In a down-to-the-wire battle between two LPGA players with recent histories of struggling to finish victories, it was Mi Hyun Kim who closed it out.
Kim hit a 7-wood to 4 feet on the 17th hole of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic July 21 to edge Kelly Robbins by a shot and earn her first victory since the 2000 Safeway LPGA Classic.
Kim finished second three times in 2001, including two playoffs, and has had two second-place finishes this year, most recently when she blew a three-stroke lead over Karrie Webb with three holes to play June 18 in the Wegmans Rochester LPGA.
Robbins, trying to halt a streak of 82 tournaments without a victory, began the final round with a one-shot lead over Kim, and led by two through 10 holes.
Both put their drives in the center of the fairway on No. 11, but Robbins hit a fat shot into a greenside bunker and made bogey, while Kim put her approach to 2 feet and made the birdie putt to complete a two-shot swing and pull into a tie for the lead.
Both parred the next five holes before Kim’s decisive shot from 170 yards on No. 17. Kim finished with a 3-under 69 and a 14-under 202 total to Robbins’ 71 and 203. Two-time defending champion Dorothy Delasin and Grace Park tied for third at 11-under 205 after final-round 67s.
“I knew the way things were going for both of us that one or two shots were going to make the difference,” Robbins said. “Neither of us were doing too much out there – until Kimmy hit one close.”
The 5-foot-1 Kim, at a two-club disadvantage on almost every approach shot, said she didn’t enjoy what turned out to be a match-play showdown.
“No, because she’s a very long player,” Kim said. “Every time she was playing a short iron, I’d have to hit a long iron or a fairway wood.”
Both had good drives on No. 18, with Kim landing a 5-wood pin high and 15 feet away. Robbins hooked a 7-iron into the gallery left of the green, then bumped a shot that came to a stop less than a foot from the hole.
Kim ran her birdie putt 3 feet past the hole but made the comebacker to end her victory drought of almost 22 months.
“I hit a very strong first putt,” Kim said. “I didn’t know I was that strong. I was a little nervous.”
Robbins carried a lead into the final round for the 12th time in an LPGA event. She has won four of those tournaments, but is 0-6 when leading by a shot with 18 holes to play.
“I’m obviously a little disappointed, because any time you go into the final round of a tournament with a one-shot lead you like to play well enough to win,” said Robbins, who hasn’t won since the 1999 HealthSouth Inaugural. She has finished second four times since, including this year’s Chick-fil-A Charity Championship. “Any time you can finish second, you’ve hit a lot of shots well,” she said. “But I was licking my chops hoping for something better.”
So were Delasin and Park.
“I ran out of holes,” Delasin said.
Park thought she could have had an even-better Sunday score. “It was one of those days when a 67 felt horrible,” she said. “I struck the ball so badly and had so many birdie chances, but I just couldn’t get it in the hole.”
– From staff and wire reports