Tue, Jun 28, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Birdie birdies for Open title

US WOMEN'S OPEN Birdie Kim of South Korea holed a bunker shot for the only birdie on the 18th hole to win the tournament


She changed her name to Birdie so everyone would know who she was, and even that wasn't enough at a US Women's Open where historical moments belonged to everyone else.

It started with Annika Sorenstam and her quest for the Grand Slam.

Then came 17-year-old Morgan Pressel playing the lead role in a parade of teenage contenders, poised to become the youngest major champion in golf history.

Ultimately, the most compelling moment of a riveting week at Cherry Hills belonged to Birdie Kim.

With a spectacular shot that allowed her to live up to her nickname, the 23-year-old from South Korea holed a 30-yard bunker shot for the only birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to win the US Women's Open.

"I never think about to win," she said. "I was never a good bunker player. Finally, I make it."

Equally shocked was Pressel, the fiery teen from south Florida who marched confidently up the 18th fairway, believing she was about to make history at Cherry Hills. Instead, she watched in disbelief from 200 yards away as Kim's bunker shot rolled across the green and disappeared into the cup.

"It was like, `I can't believe that actually just happened,'" Pressel said.

Sorenstam wondered what hit her, too.

She looked so unstoppable winning the first two majors of the year, but was never a factor at Cherry Hills. Sorenstam even tried to emulate Arnold Palmer's final-round charge in 1960 to win the US Open by trying to drive the first green. Instead, she clipped a tree and went into a creek, making bogey on her way to a 77.

Sorenstam finished over par in a 72-hole event for the first time in four years, ending up at 12-over 296.

"Just didn't happen," she said.

Still, the biggest surprise was Kim.

In two years on the LPGA Tour, she had made only 10 cuts in 34 starts and only once had finished in the top 10. Her career earnings were a meager US$79,832 (66,075 euros).

One shot that ranks among the most dramatic finishes in a major changed everything. Kim, who closed with a 1-over 72, finished at 287 and earned US$560,000, the biggest payoff in women's golf.

It was reminiscent of Bob Tway sinking a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to win the 1986 PGA Championship.

``I heard about the name,'' Kim said. ``He's an old guy, right?''

Pressel went for broke on her birdie chip to force a playoff, sent it 20 feet by and made bogey for a 75 to tie for second with 19-year-old amateur Brittany Lang, who missed an 8-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 71.

The other teens melted on a difficult day at Cherry Hills, where Lorie Kane (69) was the only player to break par and the average score was 76.1.

Michelle Wie, the 15-year-old from Hawaii coming off a runner-up finish in the last major, double bogeyed the first hole on her way to an 82. Eighteen-year-old Paula Creamer had two double bogeys and a triple bogey for a 79.

The US Women's Open champion went by her given name, Kim Ju-yun, as a rookie last year, but decided to use "Birdie" this season to stand out from the other five players with Kim as a surname on the LPGA Tour.

"I wanted something different, something simple and easy," she said at the start of the season. "Birdie is good in golf, and it's good for me."

It was better than she ever imagined on a sun-baked afternoon at Cherry Hills, which ultimately came down to a battle for survival. This was the first time the Women's Open champion was over par since 1998 at Blackwolf Run, when Pak Se-ri won in a playoff after finishing at 6 over.

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