Kim Hyo-joo cruises to Lotte Championship victory
Kim Hyo-joo won her first Lotte Championship at Hoakalei Country Club in Ewa Beach in Oahu, Hawaii on Saturday, beating Hinako Shibuno of Japan by a clear two strokes to finish at 11 under, 277.
Kim put in a confident performance across all four rounds at Hoakalei Country Club, finishing the first round five under to tie for second, before jumping up to first in the second round at 10 under and holding that position through the final two rounds.
Unlike most other LPGA tournaments, the Lotte Championship runs from Wednesday to Saturday rather than Thursday to Sunday to allow it to be televised over the weekend in Korea.
Kim only hit four bogeys across all four rounds — two each on Friday and Saturday. She hit five birdies to kick off the tournament on Wednesday, repeating that scorecard on Thursday. Friday was her worst day of the tournament, with two bogeys and two birdies for a par round, with three birdies and two bogeys on Saturday taking her one under for the final round.
Saturday's victory was the fifth of Kim's LPGA career, following wins at the 2014 Amundi Evian Championship, 2015 Cognizant Founders Cup, 2016 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and 2021 HSBC Women’s World Championship. She has got off to a strong start this season as well, with two top 10 finishes before this week's win, finishing sixth at the Honda LPGA Thailand on March 13 and eighth at The Chevron Championship earlier this month.
Kim's win comes after year's of hard work at the Lotte Championship — she is one of only 10 golfers to have played at all 10 editions of the tournament to date. With every single previous winner of the tournament having gone on to pick up at least one more win that season, Saturday's victory could be starting Kim off on the first multi-win year of her LPGA career.
“I have been playing the Lotte Championship since the inaugural championship, and then because of this being my sponsor I always wanted to win and do well,” said Kim. “I guess so far, the records are not as I expected, as I would expect, and it was a little sad personally for me. However, I prepared a lot for this year's championship so it's all the more meaningful and special for me to win this championship this year.”
But while 10 years of practice paid off for Kim, the three other Korean golfers to finish in the top 10 at Hoakalei Country Club proved that experience isn't everything.
Choi Hye-jin continued a strong rookie year performance with her best LPGA result since earning her Tour card, finishing third on seven under, 281. Choi debuted on the Tour this year and has already had two top-10 finishes in five tournaments.
KLPGA golfer Lee So-mi finished in fifth place with five under, 283, her best result at an LPGA tournament to date, while An Na-rin, yet another LPGA rookie, finished tied for sixth at four under, her best finish on the Tour.
Korea's LPGA veterans finished further down the table. Chun In-gee tied for 12th on two under, with Chella Choi following tied for 26th. Among the Koreans that fell outside the top 40, hall-of-famer and 21-time LPGA winner Park In-bee failed to make the cut.
The LPGA will return on Thursday with the Dio Implant LA Open at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]