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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Kim wins Kraft Nabisco Championship

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Lafayette, La. — Sei Young Kim did something in the final round that hardly anyone else had this year — hole a 20-foot birdie putt.

The South Korean birdied the par-3 14th hole on the way to a 5-under 67 and a one-stroke victory over We E Ink’s In Gee Chun on Sunday in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Kim finished at 14-under 273 to match the course record and become the first Korean player to win a major championship.

“I wish I could be really big to my Korean country right now,” Kim said through a translator. “This is so big for me and my country.”

LPGA Tour Kraft Nabisco Championship results

Kim started the round tied with Charley Hull and Suzann Pettersen for the lead. She ran off four straight birdies from Nos. 7-9 — she made one at No. 8 — before completing a 67.

On the 14th, Chun hit her tee shot at the 315-yard hole into a greenside bunker. Chun blasted out 15 feet past the hole and Kim calmly drained the birdie putt, pumping her fist when it disappeared.

Chun closed with a 71. Hull shot 68.

In 1999, Shin Ji-yai, South Korea’s first major winner, became the first amateur to win the Nabisco when she overcame a one-stroke deficit on the 18th to defeat Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak.

Kim’s win was something special for her parents, who hail from her hometown of Gangnam, a wealthy, elite area that’s home to the European Tour’s Grand Slam of Golf and a replica of the Arc de Triomphe.

“First of all, I am really proud of my parents because they have been fighting for so many years to be here with me,” Kim said. “And as a little girl, you do not understand so much. But my mother always told me that being in America and having the opportunity to be here is really great. Now she is, so my parents are really proud.”

Kim jumped to a six-stroke lead after the first round and held it through the third round before Chun trimmed it to three strokes.

Chun was five strokes back when she closed with birdies on 16 and 17 for a 6-under 66.

Play was suspended Sunday morning because of severe weather with eight players still on the course. When the suspended play was completed, Kim had a three-stroke lead on Chun. Chun had closed with a 65 to close within one shot of Kim entering the final round.

Kim parred the first two holes, but rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 third to move two strokes ahead of Chun. Kim parred the next five holes before closing with a birdie on the par-4 18th.

The rest of the contenders couldn’t catch her.

“I think I just kind of made the putt,” Kim said. “After that, I was like, ‘OK, I just want to play my game and just try to stay calm.’”

She had a 73-73 record in five previous majors, finishing equal 10th in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open and tying for 17th in 2015.

“I just needed to really cool down. It’s so stressful out there when you are leading, and you want to win,” Kim said. “I was able to cool down a little bit more, come through. That was the biggest difference.”

The Kraft Nabisco Championship broke the course record of 274 set by Pettersen in 2012 and tied last year by Sweden’s Carl Pettersson.

Kim’s previous best was a tie for third place in the Women’s British Open two years ago. She won her first LPGA Tour title three months ago in a playoff at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

First-round leader Jenny Shin bogeyed the last three holes for a 74 to drop into a tie for 11th at 9 under with Minjee Lee, Sandra Gal, and Charley Hull.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson shot a 73 to tie for 19th at 6 under.

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