A Lim Kim birdied her final three holes in an incredible finish that saw the Korean crowned the US Women’s Open champion on her major championship debut.
The 25-year old came from five strokes back on Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek Course on Monday to get to three-under par, becoming the seventh player to overcome such a margin and the first since Annika Sorenstam in 1995 at The Broadmoor. She is also the first player since Eun Hee Ji in 2009 to birdie the final hole for a one-stroke win.
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko and first-round leader Amy Olson, playing with a heavy heart after the sudden death of her father-in-law on Saturday, tied for second at -2, with third-round leader Hinako Shibuno in solo third at -1. Kim’s victory came in her first appearance in a major championship. With the win, she is eligible to accept immediate Membership on the LPGA Tour.
“I’m very honoured to win the 75th U.S. Women’s Open. Still can’t really soak in that I’m the champion, but it feels different winning the tournament here,” said Kim. “Back in Korea the style and the environment is different. But I’m really glad, and through COVID-19 we had a lot of difficulties, but glad we had the U.S. Women’s Open held in Houston. It was a great win.”
Kim started the cold and blustery day at +1, five strokes and three groups behind Shibuno. She made the turn in 3-under 33 but dropped shots at 10 and 11 to fall back to Even. Her surge began with a 9-foot birdie on the par-3 16th, followed by a dialled in 8-iron approach for a 3-foot birdie at No. 17. She capped her round with a 7-foot birdie at No. 18, punctuated with a hearty fist pump and knuckle bump with her caddie, Daihoun An.
“I’ve been eyeing the leaderboard throughout the round and I knew how many shots I was back,” said Kim. “That’s probably the reason why I tried to hit more aggressive, tried to more attack the pins.”
Olson and Ko both birdied the 18th hole to come up one stroke short of forcing a playoff. Olson played with the hearts of the golfing world in her corner, after the unexpected death of her father-in-law, Lee Olson, on Saturday. She used Sunday’s unexpected off day to rest and gather her thoughts as she headed into one of the most pressure-packed rounds of her career.
“Coming out this morning I had no idea what to expect. It was just one of those things, I felt very weak and helpless the last couple days, and probably same went today on the golf course,” said Olson, who came up short for the third time while playing in the final group at a major. “I really believe the Lord just carried me through.”
Shibuno, looking to become the third player to win majors as their first two LPGA Tour titles, also birdied No. 18 to put a positive finish on an otherwise difficult round of 3-over 74. American Megan Khang rounded out the top five at +1.