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Womens Golf-Jimin Kang storms home to win inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
South Korean posts final round 65, lowest round of the day to win her second LPGA title
Kuala Lumpur– Jimin Kang from South Korea claimed a thrilling one-stroke victory in the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia after a dominant final stretch of three birdies in the last four holes at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
A massive Malaysian crowd witnessed Kang calmly roll in a 12-foot downhill putt on the final hole to shoot 6-under-par 65 to finish just one shot ahead of LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who carded a bogey on the final hole to drop out of a tie for the lead.
Kang’s blistering final round left her with a nine-under 204 total and her second LPGA victory, following a Rolex First-Time win at the 2005 LPGA Corning Classic. The 30-year-old’s first place finish meant she took home prize money of US$270,000, vaulting her to 20th on the 2010 LPGA Official Money List.
“Speechless,” Kang said when asked how she felt. “And that's not that easy to do for me. 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 finish was her best of the season thanks to her own brilliant stretch of birdies 13, 15, 16 and 17, the final of which pushed her into the outright lead. However, she pushed her second shot into the right greenside 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 play-off, 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.”
First-round leader Mike Miyazato of Japan and Maria Hjorth of Sweden shared third at six-under 207, with Meena Lee alone in fifth another shot back.
Meanwhile, American Cristie Kerr could take over the top position in the Rolex Rankings as a result of her superb final round. The current world No.2 (as at 18 October 2010) 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-par 66 and in eighth position.
“It would feel great to take over No. 1 this week,” said Kerr. “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.”
Jiyai Shin, who finished tied for sixth with Christina Kim, is projected to take the No. 2 spot in the Rolex Rankings, while Ai Miyazato, who could only finish tied for 28th, could fall to No. 3.
Doing the home country proud, amateur Kelly Tan tied for 32nd at 3-over-par 216 to come out as the best Malaysian performer of the tournament. When asked about her week, the 16-year-old amateur said, “The first day I was really nervous. You know, my heartbeat was really fast, but today I think I handled it pretty well.”
“Of course, it's a little bit of advantage for us to play on our home course. And the weather, we are used to it but I’m really happy with the way I played all week and I am thrilled with my finish,” she added.
Overnight leaders Hjorth and Jee Young Lee from South Korea each struggled on Sunday. Hjorth shot even-par 71, including a bogey at 18 to put her in joint-third position while Lee carded a 75 to drop into a tie for ninth.
The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, which took place from 22-24 October, featured a world-class field including the top nine players on the Rolex Rankings who vied for the prize purse of US$1.8 million. The three-day stroke play event with no cut meant that the tournament players were in Kuala Lumpur for the tournament duration and the local and regional golf community were able to catch their favourite golfers in action till the end of the tournament.