Sometimes the most formidable opponent is one that isn’t there. A competitor can make a mistake and help you out, but when you are chasing history the numbers are recorded on the white pages of the record book, an indelible, unchanging challenge. History doesn't make mistakes. On Sunday at the Thornberry Creek Classic, Sei Young Kim was more than up to the task.
In a dominating performance from start to finish, the 25-year-old Korean tied Annika Sorenstam for the LPGA 54-hole scoring record at 24 under par and then bumped Sorenstam aside for the 72-hole record, Kim’s 31-under-par erasing the 27 under par Sorenstam shot at the 2001 Standard Register PING when she recorded the only 59 in LPGA history. It was a mark Kim already shared with Sorenstam.
With rounds of 63-65-64-65, Kim finished at 257, which also broke the LPGA raw-score record by one stroke. She finished whopping nine strokes ahead of Carlota Ciganda and 11 better than Anna Nordqvist, Emma Talley and Amy Yang.
“I set my goal today for a bogey-free round,” Kim said, and it was a goal she achieved. In fact, the only flaw on her scorecard for the week was a double bogey on No. 17 on Friday. She made 31 birdies – also an LPGA record for 72 holes – and one eagle as she missed only five greens in four rounds.
“After I shot 27 under [at the 2016 JJTBC Founders Cup to tie Sorenstam’s record] I wanted the 72-hole record,” Kim said. “This is a dream come true.”
Kim began the final round with an eight-stroke lead over Yang, who reduced the margin to six strokes through four holes but two consecutive birdies by Kim pretty much put the tournament away and made chasing history the only drama remaining at the Oneida Nation, near Green Bay, Wis.
Sei Young got to 28 under par at the turn, added a birdie on No. 10 and when a 12-foot putt found the cup on No. 12 she was 30 under par. A two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th hole got her to 31 under par and guaranteed the raw-score record if she made pars the rest of the way, which she did.
Kim has always been an explosive player who makes birdies in bunches. Since 2015, she has had 22 rounds of 65 or lower, including a 61 this year at the ShopRite Classic. Thornberry Creek was the seventh career LPGA victory for Kim and she has now won at least once on tour for four consecutive years.
Kim was nothing short of unbelievable in every phase of the game at Thornberry Creek. In addition to hitting an astonishing 67 greens, she averaged 275 yards off the tee – 282 on Sunday – and converted on 31 birdie putts and one eagle attempt in those 67 greens hit, making nearly half her attempts.
Before the tournament, Kim went onto YouTube in search of tips to help her achieve peak performance on the golf course. “I learned to trust myself,” she said when asked what she found out. And that trust turned into a slew of LPGA scoring records and perhaps might also be the start of Sei Young taking her game to a really special level of performance.
On Sunday, Kim went out in pursuit of history. And she caught it not one, not two but three times. Now, when you look up the records for under-par scoring, the raw score mark and for the number of birdies in a 72-hole tournament, the name Sei Young Kim stands alone.
Perhaps they will make a YouTube video about what Kim did at Thornberry Creek. Certainly, the way she played is worth putting in a time capsule and savoring time and again. Now, when someone else goes out on a Sunday in pursuit of history, it will be Kim that they are chasing – whether she is there or not.