In a series of dramatic thrusts and parries over the closing holes of the Evian Championship, Hyo Joo Kim struck last to overtake Hall of Famer Karrie Webb Sunday and win the year’s final major championship.
Kim, 19, prevailed in her first start in a major.
“I was a little nervous, but I’m very happy with this win,” Kim said through a translator in a Golf Channel interview beside the 18th green.
A star on the Korean LPGA's tour, Kim is the third youngest player to win a women’s major behind Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old in 2007. Thompson won the Kraft Nabisco earlier this year at 19 years, 1 month and 27 days old. Kim is 19 years and 2 months old.
Up early in a final-round duel, Kim looked like she was going to pull away from Webb, taking a three-shot lead to the back nine, but Webb rallied to overtake Kim, only to see Kim answer with a final heart-thumping birdie.
A shot down going to the final hole, Kim worked her approach to 12 feet, holing that clutch birdie and forcing Webb to make a 10-footer for par to force a playoff.
“The putt was probably a 19-year-old's nerves, but the shot [into the green] was definitely very mature,” Webb said.
Webb looked in total control with a one-shot lead, striping her tee shot down the middle at the 18th fairway. Her trouble came around the green. After missing just her second green of the day, Webb tried to belly a wedge like a putt through about a foot of fringe, but she hit the shot too hard, leaving herself that difficult putt for par coming back.
With Webb ultimately making bogey at the last, it marked the second two-shot swing over the final five holes of her duel with Kim.
“I don’t know what hit me,” Webb said of the staggering turn of events at the last hole. “Just a rush of adrenaline, I think, with the belly wedge.”
Kim opened her first major in historic fashion Thursday, posting a record 10-under-par 61, the lowest round in a men’s or women’s major. She took home the $487,500 winner's check, closing with a 68 to finish at 11-under 273 overall.
Webb was aiming for a piece of history, trying to win her eighth career major and tie Betsy Rawls for sixth on the list of most women’s major championship titles. She was also going for an unprecedented sixth different major title.
“I believe in fate a little bit, and I wasn’t mean to win,” Webb said.
Kim, a freshman at Seoul University, was the KLPGA Rookie of the Year last season and also nearly won that tour's Player of the Year award. The victory comes with a two-year exemption to the American LPGA tour.