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Golf: Rookie Kim Hyo-joo, 19, continues Korean success on LPGA

Kim Hyo-joo, 19, became the fifth Korean winner in six events on this year’s LPGA Tour. Photo: AFP.

Kim Hyo-joo, 19, became the fifth Korean winner in six events on this year’s LPGA Tour. Photos: AFP.

March 23, 2015: Korean sensation Kim Hyo-joo moved to World No. 4 after winning the JTBC Founders Cup in Arizona in only the third start of her rookie LPGA season.

 

Kim, 19, birdied five of the last eight holes for a closing 67 and a 21-under total at the Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, where she finished three clear of World No. 3 Stacy Lewis (68), the 2013 champion and her playing partner in the final flight.

 

“In the morning, I wasn’t concentrating on winning because I was playing with Stacy Lewis,” said Kim, who has yet to finish outside the top 25 in 13 LPGA Tour events, having competed in KLPGA co-sanctions and on invites before becoming a member.

 

“As a rookie, I just felt that by playing with her, I would learn a lot from her, so I was just trying to make a good impression. What really stands is her short game and so every time I play with someone like that, you just try to watch and learn from them.”

 

Kim birdied five of the last eight holes to beat playing partner Stacy Lewis by three strokes.

Kim birdied five of the last eight holes to beat playing partner Stacy Lewis by three strokes.

Starting the week as World No. 8, Kim won US$225,000 after becoming the fifth Korean winner in the first six events of the year, with World No. 1 Lydia Ko – a Seoul-born New Zealander – the only non-Korean to lift a trophy. Kim is also the second Korean rookie to win this year, after Kim Sei-young.

 

“I have known these players since we used to play on the Korean Tour and I know how good they can be,” said Kim. “[Jang] Ha-na and Sei-young are older than me. I consider them older sisters.  I just enjoy spending time with them and learning from them while I’m here.”

 

Kim earned Category 7 status on this year’s LPGA Tour after the KLPGA member won last September’s Evian Championship in France in her first appearance in a Major.

 

It was just one highlight of a sensational year in which she won seven titles on the Korean Tour and topped the money list, but the teenager is keen to play down her achievements and play up her rookie status.

 

“If I were a more established player I would feel more comfortable, but I’m still new. I just want to keep making a good impression,” said Kim, who turned pro in October 2012, but was winless on her rookie season on the Korean Tour in 2013.

 

“In fact, everyone on the LPGA Tour is really good, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, so I’m just trying to find my place.”

 

Koreans claimed three of the top five places in Phoenix, with Lee Il-hee (66) and Lee Mi-hyang (68) sharing third on 16-under with Thai star Pornanong Phatlum (67).

 

Koreans Choi Na-yeon (71) and Kim Sei-young (65), who won the first two events of the season, were among five players to share sixth place on 15-under, along with Ko, who recorded her ninth consecutive top-10 on the LPGA.

 

World No. 2 Park In-bee, who didn’t play in Phoenix, and Amy Yang are the other two Korean winners on this year’s Tour.

 

Source: LPGA (www.lpga.com); Editing by SportAsia

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