Kim posts second career title, wins by a stroke
MOBILE, Ala. -- U.S. Solheim Cup star Christina Kim won her second career title Sunday, closing with a 5-under 67 for a one-stroke victory over Australia's Rachel Hetherington in the Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.
Kim two-putted from 80 feet on the final hole, tapping in for par after Hetherington missed a 20-foot birdie attempt. The 21-year-old Kim then celebrated with a hug from father-caddie Man Kim and a beer shower from fellow player Jennifer Rosales.
"I have been struggling since the Solheim and to know that I could come out there and be a champion of champions, it's an incredible feeling," Kim said. "All of the girls here know how to win and to win this event is just unbelievable."
Kim finished with a 15-under 273 total on the Magnolia Grove Golf Club's Crossings Course and earned $138,000. She also won the 2004 Longs Drugs Challenge.
Hetherington shot a 68 en route to the eighth runner-up finish of her career. She won the last of her eight LPGA Tour titles in 2003.
Sweden's Liselotte Neumann, the 1996 winner, closed with a 71 to finish third at 12 under. Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (69) followed at 11 under.
Neumann, who started the final round with a one-shot edge, made a 7-foot eagle putt on the fourth hole and took a two-stroke advantage into the back nine. But Kim birdied Nos. 11 and 12 to gain a share of the lead.
Neumann handed the lead to Kim when she hit her tee shot into the right trees on the par-5 13th hole and ended up making a double bogey.
Hetherington, paired with Kim in the next-to-last group, birdied the 14th to get within one stroke of Kim. Kim answered with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 16th before Hetherington closed within one again with a 15-foot, sidehill birdie putt on 17.
Kim was left with the 8-foot putt on No. 18 after her approach shot failed to get to the back shelf of the green and rolled down a ridge.
"There was a little bit of wind into my face than I realized," Kim said. "I hit a good shot. I just didn't have enough club. I got to my putt and couldn't see the hole over the ridge. I hit a great putt up there, but it was torture having to sit there and watch Rachel putt. I told myself that if there was anyone who could make a birdie on me, it was Rachel. It was heart-stopping watching her putt go so close to the hole."
Hetherington's birdie putt broke away on the right side.
"I thought it was a straighter putt," Hetherington said. "I knew I had to make it and I played it just outside the left edge and it broke away pretty early. I'm a little disappointed. I would have liked to have won, but it's nice to finish well and remind myself how it felt when I was playing well."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press