Sei Young Kim took to YouTube to search for self-help videos on mental toughness. Whatever the South Korean watched, she should probably keep it a secret. Kim didn’t just find the zone at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, she made camp there, crushing the LPGA 72-hole scoring record (which she already owned a share of with Annika Sorenstam) by four strokes with a mind-boggling 31-under 257 in Oneida, Wis.
The 25-year-old capped her record-setting performance with a bogey-free 65 in the final round. She finished nine shots ahead of Carlota Ciganda, who carded a double bogey on the 72nd hole.
“I’m very happy with a dream come true,” said Kim, who set her sights on breaking the 27-under scoring mark she shared with Sorenstam af-ter the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup. Sorenstam reached 27 under at the 2001 Standard Register PING, where she shot 59 at Moon Valley Coun-try Club in Phoenix.
Sorenstam and Kim also share the LPGA’s 54-hole record of 24 under. Kim reached that after Saturday’s 64 at Thornberry.
“I would never have thought about it when I was young, about the course record,” Kim said. “But two years ago (at) JTBC I shot 27 under; that tied the record with Annika Sorenstam. After that, I wanted to – really wanted the course record.”
Ciganda prefers a tougher test, more in line with last week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Thornberry was on the softer side, with reachable par 5s, and mentally, it must have felt like a break com-pared to what players faced at Kemper Lakes. Ciganda said setups like this can be good for confidence every once in a while, but she wouldn’t want a steady diet of it.
As for Kim’s performance, Ciganda said: “Yeah, it’s unbelievable.”
Rookie Emma Talley posted a career-best tie for third with Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang at 20 under. The former NCAA and U.S. Wom-en’s Amateur champ credited her father for tweaking her putting a couple weeks ago in Arkansas and her boyfriend for straightening out her driver after the first round at Thornberry. It’s not often that a play-er posts a top-3 finish and loses by 11 strokes.
“When you see a 31 under, it’s pretty crazy,” Talley said. “But you just keep playing your game. That’s all you can do. You can’t play defense.”
Kim, whose last victory came at the 2017 Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Match Play, is now a seven-time winner on the LPGA. Her $300,000 first-place check pushes her across the $5 million mark in career earn-ings.
In addition to the scoring marks, Kim set the new standard for most sub-par holes (birdies and eagles) in a single event at 32. Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller and Lexi Thompson held the previous record of 30. Kim posted one eagle and 31 birdies at Thornberry. Her only blem-ish in four rounds came on Friday, when she posted a double bogey on the par-3 17th.
Kim joins Brooke Henderson as the only LPGA players to record wins in each of the past four seasons. Gwk