Rancho Mirage, California
April 4, 2015
As her competitors faltered down the stretch coming in, Sei Young Kim brought her best golf with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 and a par on 18 to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration at 10-under-par. Kim’s earliest golf memories are of watching this major championship from Korea when Grace Park jumped into Poppie’s Pond.
“If I were to win it tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever to come true for me,” Kim said through a translator. “You know, just because, I’ve watched this tournament since I was young. That’s why I feel I want it so much more, and I think the opportunity is there in front of me, and if I can, I definitely want to get my hand on it, and for sure it won’t be bad jumping into that pond tomorrow.”
Heading into the 15th hole Saturday it was actually Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis that had stormed into a one-shot lead at 9-under-par but Lewis bogeyed Nos. 15 and 17 and trails by three in solo second. Morgan Pressel also owned a share of the lead at 8-under-par at one point during the back nine but the closing stretch got the best of her, too, with bogeys on No. 16 and 17 coming in.
“Coming in there, I didn’t make some of the best swings ever,” Lewis said. “Definitely didn’t deserve bogey on 15, so I was pretty happy making bogey there truthfully. 17, just kind of misjudged the wind and hit a wrong club there, and then the green is really bumpy down there by the hole. But all in all, it was a good, solid day. Didn’t really have to work too hard, which is good.”
Lewis will have to work hard tomorrow though to earn her second robe and third career major championship. In her 2011 victory here, her first major win, Lewis came from two strokes behind to beat Yani Tseng. It’s a familiar position for Lewis to find herself in - chasing on a Sunday. Sei Young Kim can’t say the same. Kim said she does her best work chasing from behind and has never led at a major championship, this being only her third appearance in a major ever.
“I feel a bit pressured right now,” Kim said through a translator. “Back in Korea when I was playing on the Korean Tour, I was known for coming from behind and winning tournaments. But to be in the lead going into the final round on the LPGA is fairly new for me. So yeah, I feel some pressure there.”
It’s an interesting position the rookie Kim finds herself in playing in the final group of a major with one of the players she remembers watching from Korea jump into Poppie’s Pond here. It’s only her 13th LPGA start and she leads at a major championship after already winning earlier this year in a playoff at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.
But Kim came from behind in the Bahamas. This time she’s got Lewis on her heels.
“You know, it’ll just be – she’s just a dominating force out there,” Kim said through a translator. “I’d probably even chicken out in starting a conversation. But you know, just to be able to play with her on the final day, it’s an honor.”
So would a jump into Poppie’s Pond come Sunday.
FIGHTING OFF THE YOUNG GUNS
Stacy Lewis spoke about her final-round showdown with rookie Hyo Joo Kim two weeks ago like it was fresh in her mind, saying she gave the teenager everything she had Phoenix but came up short on Sunday.
“I threw everything I had at her in Phoenix and she kept responding by making putts and hitting shots,” said Lewis. “They’re not scared, not scared at all.”
Lewis will face another South Korean rookie on Sunday and trails third-round leader Sei Young Kim by three shots. The duo will be the final pairing on the first major championship Sunday of the year. Lewis touched on the heavy-with-talent rookie class, specifically the young South Koreans.
“We knew they were coming. Inbee and some of the girls were kind of telling us that there were some young Koreans coming that were pretty good,” said Lewis. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but they’ve been there. You can tell they’ve got a lot of experience from playing in Korea, and they know how to win. They know how to putt, which is most important, and I mean, they’re impressive.”
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER STREAK EXTENDED FOR KO
Although Lydia Ko snapped her consecutive sub-par round streak yesterday in the second round after a1-over 73, the 17-year wunderkind extended another impressive statistic stretch on Saturday. With her only birdie of the day coming from an 8-foot putt on the 18th hole, Ko has now recorded a birdie in every single round she has played in which now total 191 rounds. The New Zealander said she wasn’t aware of that streak either and jokingly thanked the media for bringing it to her attention.
“No. Thanks, guys,” said Ko. “It’s always some statistic that’s going to get in my tail. But yeah, I didn’t know that. Lucky thing that I birdied the 18th. It happened to me last year, too. I hadn’t birdied all day and then made a birdie on 18 to kind of get that going. It’s good that I’m at least counting a couple strokes off the scorecard today.”
Ko was 3-over through 17 holes and with her lone birdie got back to 2-under par for the day. She currently sits 12 shots off the lead and in a tie for 48th at 2-over par. Ko said she hasn’t been able to see as many putts drop as she’d like so far.
“Hopefully for more putts to drop tomorrow,” said Ko. “I think obviously I would love to hit it closer and hit more fairways and all that, but it’s not going to be perfect. Even if I just carry on my long game and just hope for a couple more putts to drop, I know that I’ll be reducing a couple shots from today.”
There have been a few sister duos who have competed in events together on the LPGA Tour but there have been very few opportunities for sisters to do what the Jutanugarn sisters can do on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration.
Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn will try to become only the third set of sisters to each record a top-10 finish in the same major championship. The last time it happened was here at Mission Hills in 1999 when Charlotta Sorenstam finished fifth and Annika Sorenstam finished seventh.
After shooting a 66 on Saturday, Ariya Jutanugarn enters Sunday’s final round in a tie for third at six-under-par while her sister, Moriya, is one shot back in a tie for sixth at five-under-par.
Top-10 finishes by sisters in the same major
1952 U.S. Women’s Open – Marlene Bauer Hagge (T2) and Alice Bauer (8)
1957 U.S. Women’s Open – Marlene Bauer Hagge (T6) and Alice Bauer (T6)
1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore – Charlotta Sorenstam (5) and Annika Sorenstam (7)
NUMBERS TO KNOW
3 – number of times two sisters have finished in the top 10 in a major.
9 – Morgan Pressel was tied for ninth – four shots back – heading into the final round here in 2007 when she won this event. She’s currently four shots back with 18 holes to play.
2001 – The last time a pair of sisters finished in the top-10 in an LPGA Tour event.
191 – Consecutive rounds that Lydia Ko has recorded a birdie which is every single round she has played on the LPGA
2 – Sei Young Kim trailed by two in her win in the Bahamas heading into the final round.
2 – Stacy Lewis came from two shots back to win her first major at this event in 2011.
7 – Largest come-from-behind victory was by Karrie Webb here in 2006
11 – How many under par the leaders were here a year ago heading into the final round.
14 – The number under par that it took to win this tournament a year ago.
15 – Numbers of players who won this event for their first major championship
75 – Highest final round by the eventual champion, by Betsy King in 1990
65 - Lowest final round by an eventual champion, by Karrie Webb in 1996
AIRTIMES FOR CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
The ANA Inspiration will have four hours of live coverage on Sunday for the final round:
April 5 5:00pm - 9:00pmET