Yoo Sun-young birdied the first playoff hole to win the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday after I.K. Kim missed a 1 foot putt for the win on the final hole of regulation.
Yoo was steady down the stretch in the first women’s major championship of this year, but it was only Kim’s heartbreaking miss that made her playoff triumph possible.
“She’s a great putter,” Yoo said of Kim. “She usually doesn’t miss that kind of putt, but ... in sports, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Both South Koreans carded final-round 69s to finish 72 holes tied on nine-under 279.
Kim could have sealed a victory at 10-under with her tap-in for par at the par-five 18th, but it circled the rim of the cup then popped out. It was her only bogey in a round that included three birdies and it drew a gasp from the gallery.
She put her hands to her face in dismay, then walked eyes down to the scorers’ tent.
“I played straight and it actually just broke to the right, even that short putt,” Kim said. “So it was unfortunate on 18, but ... I feel good about my game. It’s getting better.”
Kim had drained a 15 foot birdie putt at 16 and made a 20 foot birdie at 17 to break out of a three-way tie for the lead.
She and Yoo returned for the playoff to 18, where Yoo’s birdie proved enough over a demoralized Kim.
“On the playoff hole, it’s just hard to kind of focus on what’s going on right now,” Kim said. “Because I was still a little bit bummed about what happened on 18, honestly.”
Yoo, who seemed almost reluctant to celebrate after offering a consoling hug to Kim, did make the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond with her caddie.
“It’s huge. I didn’t think about winning today,” said Yoo, who had never finished higher than seventh in a major tournament and started the day with a share of fourth place. “I didn’t want to let myself down, but I think I did better than what I was expecting.”
Taiwanese World No. 1 Yani Tseng, the overwhelming favorite going into the event, endured a difficult day that included three bogeys in her first nine holes. Two birdies coming in, including one at 17, gave her a whisper of a chance of joining the playoff.
Tseng just missed her birdie putt at the last, flopping on her back in frustration as she finished with a one-over 73 for third place on 280.
However, she knew that what Kim was feeling was worse.
“I feel so bad for her,” Tseng said. “I wish she had made it.”
In all, five players held the lead on a day of wild momentum swings in the California desert.
Kim’s steadiness appeared to be paying off until her big mistake, which recalled such major championship gaffes as Scott Hoch’s missed two-footer that would have won the 1989 Masters.
Defending champion Stacy Lewis (66), South Koreans Amy Yang (69) and Seo Hee-hyung (71) and Sweden’s Karin Sjodin were tied for fourth on 281.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung finished the tournament at four-over 292 after hitting three-over 75 in the final round, which placed her tied for 49th.
Additional reporting by staff writer