x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Delighted Kim savours sweet taste of victory

Kyung Kim, who had played brilliantly over the last three days to take a three-stroke lead into the concluding round, was never really troubled in the race to the finish line.

In Kyung Kim proudly holds  the Dubai Ladies Masters trophy aloft after winning her third title of her career.
In Kyung Kim proudly holds the Dubai Ladies Masters trophy aloft after winning her third title of her career.

DUBAI // Michelle Wie knew she had to make an eagle on the daunting final hole of the Majlis course to have any chance of snatching the Dubai Ladies Masters title from the rock solid South Korean In Kyung Kim. It was a tall order on a hole at which many of her long-hitting male counterparts have come to grief but a booming drive which ignored the left-hand dog leg put her well placed to make the vital three.

"All I had to do was go left," she said after suffering the despair of seeing her pushed approach shot clear the lake in front of the green only to spin back frustratingly into the water. "I just didn't put a good swing on it. It was stupid." The tall American still salvaged par by chipping stone dead from the dropping zone to complete a splendid seven-under par round of 65, but the decisive error left the door wide open for Kim, playing three holes behind, to take a conservative route on to the winner's rostrum.

Kim, who had played brilliantly over the last three days to take a three-stroke lead into yesterday's concluding round of the ?500,000 (Dh2.6 million) tournament, was never really troubled in the race to the finishing line. Wie, beginning the day six strokes adrift, got to within two shots of the lead but Kim, who began with a bogey, rarely looked like dropping another shot and ultimately coasted to her third professional victory and a ?50,000 prize.

"I'm very excited to have won here," she said. "All victories are sweet so I can't really say how this compares with my other two but this is very special to me." She was embarrassed about not thanking her caddie Terry McNamara for his part in the triumph. He carried Annika Sorenstam's bag on the way to two successes here and has amassed more than 70 titles with the various players he has worked for.

"He told me at the start that we needed to get to 18-under par and we've done that," said Kim, who earned ?75,000 for her four impressive days' work. "Hopefully we can keep working together. We are going to talk over our future plans afterwards." Kim, who maintained that she was unaffected by the burden of leading from the second after-noon of the tournament, was assisted by her nearest overnight challenger, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, failing to reproduce her exceptional form of Friday.

The elegant Swede, who was consoled by taking the Rookie of the Year title, could manage only an even-par 72 to finish in a four-way tie for fourth place. That quartet included Virginie Lagoutte Clement of France, who matched Wie's best score of the day 65 and the evergreen English player Laura Davies, who produced the shot of the day over trees at the last to set up a short-range eagle putt. Third place, a shot behind Wie and three strokes clear of the rest, went to another Swede, Maria Hjorth, who was left lamenting an appalling eight at that treacherous last hole which prevented her from capitalising on her first day leadership.

She had another solid round of 68 for an aggregate of 274. Sophie Gustafson, another of a crop of talented Swedes, did enough to finish top of the Ladies European Tour money list. Despite finishing two strokes adrift of her closest rival for that honour, Scotland's Catriona Matthew, Gustafson's total earnings for the year of ?281,315 were more than ?20,000 better than Matthew's. Becky Brewerton of Wales finished third in that order of merit.

wjohnson@thenational.ae