In-Kyung Kim, who came within 14 inches of the 2012 ANA Inspiration then, in a wonderful redemption story won the 2017 AIG Women’s British Open, took a measure of revenge on Mission Hill with a sizzling second-round 65 on Friday. That gave her the ANA lead going into the weekend at eight-under-par 136, three strokes better than Katherine Kirk.
The 30-year-old Kim has seven LPGA wins, including three in 2017, and 15 top-10s in majors but she’s had nothing inside the top 25 at the ANA since missing a virtual tap-in putt for the win in 2012 then losing the playoff to Sun-Young Yoo’s birdie on the first extra hole. Kim didn’t win again on the LPGA for 4 1/2 years.
But those tears from seven years ago were water well under the bridge on Friday when she made only one bogey on an extremely stingy course, posting a score three strokes lower than any other round this week. Kim was solid all around, missing only three fairways and four greens, but it was her putter that carried her to the top of the leaderboard.
“Out here you have to get what you see,” she said after using the flat stick only 25 times. “Can't really expect everything to go in. I was seeing some lines today and put some good speed on it.”
Kirk, who has three career wins but only one top 10 in 11 previous attempts at the ANA, followed an opening 71 with a 68 to claim second place alone at 139. Ally McDonald, who grabbed the first-round lead with a birdie on her final hole, is third at 140 along with reigning Rolex Rookie of the Year Jin Young Ko.
Both Ko and Lexi Thompson made a move at Kim but, playing in the afternoon wind, were done in by the deep rough and slick greens. Ko made three-putt bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6 – her 14th and 15th holes – when wind gusts left her approach shots 50 feet from the hole and shot 71.
Thompson made her first bogey of the day on No. 7 – her 16th hole – when she drew two horrible lies in the rough. She followed that with another bogey on No. 8 when her shot into the par-3 bounded over the green and she drew another terrible lie. Lexi’s 72 left her at 141 with two-time major winner Sung Hyun Park, Charley Hull, Danielle Kang and Jing Yan.
Kirk had gotten to seven under par through 29 holes but bogeyed the last two holes for a 68 that put her at five under par for 36 holes.
“Really great front nine, and then back nine got a little bit tougher,” said Kirk, who turned in 31. “Obviously finishing bogey, bogey is a bit disappointing, but I'm happy with the score. Lots of positives, so looking forward to the weekend.”
McDonald started off shaky with a bogey on No. 10 – her first hole of the day – but settled down and put together an even-par 72, which is remarkable when you consider that she hit only six greens.
“As many deep breaths as I took and tried to calm myself down, that first tee was still pretty nerve wracking for me,” McDonald said. “Once I kind of got through that I kind of settled in a little bit better. Today was really just one of those grinding days. I missed a lot of greens in the last few holes. Just kind of settled for some pars and that's just how it was.”
Kim, who won the 2005 U.S. Girls Junior Championship, earned her LPGA card by finishing co-medalist at 2006 Q school. Her generous nature made that shocking miss in 2012 even more painful to watch. When she won the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Kim donated her entire $220,000 winnings to charity. Clearly, the depths she explored widened her worldview.
“I wasn't really paying attention to the leaderboard because I'm just blessed to be here,” Kim said. “Long time it was one of my goal, but now I'm just really happy to be out here. I have better understanding of what I'm doing actually out here, so just one day at a time. I just want to keep going out there and trust my process. I want to be the person that enjoy playing golf. Yes, outcomes sometimes it's difficult to take because I don't have control over it; that's the truth.”
Kim, who had some issues with her back and her hip, has played only four tournaments in the last eight months, missing the cut this year at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup then finishing T-19 at the Kia Classic last week.
“I had a lot of healing up end of last season,” she said about her limited schedule. “I know sometimes the tour can be long, season can be long, so I wanted to manage my energy and wanted to work on few things. I'm feeling much better now. Better than before.”
That could very well sum up her life in the seven years since that heartbreak in the desert. Everything is better than before – her game and so much more. If she were to hoist the trophy come Sunday night there would be a measure of karmic justice, but listening to her speak you know she will be happy no matter what.