Shenzhen, China: World number nine Kim Hyo-joo came out with all guns blazing on the final day of the US$550,000 Hyundai China Ladies Open.
And when the smoke cleared as the sun started to set on the Jack Nicklaus-designed World Cup Course at Mission Hills Shenzhen, the 19-year-old Korean sensation was the only one left standing after a seven-under-par day for a 14-under finish that saw her win the title for a second time.
A winner in 2012, Kim knew exactly what it would take to rise above a stellar field gathered here for an event that is co-sanctioned by the China LPGA and Korean LPGA Tour.
Five straight birdies from the second hole set the scene and though a few rivals offered challenges, none could go the distance with the player who broke through this year for a first Major win, at September’s Evian Championship in France.
“My iron play was fantastic on the front nine,” said Kim, whose 65 was a ladies’ course record. “I left many birdie chances within 10 feet and I converted some.”
There were three more birdies on the back nine and just one blemish – a bogey at the par-three 13th – to ensure the title was Kim’s, as she finished two strokes ahead of compatriot Chun In-gee.
Chinese hope Lin Xiyu and last year’s winner Jang Ha-na of Korea were joint third at nine-under.
“I saw the leaderboard entering the back nine and I saw that Chun In-gee made a great run and was very close to me, which made me more focused on my game,” said Kim, who had been joined in the lead by Chun on the 14th hole before restoring her advantage with a birdie on the par-five 16th.
The 20-year-old Chun was left to rue a bogey on the last which took some degree of shine off an event at Mission Hills Shenzhen she said had lived up to expectations.
“I’m not disappointed with my result, but a little bit disappointed with the last hole,” said Chun. “I tried to have a bogey-free round but on the last hole I three-putted from the back edge of the green.
“But I’m satisfied with this round. I didn’t know Kim’s score so I didn’t think about the win. I just played my game. I like China. I like the Chinese fans and I would come back next year.”
For 18-year-old Chinese star Lin, the day was about what might have been, even as she was formally crowned the 2014 China LPGA Order of Merit winner thanks to her third-place finish.
Five birdies from the first 13 holes had Lin’s shadow looming behind Kim, too, until a double-bogey six on the 14th gave the leaders some breathing space again. A birdie on 17th gave her a share of third place.
“I’m happy with this finish,” said Lin, who came to Shenzhen after two wins in the past month, including her breakthrough Ladies European Tour victory at the Sanya Ladies Open.
“I saw the leaderboard at the turn and I knew a win was far away from me. But this is my best finish in this event. For the past month I played great, now I have won the money title. That’s great. That’s awesome.”
Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu was waiting at the 18th green to congratulate Kim on her victory and to toast all the players who had ensured Mission Hills Shenzhen’s first staging of the China Ladies Open was a memorable one.
“A great champion and a great event,” said Chu. “The game of golf continues to develop in China and across Asia and Mission Hills Group is proud to continue to play an active role in that development.”