Haikou, China – Sunday 19th March 2017: Overnight leader Hae Rym Kim held her nerve to win a dramatic two-hole play-off against fellow South Korean Seon Woo Bae at the SGF67 World Ladies Championship with SBS in China, a tri-sanctioned event between the LET, CLPGA and KLPGA Tours.
Kim holed a four-foot birdie putt on the second play-off hole, the par-5 18th on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou, to become the fourth straight South Korean winner of the title, following Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Jung Min Lee.
Before the play-off, Kim made a similar birdie putt of four feet on the 18th green to tie with Bae at 14-under-par after 54 holes and force the play-off, the pair having recorded rounds of 70 and 69 respectively on an overcast and breezy day on Hainan Island.
With two previous wins on the LPGA of Korea in 2016, the 27-year-old Kim said: “I played in play-offs twice last year, so I felt a lot more confident about it this time.”
However, there were signs of nerves on the first play-off hole when she drove right from the 18th tee into the black lava rocks and took an unplayable drop. Despite appearances, Kim said: “On the first play-off hole, I was delighted that I found my ball even though I had to declare it unplayable. I felt that was a chance and it helped me. I was focused on getting a par.”
A delicate chip to tap-in distance set up Kim’s par and the pair then returned to the 18th tee after Bae’s birdie putt of eight feet ended just wide of the hole.
On the second play-off hole, Bae chipped her ball six feet past the hole and faced another birdie putt on a similar line, but again, her ball ended just wide on the right side.
Kim smelled blood and duly made her birdie putt. She said afterwards: “I watched Bae’s game and her micro-expressions and knew what she was thinking deep in her mind. That’s the key. I knew her and I could adjust my strategy according to her expressions.”
Bae wasn’t too disappointed and said: “I feel fine, because it was just the first tournament of 2017 and there are 29 more to be played. I didn’t hit a bad shot, it was just an unlucky day.”
England’s Georgia Hall, hunting European Solheim Cup points, ended three strokes back in a share of third position with South Korean pair Soyoung Lee and Min Sun Kim on 11-under-par.
The 20-year-old from Bournemouth said: “I played well and my long game was really good. My putting wasn’t quite there today and I couldn’t see the lines as well as the last two days and my pace was a bit off. I left quite a lot short actually, but my long game all week has been amazing, and my putting has as well, apart from today. I had 33 putts today and shot three-under, so if I had reached the hole with more of my putts then I might have been in a play-off, but I didn’t, so I’m joint third and I’m very happy with that. I only missed one fairway and I missed two on the previous two days.”
Comparing her own game to playing partners Kim and Bae, Hall said: “My long game I think was better than theirs, but they putted better, which is why they are in the position they are. They both played really well, so they deserve to be up there.”
Scotland’s Kylie Henry finished five strokes further back in 13th place, before jetting off to Thailand on her honeymoon and the 2015 Rookie of the Year Emily Kristine Pedersen from Denmark tied for 14th position on five-under-par.
This was the second of the two Ladies European Tours events played so far in 2017 and both have ended in play-offs. The next tournament will be the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco on April 13-16.
photos Janos Schmidt