KINGSBARNS, Scotland – In-Kyung Kim is finally free.
Mark down Aug. 6, 2017 as the date she rid herself of a 14-inch curse. The Korean won her first major championship, the $3.25 million Ricoh Women’s British Open, five years after she should have won her first.
There were no disasters in the final round at Kingsbarns as the 29-year-old claimed the title. Her closing 1-under 71 gave her a 270 total, 18 under, and a two-stroke victory over England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
Michelle Wie, Germany’s Caroline Masson and England’s Georgia Hall finished tied for third on 13 under.
Kim’s career will no longer be defined by the 14-inch par putt she missed on the 72nd green of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship that cost her the title. She lost that major in a playoff to Sun-Young Yoo. That putt will obviously be remembered, but it won’t be the seminal moment in her career. Four days of steady play on the soggy banks of the Kingdom of Fife takes over until she wins her next major.
The diminutive Korean began the final round with a six-shot lead over England’s Georgia Hall and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand. Big enough, in Lee Trevino’s words, to choke and still win. She didn’t, but she was far enough ahead to withstand last-round charges by Wie and Ewart Shadoff and stand triumphant.
“I had already experienced the worst,” Kim said. “Having fun out there is important to me and that’s what I tried to do.
“It’s been a long process. A lot my team have helped me to enjoy golf again. What I’ve learned is I have to give every effort to every shot. A three-foot putt is just as important as any shot, and that’s what I learned from that mistake.”
Wie charged up the leaderboard with five birdies in her first seven holes, including four in a row from the fourth. She closed out the front nine with a birdie on the ninth to be out in 30 to move to 13 under. Another birdie followed at the 12th to take her to 14 under, four shots adrift of Kim. That was as close as she got. A bogey at the 17th stopped her challenge.
“I knew I was 10 shots back starting the day and I needed to make something happen,” Wie said. “I’m really proud of myself for how I chased it. If a couple of those putts coming in had gone in, I would have had a chance.”
Shadoff tied the course record of 64 set by Wie on Thursday which Inbee Park equalled on Saturday. Two shots was as close as she got to Kim. She had to hope the Korean would suffer a similar California collapse over the closing holes.
Not this time.
Kim claimed on the eve of the final round to have banished the ghosts of 2012, but she still had to go out and prove it in the final round. She did.
Kim’s Nabisco nightmare is over.