A Lim Kim birdies last 3- holes for come from behind victory
After Saturday’s round was in the books, it became readily apparent to most that the final round of the US Women’s Open would be much more of a wide open affair. Muddy fairways and tough scoring conditions made par an excellent score and as the leaders started to falter, the gap between the top 14 – players narrowed. So when inclement weather on Sunday led to the round being postponed to Monday, there was a sense that with more tough scoring conditions and cooler temperatures forecast for Monday, we could see the leaders falter a little more, cracking the door open for someone to put together a good round and possibly snatch victory.
When A Lim Kim started the final round 5-shots back of Hinako Shibuno; 4-shots back of Amy Olson, she was always going to need some help in having the leaders “come back” to the field if she was going to have a realistic chance of pulling off a win. And the leaders unwillingly obliged as Shinobu posted a +3 round with Olson posting a round of +1.
Kim’s victory though, was not simply a matter of the leaders falling back to the field; she had her work cut out for her and needed to put up a good score at the end of the day. She did her part, starting off with 3-birdies on the front nine for a score of 33. With Olson recording 3-consecutive bogeys to start her round and with Shibuno’s +2 over start after none, Kim was already in the mix. Yet, it was anything but smooth sailing from that point forward. Kim had another player to contend with – world number one ranked Jin Young Ko. Like Kim, Ko started the day 5-shots back of Shinobu and 4 back of Olson. Ko put together 2-birdies on the front nine to get her under par for the tournament.
The championship would fittingly, come down to whoever played the back nine the best. A Lim Kim, in the group immediately preceding Jin Young Ko, encountered difficulty, dropping two shots with bogeys on both the 10th and 11th holes. Ko then bogeyed the 10th hole to drop a stroke. Olson, meanwhile, recovered from her 3-consecutive bogeys with back to back birdies on holes Five and Six, going out in 37 strokes (+1 ). Her second nine saw her string together a series of pars until she reached the 16th hole where she dropped a shot, bogeying the 178-yard par 3.
As for both Jin Young Ko and A.L. Kim, they both recovered from their opening bogeys on the second nine with a string of pars before Kim was able to record a finish for the history books. Kim birdied the 16th to get back to -1 for the tournament. Then she birdied both the 17th and 18th holes to take the outright lead of -3 into the clubhouse to wait.
Jin Young Ko would need to mimic the same finish as Kim in order to tie Kim for the overall lead. She birdied 16 to get to -1, then on the par – 4, 17th hole, she could only muster a par to fall a stroke back of Kim. On her final hole of the tournament, Ko would need an unlikely eagle to force a tie with Kim. Ko managed a birdie to finish the tournament at -2, and a share of second place with Olson who was in the final group.
Amy Olson entered the second nine with a score of -2, needing only a birdie to tie for the lead, 2-birdies for the win. After a string of 6–consecutive pars, Olson entered the last stretch needing 2-birdies to win.
An unfortunate bogey on the 16th hole left Olson at -1, needing to finish with 2-birdies to now tie for the lead. After making par on the 17th hole, it would be all over unless Olson could make an improbable eagle on 18. Like Ko, Olson finished with a birdie too, placing her into a share of second place with Ko.
For A.L. Kim, she became the first player to win in her inaugural U.S. Women’s Open since her compatriot, In Gee Chun accomplished the feat in 2015. For Kim, in addition to winning the $1.00 Million dollar prize for first, she also receives a 10-year exemption into future U.S. Women’s Open Championships, plus she gains automatic membership into the LPGA if she elects to accept. She will also receive invitations to play the other major championships in women’s golf.
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