thursday shooting 10-under 62, owing to her 10 birdies. But on the fourth day, Lee had four bogeys and only four birdies and allowed Jutanugarn to take three-stroke lead over her. Lee eventually finished the tournament at 13-under 275.

The winner from the British Open, Jutanugarn of Thailand, will also compete in the Olympics. The win from the major event over the weekend is her fourth career victory and her fourth this season. The 20-year-old Thai golfer has moved up to No. 2 in the world, the highest ranking of her career.

BY KIM DU-YONG, CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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