In-Kyung Kim didn’t expect victory to come this soon. Playing in only her sixth event of 2017, the 28-year-old closed with a 2-under 69 to hold off Anna Nordqvist, who was seeking her third consecutive title at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“I really prepared for this summer,” said Kim, who didn’t start her season until mid-March due to an injury she suffered from falling down a flight of stairs at the end of 2016.
“I really didn’t expect it right away, but I knew my game was better than last year.”
While Kim took home the trophy, Ariya Jutanugarn moved within fractions of the No. 1 ranking without hitting a shot. Jutanugarn skipped the ShopRite event but ascended to No. 2 after So Yeon Ryu missed the cut for the first time in 64 events.
Jutanugarn is trying to become the first Thai golfer – male or female – to be No. 1.
Lydia Ko, who also wasn’t entered in the ShopRite Classic, has been No. 1 since Oct. 25, 2015. Neither Jutanugarn nor Ko have won this season.
Paula Creamer entered the final round tied with Kim atop the leaderboard but dropped to a tie for seventh after carding a 3-over 74. She posted three bogeys on the inward nine. It still marked Creamer’s best finish of the season, her previous best a share of 30th at the HSBC Women’s Champions.
Michelle Wie also earned valuable Solheim Cup points with her T-3 finish after a closing 65.
“I’m stalking the (Solheim) list for sure,” said Wie, who credited the surge to a sharper wedge game.
Kim, now a five-time winner on the LPGA, said she didn’t know where she stood until the 54th hole. Her most recent victory came at the 2016 Reignwood LPGA Classic in October.
For the past several years Kim, a Special Olympics ambassador, has put on a clinic at ShopRite. That’s part of the reason this has become a can’t-miss event for the tender-hearted player.
“I just love coming here,” she said. “I have good relationship with Special Olympic New Jersey, and it’s my treat to come here and spend time with them.”