Jimin Kang made three birdies in her final four holes to earn her second-career LPGA Tour victory at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. The 30-year-old calmly rolled in a 12-foot, downhill putt on the 54th hole to shoot 6-under-par 65 on Sunday, then nervously watched as LPGA veteran Juli Inkster carded a bogey on the final hole to drop out of a tie for the lead. The victory is Kang’s second on Tour following a Rolex First-Time victory at the 2005 LPGA Corning Classic. Kang’s first-place check totals 270,000, vaulting her to 20th on the 2010 LPGA Official Money List. “Speechless,” Kang said when asked how she felt. “That's not that easy to do for me. I played solid. I hit a lot of putts. As you guys can tell, my score was good enough to win a tournament, and you know, it's been a while. So I'm trying to soak this in. Oh, my God, I can't believe I won!
Breathe in, breathe out. Kang felt the nerves toward the end of the day. “I pulled my caddy, I was like, I'm getting goose bumps,” she said. “I can't breathe anymore. And my caddy said, "Jimin, take a deep breath. Breathe. Breathe." That was all I did toward the end.
LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster falls one shot short of becoming oldest winner in LPGA Tour history. Inkster carded a bogey on the 54th hole of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia to finish alone in second place, her best finish of the season. She made a case for herself on the back-nine with birdies at 13, 15, 16 and 17, where she took the outright lead. She pushed her second shot into the right greenside bunker at 18, nearly holing out from the sand before a two-putt bogey. “When I miss it, I miss it right,” Inkster said of her final approach. “It was a three-quarter shot and I left it out there. I played well all day.”
Does this kind of finish make Inkster want to stay out here until she gets another win? “I really enjoy what I do,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to compete.”
Cristie Kerr is projected to regain the Rolex Rankings No. 1 position on the heels of her strong play Sunday. Kerr began the final round tied for 29th and teed off on the 10th hole, registering four birdies in her first six holes of the day to mount a comeback charge. She added a bogey at 18 – her ninth hole – and birdies at three and four to finish the day at 5-under-par 66. “It would feel great to take over No. 1 this week,” said Kerr. “It’s been so close the last four tournaments. It came down to one putt in Alabama and last week I had a great finish, but just wasn’t close enough. I’ve been thinking about this race all year. It’s coming down to a putt here or there and it cannot get any closer.” Kerr returns to the spot she has held for four previous week’s this season, three of which followed her 12-shot victory at the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans in June. Jiyai Shin is projected to take the No. 2 spot in the Rolex Rankings, while Ai Miyazato is projected to fall to No. 3.
Song-Hee Kim notched yet another top-10 finish at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. The South Korean has finished in the top-10 in 20 of her last 26 events.
Second-round leaders Maria Hjorth and Jee Young Lee each struggled on Sunday. Hjorth shot even-par 71, including a bogey at 18 that would have given her solo third place. Lee carded a 75 to drop into a tie for ninth.
Kelly Tan makes Malaysia proud. The amateur tied for 32nd at 3-over-par 216 to claim low-Malaysian honors. Asked about her week, she said, “The first day I was really nervous. You know, my heartbeat was really fast, but today I think I handled it pretty well.”
Kang earns a stay at Canyon Ranch. With her victory at the 2010 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Jimin Kang earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort. In a combined effort to promote health and overall well-being among Tour players, Canyon Ranch will provide every winner of an LPGA event with one all-inclusive stay at one of Canyon Ranch's two destination resorts.
JIMIN KANG, -9
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome for the final press conference of the week at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. We have our winner from today's event, Jimin Kang from Korea who will be at home next week. Right.
JIMIN KANG: Ooh la la!
THE MODERATOR: Yes. Yes. Jimin was a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2003 and won her first event in 2005 at the Corning Classic where she actually hit a hole in one. Do you remember that?
JIMIN KANG: Yes. How do I not remember that?
THE MODERATOR: Yeah. That was an amazing start. And this year she's had a good year, including a seventh place finish at the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans, one of our major events. Shot a 70, 69 and a 65 today, which was pretty amazing and lives full time in Arizona where you went to college. Correct?
JIMIN KANG: Yes, sir. Uh huh.
THE MODERATOR: Jimin, why don't you walk us through what was an amazing day for you and how you're feeling right now.
JIMIN KANG: Speechless. That's not that easy to do for me. I played solid. I hit a lot of putts. As you guys can tell, my score was good enough to win a tournament, and you know, it's been a while. So I'm trying to soak this in. Oh, my God, I can't believe I won!
THE MODERATOR: Do you have any feeling starting today? Were you shooting to win or how did you feel coming in to today?
JIMIN KANG: I didn't know where I was standing. All I know is I was within Top 5 at some point. And I noticed I was playing pretty darn good towards the end, and I'm like, oh, my God, I might have a chance to win this thing!
And what was that putt, number 16? My caddy is like because you know when you get pumped up, you just go at the pin, and the pin was at the front right. He said, "Jimin, aim at the left, aim at the left."
I was like, okay. You have no idea how hard for me not to shift the ball towards the target. So I had to lay it up, and I made the putt. And I got it right, shot it right to the next hole, and it fell in.
And then the volunteers and the people are like, you're playing good, huh? You could be the champion this week! I was like, oh, really? Then I was like, oh, my God! I wonder where I'm standing!
Then yeah, I got an idea, and I'm like, oh, my God, I must be close to like winning the championship. Then I pulled my caddy, I was like, I'm getting goose bumps. I can't breathe anymore. And my caddy said, "Jimin, take a deep breath. Breathe. Breathe." That was all I did toward the end.
THE MODERATOR: Well, it was a great birdie on 18, which really won it for you.
JIMIN KANG: Thank you, sir. I saw the scoreboard, and I thought that I was like tied, and I was like, maybe I could win with a birdie. And I saw it, Juli was at 9 under. I realized I was like, oh, I've got to make this birdie to go to the playoff. I came too far to just make par and stay in second place.
So at that point I wasn't nervous at all, which I was impressed with myself. And yeah, putt rolled in, and I'm here with you guys.
Q. Is this your first win on the LPGA?
JIMIN KANG: No, ma'am. It's the second. Like he said, I won in 2005 at the Corning Classic, and this is my second.
Q. How does it feel to have a win in this season? Is this as good as your previous season's win?
JIMIN KANG: How could you compare winning with a previous season? What kind of question is this? How long have you been working? Huh? No. I can't even compare this. No. It's priceless. Any other questions?
Q. Can you take us through your hole No. 2?
JIMIN KANG: Hole No. 2. I three putted. I hit it well, where I wanted to, and I hit a lot of more than 30 footers. And I was like, all right. It's going upslope, and it's a touch downhill right to left, and I rolled it. And it was against grain, which I totally forgot to look at the grain. So I three putted. Yes.
THE MODERATOR: The only bogey of the day for seven birdies.
JIMIN KANG: Not too bad, huh? I wasn't checking my score. Trust me, I was too busy playing golf today.
THE MODERATOR: And entertaining the crowds.
JIMIN KANG: As usual.
Q. Have you enjoyed your visit to Malaysia? How has it been?
JIMIN KANG: It's been great. You know what I love the most, I played the Pro Am on Thursday, and guess what, those Pro Am guys are my best friends right now.
It's so funny, I just met them and they're like best friends ever. I love it. I think you guys are just great.
Q. This is your second win after five years.
JIMIN KANG: Yes. Five years. Don't ask me how old I am.
Q. So in between that...
JIMIN KANG: I'm trying to catch what's going on in my head. I have no idea. All I know is whatever you guys ask me, I'm just answering. So I'm trying to soak this feeling, and I have no idea. All I know is it's been five years, and it's priceless, and I'm loving it.
Q. What would you say was the hardest part today?
JIMIN KANG: 18, because I know I have to make it to go to playoff. So it's gotta be 18. Yes.
Q. So in your mind you thought you were going to a playoff? Is that how it was?
JIMIN KANG: Yeah, because I was one stroke behind her. She was already 9 under. I was 8 under. I thought I was like there. But I wasn't.
So I was like, oh, my God. Glad there was a scoreboard to remind me. I would be all excited and I was in second place, you know. So I was like oh, my God. I gotta make this. And I guess it's meant to be. Any other questions?
Q. Jimin, you're kind of, as we say, an old timer on the LPGA.
JIMIN KANG: Ooh la la.
Q. I'm talking about there are more Asian girls from Thailand here. What is it like on the LPGA Tour?
JIMIN KANG: Living out of a suitcase. (Laughs). No. That's joking. I love it because I'm getting to compete from all over the world and they're the best out of the best. And we come for just one golf, playing golf and enjoy the life. And we get to visit all different countries and all different states, all different great golf courses. We get to meet through the Pro Am, we get to meet all kinds of people. I mean it's priceless. Yeah.
Q. A great homecoming for you next week?
JIMIN KANG: You never know. Maybe. Hope so.
Q. Do you have any pre round rituals, tradition, things that you go through?
JIMIN KANG: I don't think so. Do I look like it? I don't think so. I don't even talk like that.
THE MODERATOR: Rituals, superstitions?
JIMIN KANG: Not that I know of. Do you think that I look like that? Not that I know of.
Q. Can you give us a fair assessment of the course this week? Can you assess the course?
JIMIN KANG: It was perfect. It's perfect for me. That's all I'm going to say.
Q. Jimin, a lot of golfers have a particular kind of marker, like a nickel or dime. Do you have your own particular marker you use all the time?
JIMIN KANG: No. Do you see all these bling blings? I like bling blings. I'm a woman. We like something flashy. So yes. Any other questions? I'm ready to jump in the shower and grab something to eat. I'm getting hungry.
JULI INKSTER, -8
Q. So tough end to the day. Just tell us about...
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. Yeah. I just edged my shot and I missed it and I just missed it to the right. It was a three quarter shot, and I just left it out there.
And you know, I played well all day. So you know, Jimin birdied the last hole. She played well.
Q. You had a nice run of birdies there.
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I did.
Q. I think it was four or five to get yourself in the hunt.
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. You know, I three putted 10 for bogey, and I had a birdie chance on 11 and didn't make it, and I made a few coming in.
I putted pretty good all day. You know, I just hit a few loose shots, and that happened to be one of them.
Q. Seems like you've put yourself in contention a couple times this year. You had a chance in the finals.
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. Well, one, I got DQ'd and a couple other ones. You know, I'm playing a lot better. Just my swing just doesn't repeat. I just gotta keep working at it.
Q. Does it make you want to stay out here? No thoughts of...
JULI INKSTER: Well, I mean I really enjoy what I do. This is great traveling here to Malaysia. They treat us great, and it's a nice feel to compete and maybe next time.