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Sun Young Yoo takes advantage of missed putt to win Kraft Nabisco Championship

I.K. Kim was a tap-in away from winning the prestigious LPGA event in Rancho Mirage, but she ends up losing in a playoff to Yoo on first extra hole.

April 01, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Sun Young Yoo and caddie John Limanti take the traditional leap into Poppie's Pond after winning the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Sun Young Yoo and caddie John Limanti take the traditional leap into Poppie's… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

A perplexing flubbed tap-in putt on the 18th hole from I.K. Kim jumbled the emotions of players and fans alike Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Instead of having a triumphant day, Kim's miss on the 72nd hole of play put her into a playoff with fellow South Korean Sun Young Yoo. And it was the 25-year-old Yoo, who came from behind most of the day, who knocked in an 18-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole, the par-five 18th, to win her first major.

Kim had seemed to break away from everyone with back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes but then she rimmed out a one-footer that would have given her the win.

It was a moment of extreme discouragement for the 23-year-old who now lives now in Rancho Santa Fe, and on the first playoff hole Kim's eyes were glazed.

Even world No. 1 Yani Tseng, who had a birdie putt on 18 curl just a smidgen too much or she would have made the playoff, said she ached for Kim. "I feel so bad for her," Tseng said.

Kim and Yoo each shot a final-round 69 and had four-day totals of nine-under 279.

After Kim missed her tap-in, she threw her hands up and then covered her ears as she walked off the 18th hole. The miss put her into a tie with Yoo while Tseng still was playing on the 18th.

The gallery was chanting "Ya-ni, Ya-ni" as Tseng marched to the green and gave herself a chance with the birdie putt.

The groan was large when she missed, but not as large as when the perplexed Kim jerked her tap-in away from the cup.

In the final 20 minutes of regulation, four players were tied for the lead at nine-under par and none of them was Tseng.

Karin Sjodin, a perpetual smiler from Sweden who has never won on the LPGA Tour and who had started the day tied for the lead with Tseng, was the first to drop back. She missed a five-foot par putt on the 16th hole.

Within the next five minutes, Hee Kyung Seo also bogeyed, and when the 5-foot-3 Kim posted the first of her consecutive birdies, the leaderboard suddenly seemed to gain clarity as she took a one-shot lead over Yoo.

That clarity was suddenly muddled when Kim missed the "gimme."

Defending champion Stacy Lewis had one of the best rounds of the day, scoring a six-under 66 to post a four-day total of seven-under 281

Lewis didn't give up on her chances after she finished while the leaders still had eight holes to play. She said she regretted starting the event last Thursday with four consecutive bogeys. On Friday, Lewis changed putters and said that was what helped push her back to the first page of the leaderboard.

"I'm not leaving," the 27-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas, said. Then she was off to sign autographs and take some practice swings. She would not need those practice swings when Soo kept putting up birdies.

Another American, Nathalie Gulbis, a 29-year-old from Lake Las Vegas, had an even better round, carding a seven-under 65. But Gulbis had started the day tied for 45th, so far behind the leaders she had to start her round on the 10th hole.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter.com/mepucin

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