Na Yeon Choi shot a flawless 67 today in the Hana Bank/KOLON Championship, but it almost wasn't enough for her 2nd career LPGA win. Maria Hjorth fired a 31 and Ya Ni Tseng a 32 on the front to get to -9 with 9 to play. But Choi spoiled the rerun of the 2008 LPGA Championship that looked to be developing in Incheon. Her own bogey-free 33 kept her 1 off the pace, and as Hjorth made par after par and Tseng bogeyed the par-3 12th, Choi looked for her own opportunities. The 1st came on the par-4 15th, where a birdie put her into a tie with Hjorth for the lead. The next was the only other 1 she needed, as she matched Tseng's walkoff birdie to avoid a 3-way playoff at -9. The only player in the field to get double digits under par today is now the only player on tour with a pair of wins this season.
Choi's win makes her the 10th player to join the Million Dollar Club in season winnings. She sits almost $5K ahead of Lorena Ochoa on the money list (after Ochoa's 3rd-straight disappointing round that left her +6 overall at T44 with defending champion Candie Kung, Cristie Kerr, and Giulia Sergas), still more than $400K behind leader Ji-Yai Shin, who fought back with a 70 today to finish 6th at -3. In the Player of the Year race, Shin now leads Ochoa by 10 points, Kerr by 23, Miyazato by 30, Pettersen by 31, Choi by 35, Tseng by 37, and Stanford by 38. But the race for Vare Trophy has tightened up: Kerr now leads at 70.31, followed by Ochoa at 70.32, Miyazato at 70.33, Shin at 70.38, Stanford at 70.39, Pettersen at 70.47, Tseng at 70.52, and Choi at 70.55. In less significant races, Choi now trails Tseng by only 10 birdies and has only 4 fewer rounds in the 60s than Tseng and Shin.
Back to Korea, Ran Hong was the low KLPGAer; her bogey-free 69 today brought her all the way to 4th place at -6, passing Song-Hee Kim (71, -4) and Shin, and staying ahead of a charging Brittany Lang (68, -2), who tied Anna Nordqvist (71), Se Ri Pak (72), and Inbee Park (73) in rounding out the top 10. Hee Kyung Seo's 71 lifted her to T15 (E), but it's not what the Queen of the KLPGA was looking for this week. So Yeon Ryu, her chief rival for the '09 throne, fared even worse; her 74 today allowed Ha Neul Kim (72) to catch her at +3 (T29) and almost allowed Sun Ju Ahn to, as well (70, +4, T34). But with Paula Creamer's (72, +2, T25) doldrums continuing and Morgan Pressel blowing up on the weekend (77-80, +11, 63rd), there's nothing for the top KLPGAers to be ashamed of.
Next week we're on to the Mizuno Classic, which I've already semi-previewed. Speaking of the JLPGA, they've just lifted the live-scoring blackout on the Hisako Higuchi Classic. On to a new post on that event!
[Update 1 (5:06 am): Please see the comments for a description of the action on the 18th from Kevin (IceCat of Seoul Sisters.com). By the way, blogger is having trouble with "falling back," and is refusing to let me put the correct timestamp on my JLPGA post. Or maybe the incoming LPGA commissioner has pull with blogger to keep his tour at the top of Mostly Harmless?]