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A Lim Kim rallies from five down to win US Women’s Open crown

A LIM Kim hoists the championship trophy after winning the US Women’s Open golf tournament at Champions Golf Club. — REUTERS

A LIM Kim wanted to have a good tournament experience in her first appearance in the US Women’s Open. She ended up with much more than that.

Kim notched birdies on the final three holes to surge to the lead and ultimately win the weather-interrupted championship Monday at Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek course in Houston.

“Because first experience it’s more about learning and observing, experiencing the whole tournament,” Kim said.

Kim, a 25-year-old South Korean, posted a final-round 4-under-par 67. She finished the tournament, which was extended to a fifth day, at 3-under 281 for a one-shot victory.

Overcoming a five-shot deficit to win Monday, Kim tied the largest final-round comeback in Open history, becoming the seventh player to do so. Annika Sorenstam was the last to do it in 1995.

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Kim barely made it past Friday, when she made the cut on the number after closing with three straight birdies.

Amy Olson and South Korea’s Jin Young Ko were the runners-up after shooting 72 and 68, respectively.

Kim told herself to embrace the opportunity. She found the good aspects of the tournament venue and worked through any trouble spots to churn out the victory.

“The course itself is very much my type,” Kim said. “I’m in love with the course. Very great playing conditions and so forth.”

Kim played the frontside in 3 under, but bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes appeared to derail her bid for a title. Then she posted a birdie on the par-3 16th before doing the same on the last two holes — both par-4s.

Kim completed her round before several other groups finished, so she had to wait to make sure her lead stood. Olson was last to finish, notching a birdie on No. 18.

There was a tone of sadness surrounding the last round.

Olson’s father-in-law, Lee Olson, died on Saturday night. The golfer’s husband, Grant Olson, who’s the linebackers coach for North Dakota State’s football team, had been attending the tournament but departed prior to the last round.

Olson, who won an NCAA-record 20 tournaments as a collegiate golfer, has yet to win on the LPGA Tour.

Ko said it was a different type of tournament without galleries to provide motivation. Still, she made the most of the situation.

“If gallery is on the course, it’s going to be more fun, but it wasn’t,” Ko said.

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno (74) was in fourth place at 1 under. Megan Khang (72) was at 1 over in fifth place.

Shibuno, 22, led after the second and third rounds, holding a one-shot lead on Olson going to the final round. Shibuno, who won the 2019 British Open and was in her first US Women’s Open, had five bogeys with two birdies, including one on the last hole.

Twenty-four golfers had yet to complete a hole of the final round when play was suspended Sunday morning because of dangerous weather. By early afternoon, the decision to contest the remainder of the tournament to Monday was announced, with US Golf Association officials citing course conditions and the forecast for the remainder of the day.

So, it was a full round of play Monday for the contenders. A few golfers had made it one-third of the way through the last round Sunday before play was halted. Already, half of the golfers had been assigned to begin the final round on the 10th hole because of the weather concerns.

Defending champion Jeongeun Lee6 shot 71 to end up at 2 over and tied for sixth place with South Korea’s Imbee Park (68) and Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn (74).

Kaitlyn Papp was the best finisher among amateurs at 3 over, tying for ninth place. The University of Texas senior checked in with 74 for the final round.

Papp was among those tied for third place at the beginning of the round. Playing in her home state, she felt like a favorite even without crowds to cheer her on.

“I didn’t really feel pressure, but I definitely felt kind of a hometown crowd,” she said. “There’s a lot of Longhorns in the houses (lining the course), everyone is in their back yards watching, and I had my family out so I didn’t really feel pressure, I just kind of felt like home.”

Papp had studied the course and felt comfortable attacking the layout.

“I had a feeling it was going to play long,” she said. “I knew Houston has had a lot of rain recently and I came out about a month ago, so I knew hitting my long irons well and my driver well and lag putt really well was going to pay off this week.”

Papp was the third-highest U.S finisher overall behind Olson and Khang.

Jutanugarn and Korea’s Ji Yeong Kim2 joined Shibuno and Olson as the only golfers with under-par scores through three rounds. By midway through the final round, only Shibuno and Olson had under-par scores.

Only 18 of the 66 golfers who made the cut were from the United States.

John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said pushing the completion of the tournament to Monday made sense because conditions would allow officials to “bring folks back to a golf course that would be reminiscent of the US Women’s Open.”

There were chilly temperatures for the final day compared to earlier in the tournament.

Already, the event had been rescheduled from June because of the coronavirus pandemic. Spectators, other than limited family, weren’t permitted to attend.

Still, finding a way to conduct the final major of the year was important to the USGA.

“We want to do everything we can this year to play this championship,” Mr. Bodenhamer said. — Reuters

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