In-Kyung Kim had slipped from 2nd to 4th in her class (and down to 8th in her LPGA generation) over the course of this season, during which Inbee Park won a major, Eun-Hee Ji and Ji Young Oh got their 1st wins, and Angela Park, Song-Hee Kim, and Jane Park had racked up top 5s, but all that has changed with her win today at the Longs Drugs Challenge.
And what a win it was! Kim let the top of the leaderboard back into the tournament with no birdies and 3 bogeys over her 1st 16 holes to dip all the way to -8. But nobody could walk through the door she had left ajar. Not Angela Stanford, who matched Kim's bogeys on the back to stay 2 back most of the day. Not Ya Ni Tseng, who was -7 through 12 holes and only 3 back, but proceeded to bogey her next 3 in a row to take the pressure off the leader and couldn't do more than salvage a solo 3rd-place finish with back-to-back birdies that got her back to E on the day. Not Lorena Ochoa, who made 6 birdies--and 6 bogeys--in a final round that needed to be flawless. Not Brittany Lang, who was -6 through 15 but faded fast with a double bogey and bogey in her next 2 holes.
So when Kim matched Stanford's birdie on 17 to maintain her 2-shot lead and capped off her day and the week with a walk-off birdie, she did more than slam that open door shut, more than move into the top 20 on the LPGA money list--more even than join Maiko Wakabayashi from the JLPGA as another 20-year-old winner this week. No, In-Kyung Kim established herself as one of the players to watch in a Class of 2007 that may well be the strongest on tour right now. Watch for her at the ADT Championship. With over $500K in 2nd-half winnings, she just punched her ticket for that race for the $1M 1st prize. The only players on the LPGA as hot as she's been lately are Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Song-Hee Kim, Angela Stanford, Katherine Hull, Suzanne Pettersen, and Shanshan Feng.
[Update 1 (8:38 pm): Heeeere's Hound Dog!]
[Update 2 (10:42 pm): And heeeere's LPGA.com's notes and interviews.]
[Update 3 (11:21 pm): And heeere's Golf Channel.]
[Update 4 (12:04 pm): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue. Some great tidbits there. I particularly liked the bit on Kristy McPherson, who had one of the best rounds of the day Sunday with one eye swollen shut. She's a Super Soph, too, btw, as is Irene Cho, who just missed the top 10.]
[Update 5 (12:22 pm): Nice story from Cam Inman that uses Kim's victory speech as the hook for insight into her path to learning English.]
[Update 6 (12:50 pm): Ryan Ballengee thinks less highly of Inman's piece! Personally, I liked it b/c in the body of the piece Inman dug up some details you couldn't get from LPGA.com. Besides the cookie cutter opening, my only problem with the piece is in the end, when Inman fails to mention that Kim criticized the punitive aspects of the LPGA's withdrawn policy in her post-round interview that addressed the issue.]
[Update 7 (1:13 pm): Courtesy of bangkokbobby at Seoul Sisters.com:
What do you think of the way Kim's English is framed by GC?]