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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > SBS Open at Turtle Bay > Round 3


Joo Mi Kim gains maiden LPGA victory

After all the talk leading into the season about the LPGA Tour's new stars, the first event came down to a playoff between two unheralded players from South Korea.

Joo Mi Kim holed a 2-foot birdie putt on the second sudden-death playoff hole Saturday to defeat fellow Korean Soo Young Moon in the season-opening SBS Open.

Kim shot a final round 1-under 71 to finish with a 10-under 206 total and earn her first LPGA Tour victory. After sinking the short tournament-winning putt, she was soaked with champagne by fellow players on the 18th green and was then forced to jump into the lake.

"I'm very happy and excited," she said. "It seems like I'm dreaming."

The short putt was set up by a spectacular approach, a 56-degree wedge shot from 80 yards that landed near the edge of the green and rolled about 20 feet toward the pin.

It was a shot that she practiced a lot.

"As soon as the ball hit the ground, I knew it was going to be close," she said.

Moon (69) missed a 10-footer that would have sent it into a third playoff hole.

"It's OK," said Moon, who hasn't played an event since last summer because of injury. "This was a very good chance (to win), but I can do better."

The 21-year-old Kim joined the tour last year after a successful stint on the Korea LPGA Tour where she earned rookie and player of the year honors in 2003. She finished fourth last year in the Safeway Classic and fifth in the Sybase Classic.

Kim won despite playing without her full-time caddie who dropped out just before the opening round to return home to Texas for the birth of a child. Jay Jang, who came to Hawaii to monitor her swing for coach Mike Bender, filled in nicely.

Lorena Ochoa (67) was eliminated on the first playoff hole after missing a 6-foot birdie putt that broke slightly left. It was the shortest putt of the three players. Moon sank a 20-foot birdie putt and Kim made a clutch putt from about 10 feet to halve the hole.

"I had a really good birdie chance, and just didn't make the putt," Ochoa said.

Kim had a chance to seal the win on the last hole of regulation, but missed a 25-foot birdie putt. She was very loose and calm throughout the round, waving to photographers and smiling.

"I wasn't really nervous at all," she said. "The reason I think I won is I was very calm."

Ochoa surged to the top of the leaderboard with birdie after birdie and tied Kim for the lead on No. 16.

The 24-year-old star from Mexico had 10 top-10 finishes last year, including a two victories and four runner-up finishes. She broke the $3 million mark, too, becoming the fastest player in LPGA history to reach that milestone.

The 21-year-old Moon tapped in for birdie on No. 18 to reach 10 under and move into a three-way tie for the lead. It was her second straight birdie and fourth on the back nine. She made a 35-birdie putt on No. 17 that moved her to 9 under.

It was Moon's best finish in 35 events. She had a fourth-place tie in 2004 LPGA Corning Classic.

Karen Stupples shot a 67 to finish fourth at 8-under 208 in muggy and calm conditions at the Turtle Bay Resort's oceanside Palmer Course. An occasional breeze kept players from being too aggressive.

Morgan Pressel (70) made an impressive pro debut, tying for fifth at 7 under with Miriam Nagl (68) and Natalie Gulbis (70). Pressel, the U.S. Amateur champion and U.S. Women's Open runner-up, is the youngest player on tour at 17.

Cristie Kerr and Juli Inkster each carded a 68 and were at 210 with Johanna Head (70) and second round co-leaders Becky Iverson (75) and Sung Ah Yim (75).

Yim, who shared the second-round lead with Kim and Iverson at 9 under, had trouble navigating the large, hilly greens and fell out of contention after bogeying Nos. 11, 13, 14.

Despite being childhood friends and former teammates, Kim and Yim seemed more like rivals after teeing off in the final group. They both were members on the Korean National Team that won the gold medal in the 2002 Asian Games.

Paula Creamer, the 2005 rookie of the year, had a final round 70 and tied for 13th with a group that including Christina Kim (71) and first-round co-leader Grace Park (71).

Ai Miyazato shot a 72 and finished tied for 49th with a total of 217. Miyazato had the largest crowds of the week with a circus of fans, journalists and even sumo wrestlers from her native Japan following her every move.

The 20-year-old star won the LPGA Tour qualifying school in December by a record 12-shot margin, after winning 11 times on the Japan LPGA in the last two years.


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