(Reuters) - South Korea’s Kim Sei-young drained an eight-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to emerge victorious from a four-woman shootout down the stretch and claim the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in China by a single stroke on Sunday.
The 22-year-old rookie shot a final round two-under-par 70 around the testing Jian Lake Blue Bay Course in wet and windy conditions to finish on two-under for the tournament, ahead of Americans Stacy Lewis and Kim Kaufman, and Taiwan’s Candie Kung.
“As soon as I saw this course, I realized it was my type of layout and really wanted to win, so I am very happy right now,” Kim said in a post-round interview at the Hainan Island resort.
Lewis had earlier looked on course to claim her first victory of the season after five previous second-place finishes when the world number three led by two shots after 12 holes but a bogey on the 13th allowed her rivals to haul her back in.
Kim birdied the same hole and the next to leapfrog the American as Kaufman picked up four shots in seven holes to move to one-under for the tournament and joint overnight leader Kung also birdied the 14th to form a trio of chasers a shot back from the Korean.
Kaufman parred the last three holes to sit in the clubhouse on one-under and when Kim duffed her tee shot on the par-three 17th, her chances of recording a third victory of the season appeared all but over.
Kung and Lewis hit superb tee shots to within five feet of the penultimate hole and when Kim three-putted from 45 meters to drop back into a tie for first, her playing partners both failed to sink the short putts that would have given them the lead.
Four players were now tied for the lead as the final group headed to the par-five 18th and when Kung and Lewis missed their birdie attempts, Kim took full advantage and sank to her knees as the winning putt dropped into the center of the cup.
“I was really nervous and could hear my heart bounce. I just tried to focus on my putt and when it went in, I couldn’t believe it... it was just amazing,” added Kim, who will move into the top 10 after a stellar first season on the LPGA Tour.
The leading quartet were the only players to finish under par for the tournament as Sandra Gal, Xi Yu Lin and Alena Sharp tied for fifth place on three-over par, a stroke ahead of world number one Lydia Ko, who went four-under over the weekend after a terrible start.
Writing by John O'Brien in Singapore; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty