SINGAPORE // The South Korean rookie Shin Ji-yai staged a stunning six-shot comeback to win the $2 million (Dh544,514) HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore today. Starting the day six strokes behind leader Katherine Hull of Australia, Shin blasted out of the blocks with four birdies on her first four holes, picking up two more on the back nine for a second consecutive 66 and 11-under-par for the tournament.
Hull needed a birdie on the last to force a play-off but dropped another stroke to finish second on nine-under-par. Dubbed "Queen of the Final Round" in her homeland, Shin's storming start to the day included a chip-in from the fringe at the third hole. "My goal for this tournament was top 10 because at the SBS Open in Hawaii I missed the cut and in Thailand last week I finished 13th," Shin said. "Then this morning I just felt comfortable. On the first four holes I made birdies, I was very surprised. I just had to hit it with the putter or chip it and I got a birdie."
The ever-smiling, diminutive Korean never looked like dropping a stroke all day while Hull's round nosedived after a wayward drive at the par 5 13th. The Australian golfer's lead vanished with a double-bogey at the hole and she found herself a stroke behind after a bogey at 14. "I made a really bad choice. I actually broke my game plan so I got what I deserved," Hull lamented of her drive at the 13th.
"I decided from the start I'd hit three wood off that tee, I took driver and it was the wrong play. I got too greedy and was overconfident. "Hopefully it'll make me stronger and make me work harder. I'm disappointed I didn't win, but Ji-yai played great; all credit to her." Shin, who won her home Open in similar circumstances last year, began to wonder if history might repeat itself when she got to the turn and found herself only four shots behind Hull.
"Last year at the Korean Open I was four strokes behind after nine holes, so I thought ... if I made some more birdies I would have a chance," she added. "I made a birdie at 15 and Katherine made a double bogey at the 13th, so when I knew that I played more safe not attack the pin, just fairway, green." Shin, 20, also won last year's British Open on the way to becoming the first non-LPGA member to win three times on the Tour and is widely regarded as the most talented South Korean since the Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri.
She was reluctant to compare herself to Pak, who boasts LPGA Championship and US Open wins in 1998, but said she wanted to make a similar impact. Shin now has four LPGA titles to her name despite 2009 being her first as a full member of the Tour. "My first goal is Rookie of the Year. And I want to defend my titles," she said. "She (Pak) has played over 10 years so I'll try over 10 years. I want more success than Se-ri Pak."
The world No 1 Lorena Ochoa, who won last year by 11 strokes, finished tied for sixth, four shots behind the winner. *Reuters