SPORTS

S. Korean golfer Kim Hyo-joo wins Evian Championship

By 이현정
  • Published : Sept 15, 2014 - 13:42
  • Updated : Sept 15, 2014 - 13:42

South Korean teenage golfer Kim Hyo-joo won the Evian Championship in France on Sunday, edging out veteran player Karrie Webb of Australia by one shot for her first career LPGA major championship.

Kim, 19, capped off her final round of 3-under 68 with a dramatic birdie putt on the 72nd hole, for a four-round total of 11-under 273 at Evian Resort Golf Club in southeastern France. She won the 350,000-euro (US$487,500) prize and an exemption to play on the LPGA Tour for the next five years.

Sunday's win made Kim, currently a member of the Korean LPGA Tour (KLPGA), the third youngest winner of a major LPGA championship. 

Kim also became the third South Korean to win a major title on the LPGA tour as a non-member after Shin Ji-yai won the 2008 Women's British Open and Ryu So-yeon won the U.S. Women's Open in 2011.

Kim, who has three wins on the KLPGA Tour in 2014, jumped from No. 20 to No. 10 in the latest world rankings. She is one of three South Koreans in the top 10, after No. 2 Park In-bee and No. 6 Ryu So-yeon. Kim is also the fourth different South Korean winner on the LPGA Tour this year after Park, Ryu and Lee Mi-rim.

Kim, who shot a major championship record of 10-under 61 in the opening round, began the final day nursing a one-stroke lead.

Paired with the seven-time major champ Webb in the final group, Kim knocked in a birdie putt on the par-3 second to deliver the first punch.

Kim sank another birdie putt on the par-5 ninth, and picked up consecutive birdies on the 11th and the 12th.

Kim hit her first speed bump on the par-3 14th, where she three-putted for her first bogey of the day. A group of four golfers -- Webb plus three South Koreans, Choi Na-yeon, Jang Ha-na and Hur Mi-jung -- trailed by one shot at that point.

Webb pulled into a tie with Kim with a birdie on the 15th and claimed the lead on the next hole when Kim made her second bogey.

The drama unfolded on the 18th. Kim put her second shot on the par-4 hole to about 15 feet, while Webb landed hers closer to the pin on the edge of the green.

Webb's chip rolled about 6 feet past the hole. Next to play, Kim drained her putt to reclaim the one-shot lead.

Webb then missed her par putt for a fatal bogey, giving Kim her first LPGA major.

The teenager said after her day that she was "a nervous wreck," especially on the back nine.

"I've been to hell and back," she said. "I was fine early on but made things more difficult for myself on the back nine. I became more nervous when I started to trail others. But I was determined to succeed on the course and tried to stay focused until the end."

Kim said she didn't think she would win the championship, especially since she fell behind after the 16th hole.

"I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity when it arrived, because you don't get it every day out here," she said. "I was really desperate for this victory."

Kim can become a full-time LPGA member if she chooses to, but she said she will first have to get into better shape since extensive traveling on the tour could take a major toll on her body.

Kim also said she didn't really watch Webb play on the final hole because she was concentrating on her own shot. Asked if she thought Webb was nervous, Kim answered, "I don't know, but she's human after all."

Jang and Hur tied for third at 9-under, and Choi was one stroke back in sole possession of fifth. Park In-bee, needing a win here to complete the career grand slam, tied for 10th at 2-under. (Yonhap)