South Korea’s Jimin Kang claimed a thrilling one-stroke victory in the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia after three birdies in the last four holes yesterday.
A big crowd at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club witnessed Kang calmly roll in a 12-foot downhill putt on the final hole to shoot a six-under 65 to finish a stroke ahead of LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster.
Kang’s blistering final round left her with a nine-under 204 total and her second LPGA victory, following her win at the 2005 LPGA Corning Classic.
“Speechless, and that’s not that easy to do for me,” Kang said afterwards. “I played solid. I hit a lot of putts. As you guys can tell, my score was good enough to win a tournament, and you know, it’s been a while. So I’m trying to soak this in. I can’t believe I won.”
Inkster’s second-place was her best of the season thanks to her own brilliant stretch of birdies at 13, 15, 16 and 17, the last of which put her into the outright lead. However, she pushed her second shot into the right green-side bunker at the 18th, nearly holing out from the sand, before having to settle for a two-putt bogey.
Combined with an 18th hole birdie from Kang, playing a group behind Inkster, it was enough for victory, or at least a shot at a playoff, to slip away.
“When I miss it, I miss it right,” Inkster said of her final approach.
“It was a three-quarter shot and I left it out there. I played well all day,” she said.
First-round leader Mika Miyazato of Japan and Maria Hjorth of Sweden shared third at six-under 207, with South Korea’s Meena Lee alone in fifth, another shot back.
Candie Kung had the best score of the Taiwanese players after a disappointing 74 dropped her to even-par 213 and a share of 16th place. Taiwan’s Amy Hung shot a 72 to finish on three-over 216, while Yani Tseng’s 71 meant she finished way back down the field on five-over.
Meanwhile, Cristie Kerr of the US could take over the top position in the Rolex Rankings as a result of her superb final round. The current world No. 2 began the final round tied for 29th and, teeing off on the 10th hole, registered four birdies in her first six holes of the day. Although she added a bogey at 18 (her ninth hole), birdies at three and five saw her finish at five-under 66 and in eighth position.
“It would feel great to take over No. 1 this week,” Kerr said. “It’s been so close the last four tournaments. It came down to one putt in Alabama and last week I had a great finish, but just wasn’t close enough. I’ve been thinking about this race all year. It’s coming down to a putt here or there and it cannot get any closer.”
South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai, who finished tied for sixth with Christina Kim, is projected to take the No. 2 spot in the rankings, while Ai Miyazato, who could only finish tied for 28th, could fall to No. 3.
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