HOUSTON (AFP) – South Korea’s Kim A-Lim produced a stunning finish to snatch her maiden major victory with a one-shot win in the delayed finale to the US Women’s Open on Monday.
The 25-year-old, who had never won a tournament outside of South Korea before, rattled in three consecutive birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes to finish with a four-under-par 67 at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
That finish left Kim on three under for the tournament, one shot clear of compatriot and world number one Ko Jin-Young and Amy Olson of the United States (US), who had led for much of the final round. Japan’s Hinako Shibuno was fourth on one under after draining a monstrous 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
“I decided to come out today, be aggressive, attack the pin,” Kim said afterwards. “It worked out today.”
Kim, playing in the US Women’s Open for the first time, had started the day as a long-shot for the title, five shots adrift of third round leader Shibuno.
However she climbed up the leaderboard with a superb performance over the front nine, making birdies on the fifth, sixth and eighth holes to reach the turn at two under for the tournament.
Her progress looked to have stalled when she posted back-to-back bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes to drop to even par.
Olson, meanwhile, who had started the day just one shot adrift of Shibuno, took sole possession of the lead after recovering from a nightmare start.
The 28-year-old from North Dakota – chasing her first ever win on the LPGA Tour – had been rocked by a family tragedy after it emerged on Sunday her father-in-law had died suddenly on Saturday.
Olson, one of 18 players who never teed off their final round on Sunday after heavy rain deluged the course, started sluggishly, with a trio of bogeys on the second, third and fourth holes threatening to torpedo her hopes.
However, she bounced back with consecutive birdies on the fifth and sixth holes to move back to two under for the tournament.
By the time she reached the 11th hole, Olson was sitting on a two-shot lead and looking increasingly comfortable. However, Kim’s late charge changed the complexion of the round, with her birdie on the 16th leaving her one behind Olson.
Another birdie on the 17th gave her a share of the lead with the American, and on the 18th a superb wedge from 119 yards left her with an eight foot birdie to take the lead which she duly rolled in.
That piled the pressure on Olson, who was suddenly left needing to pick up shots to get back in contention.
Instead, her composure deserted her. She bogeyed the par-3 16th after hitting through the green with her tee shot, leaving her two off the pace with two to play.
Olson however could only manage a par on the 17th, leaving her needing an eagle on the 18th to force a tie.
That proved to be beyond her though, although a long birdie putt gave the American a share of second place alongside Ko.
“It’s been a long two days, that’s for sure,” said Olson, who wiped away tears as she left the 18th green.
“I got through today. I definitely didn’t have a lot of strength on my own. It’s been really tough.
“It just makes you realise how much bigger life is than golf.”
The tournament – the final major of the season – had been shifted from its slot in early June because of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.