DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Joo Mi Kim celebrated her SBS Open victory by jumping in the lake at the 18th hole yesterday.
Kim outlasts her friend
She beats Ochoa and countrywoman Moon in a two-hole playoff
Winning her first golf tournament in a two-hole playoff was the easy part for South Korea's Joo Mi Kim. Now, if she can work on the celebration and the acceptance speech, the 21-year-old will be just fine.
Seconds after she sank a 2-footer for birdie to eliminate Soo Young Moon, several of her countrywomen, including Christina Kim and Jeong Jang, doused her with champagne. It got a little awkward when they grabbed her by her arms and legs, and threatened to heave her into the lake guarding the 18th green.
After convincing them that it was a bad idea, Kim sent her caddie, Jay Jang, to the rocks and had him jump in to see if the water was fine. She quickly followed suit, climbed out, got doused with champagne again and then froze during the Golf Channel interview as they asked her how she felt winning the $1 million SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
Once again, Kim turned to her caddie to bail her out. Jang said Kim promised that if she won again, she would speak English. The way she's playing, a week might not be enough time as the LPGA Tour heads down the road to Ko Olina for the Fields Open in Hawaii.
"I did not think about winning today," Kim said through a translator. "I tried to play hole-by-hole, and then I tried to keep my status on the leaderboard. I had some trouble on 17 hole, but when I came to 18 -- I finished well.
"When I saw the leaderboard after 17, Lorena (Ochoa) was on the top at 10 under (tied with Moon and Kim). All I thought about on 18 was trying to keep at 10 under par. I was never nervous on 18. After I finished the 18 hole and I was going for playoff, I wasn't very nervous at all. The reason I think I won was I was very calm."
Kim shot a final-round 71 to finish at 10-under 206 for the tournament. Joining her were Moon (69) and Ochoa (67), who was eliminated on the first playoff hole at the 18th after Moon drilled a 22-footer for birdie and Kim followed suit from 12 feet. Ochoa's 10-footer died right of the hole, clearing the way for the two South Koreans, who have known each other since junior golf, to play on.
"I had a chance to win the tournament and the playoff," Ochoa said of birdie putts at the 18th in regulation and on the first playoff hole, missing both. "I had my chance in the playoff and I'm sorry I didn't do it. I tried my best."
With Ochoa out, Moon and Kim trudged back up the par-5 18th, hit good drives into the fairway and a pair of second shots in the rough near the lake. Moon hit her approach to about 20 feet, but Kim stuck hers to within 2, putting all the pressure on Moon. Moon, who closed regulation play with birdies at 17 and 18 to make the playoff, missed her 20-footer a little left and long.
Her par putt was still outside of Kim's kick-in birdie. She made it, but it meant little as Kim was steady and true with her last shot to win her first LPGA Tour event. What happened afterward was pure folly. Watering the 18th green with champagne was bad enough, but grabbing Kim by her arms and legs had her begging her friends to rethink her position of being carried off the green, over the rocks and into the water.
It appeared her life flashed before her eyes.
"All of the players were pushing me in, so I volunteered to go in," Kim said. "I am going to drink a lot today. Hite beer (which is her sponsor)."
Karen Stupples matched Ochoa's final-round 67 to finish alone in fourth at 8-under 208. Morgan Pressel (70) joined Miriam Nagl (68) and Natalie Gulbis (70) in a tie for fifth at 7-under 209. Pressel was pleased with part of her performance, but felt she left plenty of shots out there as she earned $33,952 in her first LPGA Tour event as a member.
"I didn't play my best, so it's good to know that I was able to stay in contention," Pressel said. "I wish I could have gotten a little closer to the top, but I can learn a lot from this and move on."
Kim schooled playing partners Becky Iverson (75) and Sung Ah Yim (75) down the stretch, but couldn't hold off Ochoa and Moon, who were playing a couple of groups ahead of her. Ochoa and Kim set the tournament record with a pair of 65s on Friday, but Ochoa was still four shots off the second-round pace.
She made that up over the first 17 holes and had a chance to go 11 under in regulation, but missed an 8-footer for birdie to remain at 10 under. Kim also had a chance to win in regulation with a 25-footer at the last, but let the putt slip by 3 feet. She made it to force the playoff with Ochoa and Moon.
"I was very nervous on the 18th the first time," Kim said. "Because I played well and made a par, I felt a little more safe and calm."
Even when Moon made her birdie putt on the first playoff hole, Kim remained confident she could halve the hole.
"I felt like I was going to make mine, too," Kim said.
Despite the loss, Moon took a lot from this tournament. She injured her left wrist last May and hadn't played since. She went home to South Korea for treatment and despite the loss to her friend, said she gained a lot of confidence with her tie for second.
"It's OK," Moon said. "Next time I can (win). You know, this was a very good chance, but I can do better next time. I can go step by step, I have confidence. I can do better."