In Kyung Kim Secures Deserved Major Redemption at Kingsbarns
In-Kyung Kim banished the horrors of squandering a major chance at the ANA Inspiration five years ago to produce a two-shot victory in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns, despite the best efforts of England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff who was simply brilliant in the rain. In 2012 at Mission Hills, the South Korean missed a 14-inch putt for the title, ultimately losing that day in a playoff. Half a decade on from that most crushing of losses, the 29-year-old was masterful throughout the season’s fourth major championship in the East Neuk of Fife.
Starting the final round six shots ahead of Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn and England’s Georgia Hall, following an imperious display on Saturday, the six-time LPGA Tour winner had rejuvenated her career in recent months. Picking up her first victory on the game’s biggest circuit since 2010 last October, the seemingly physically diminutive player later secured two further titles in June and July, registering herself as the sole golfer this year with more than one triumph in a season of parity. Now, indeed, she has the perfect hat-trick with a major in Scotland.
In tune with the apparent trend of the week, conditions at the spectacular Kyle Phillips designed modern classic were ideal in the morning, but showery and damp weather descended upon the venue that is situated seven miles from the legendary Old Course at St. Andrews. For the likeable Kim, however, a regular meditator and stated lover of classical music, there was only sunshine as she meticulously picked plotted her way around the course with metronomic precision.
Methodical with her pace and sometimes idiosyncratic with her follow-throughs and reactions to shots that miraculously land right on target, there is more than a touch of Bernhard Langer to the champion. Not least the sheer quality and consistency of her play, reflecting that of the legendary German who remains a force on the PGA Tour Champions.
Following an early rise at 4:30am and buying hats for family and friends in St. Andrews, she was able carry that relaxed process into the task at hand, starting with the same vibes as Saturday, making birdie on the opening hole after a brilliant approach to the par three. That seemed to instantly shut the door on playing partner Jutanugarn – the elder sister of last year’s champion Ariya – who was unable to make any positive strides, failing to thrust immediate pressure onto the leader. With the most direct of obstacles not cutting into that significant advantage, Kim was left to worry about those far behind on the leaderboard.
The birdies that defined her third day performance were largely absent, save for a fine two-putt gain on the par five eighth that briefly levelled the scoring record in this event held by 2004 champion Karen Stupples. That lack of forward progression may have given those chasing behind a little nugget of encouragement, but few mistakes on the card – apart from a three-putt on the ninth – ensured that anything left behind would simply be crumbs for the pack to devour amongst themselves.
Remaining otherwise impeccably solid on and around the greens, Kim placed one hand on the trophy with a towering approach to the 17th green. Narrowly missing out on a third birdie of the round – which she had come close to several times – Kim was nonetheless able to enjoy the walk up the last after finding the green in two. It was a crowning moment, and one that was hard earned when the memories of what had happened before in this position are considered, completing her week at an eye-catching 18-under.
Having found something in her swing following a disappointing missed cut at the Ladies Scottish Open, Jodi Ewart Shadoff made the most significant move on Sunday with a 64 that equalled the course record set by Michelle Wie and then matched by seven-time major champion Inbee Park. Five straight birdies from the sixth were the catalyst for the 29-year-old, who edged to within two shots of the leader having started nine back coming into the final round.
I mean, it's huge,” the American based Yorkshirewoman said of finishing runner-up in a major. “I knew coming down the stretch that I was somewhere in the vicinity of a win, and I just need to put myself into that position more often. That's what I've been doing, and hopefully, in the next few weeks, I'll finally get a win.”
Excited about making her second appearance in the Solheim Cup – having been a debutant for Europe’s memorable success in Colorado four years ago – Ewart Shadoff is relishing the prospect of stepping onto the biggest stage in the woman’s game once again.
“This week's been a great boost of confidence, and I'm excited to go to Solheim in a couple weeks and play there,” she added.
Also going to be present in Iowa, Michelle Wie – who was the target setter on Thursday – had electrified the damp skies with an exhibition on the front-nine, making six birdies to out in 30. However, the 27-year-old was unable to carry that stunning barrage into the second half, ultimately coming up five shots behind, but the Hawaiian can now look ahead to the imminent contest with injuries behind her and positive form restored, following her best major since winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014.
“I'm really looking forward to it,” the American said afterwards. “It's always been a dream come true for my and just to be able to represent my country and just the fact that I started this year pretty much last on the rankings. I just made my goal to make it on the team and I'm just so proud that I did. I'm just really proud that I can represent my country.”
Germany’s Caroline Masson – looking to secure her place on Annika Sorenstam’s team – finished in a tie for third alongside Wie at 13-under. As did the hugely impressive Georgia Hall – set to be a formidable rookie in Des Moines – who enjoyed a valuable and memorable experience this week. Having tasted the stage of the last pairing on Saturday, it was a tremendous result for the 21-year-old who is unquestionably a rising star in what was a positive week for English golf.
However, for I.K. Kim there was a sense of this being something of a major redemption. Having changed her mental approach to golf and the perception of herself, the popular South Korean has righted the wrongs of those dark memories and will now be spoken of as a major champion. Under the shadow of the Home of Golf, there are few better places to cross that most rewarding of lines.
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