Where EAST meets the Northwest
A Lim Kim of South Korea hits a ball in front of virtual fans from the first
tee during the final round of the U.S. Womenís Open golf tournament, on December
13, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A Lim Kim of South Korea hits off the fifth tee during the second round of
the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament in Houston on December 11, 2020. (AP
Photo/David J. Phillip)
A Lim Kim wins U.S. Womenís Open debut with record-tying rally
The Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) ó The Bermuda grass of south Texas was unlike anything A Lim Kim
had ever seen. The U.S. Womenís Open, with its reputation as the toughest test,
was a major she had never played.
What didnít change in a frigid final round at Champions Golf Club was how to
keep score. And when the 25-year-old from South Korea saw she was trailing and
running out of holes, she started attacking flags.
Kim birdied her final three holes and tied the record for the largest
comeback in a U.S. Womenís Open, rallying from five shots behind with a 4-under
67 to win the biggest event in womenís golf.
"Still canít really soak in that Iím the champion," she said, minutes after
being soaked in champagne on a day with temperatures in the 40s.
She won by one shot over Jin Young Ko, the top-ranked player in womenís golf,
and Amy Olson, who played her heart out while coping with the grief of her
father-in-lawís unexpected death Saturday night in South Dakota.
"I felt very weak and helpless the last couple days, and probably today on
the golf course," Olson said, fighting back tears after a 72. "I really believe
the Lord just carried me through. It just makes you realize how much bigger life
is than golf. But pleased with my finish overall and my performance."
Kimís spectacular finish made it tough for anyone to catch her. Two shots
behind Olson, she hit 5-iron to 4 feet on the par-3 16th hole to get to 1-under.
Then she hit 8-iron that rolled out to just inside 2 feet on the 17th for a
tap-in birdie and a share of the lead. She capped it off with a pitching wedge
to just inside 10 feet.
Behind her mask ó fitting that the final major champion of this
pandemic-disrupted year in golf was wearing one ó the thrill was evident. So was
the fist pump, a rare show of emotion for Kim.
"Iíve been eyeing the leaderboard throughout the round and I knew how many
shots I was back," she said through a translator. "Thatís probably the reason
why I tried to hit more aggressive, tried to attack the pins."
Kim started the final round, delayed to Monday because of rain, in a tie for
ninth. No one had ever started in a position that far back and won the U.S.
Womenís Open. She became the seventh player to rally from five shots behind in
the final round, and the first since Annika Sorenstam at The Broadmoor in 1995.
Olson held her own amid her heavy heart. Winless in seven years on the Ladies
Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour, she had a two-shot lead on the back
nine after 54-hole leader Hinako Shibuno faltered. But she couldnít do anything
about Kimís late charge, and Olson fell back when her hybrid on the par-3 16th
bounded over the green and into thick, brown rough, leading to bogey.
She birdied the final hole for a 72 after Kim had already secured the title.
Olson was singing Josh Grobanís "You Raise Me Up" to keep her in the right
frame of mind. She couldnít think of many shots she wanted back after three
early bogeys. The cold weather, the mud-splotched golf balls, and the U.S.
Womenís Open test helped keep her mind from wandering.
"I knew I had to stay very mentally disciplined just to get through the day,"
Olson said. "I allowed myself to think about what Iím grateful for, and Iíve got
a long list."
Ko, the No. 1 player who only recently returned from South Korea where she
rode out the COVID-19 pandemic, also birdied the 18th when it was too late to
Ko closed with a 68, one of only six players to break par in the final round.
Kim finished at 3-under 281 and won $1 million. She added to South Korean
dominance of this major, the ninth winner in the last 13 years.
Shibuno was trying to win in her first try at a second major, having won the
Womenís British Open last year in her first tournament outside Japan. Her short
game only carried her for so long, however, and she fell out of the lead by
starting the back nine with consecutive bogeys.
Shibuno birdied the 18th hole for a 74 and finished two behind. Only four
players finished under par.
A two-time winner on the Korean LPGA, Kim got into the U.S. Womenís Open off
the world ranking when the pandemic kept the United States Golf Association (USGA)
from conducting open qualifying. She had slipped to No. 94, the lowest-ranked
player to win the Open since the womenís world ranking began in 2006.
She is the second non-LPGA member to win a major this year, joining Sophia
Popov at the Womenís British Open. She also is the third South Korean to win a
major. Second-ranked Sei Young Kim won the Womenís PGA and Mirim Lee won the ANA
Inspiration ó also at No. 94 in the world.
Texas senior Kaitlyn Papp birdied the 18th for a 74 to finish at 3-over 287,
six shots behind in a tie for ninth, to be the low amateur.
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