I.K. Kim returns to action in pain this week after her bitterly disappointing finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but it’s not her heart that’s aching.
It’s her left elbow.
In her first start since the hard blow that came in losing the Kraft Nabisco in a playoff after missing a 1-foot putt at the 72nd hole, Kim makes her return in Wednesday’s start of the Lotte Championship presented by J Golf. She does so nursing soreness in the elbow, soreness that developed in practice the week after the year’s first major championship.
“I had to put my clubs away for a week to rest my elbow,” Kim told GolfChannel.com in a phone interview from the Ko Olina Golf Club, just outside Honolulu. “I’m getting treatment, and I’m excited about playing in Hawaii this week, but I just have to be careful it doesn’t get worse.”
As far as her heart goes, Kim said it took her two to three days to recover from the blow that came watching her 12-inch putt at the 18th hit the right side of the hole and horseshoe out. The South Korean drove back to her American home base in the Los Angeles area and digested the stunning finish.
“I was upset about what happened, but at the same time, I looked back at the experience, and I had so much fun playing the back nine with a chance to win a major,” Kim said. “The game’s a journey, a process, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and I look forward to the opportunities I will have.”
Kim says she didn’t take the missed short putt for granted, didn’t haphazardly make her stroke, but she says she might have rushed the putt, that given another chance she would have gone through her entire routine.
“Golf is a game I love, and these kinds of things are a part of it,” Kim said.
Kim’s game seems built to win a major championship. A three-time LPGA winner, Kim has climbed to No. 5 in the Rolex World Rankings. She has finished T-5 or better six times in majors. She has recorded top-10 finishes in nine of the last 15 majors.
In a final round where so much trouble lurked at the Kraft Nabisco, Kim played almost flawlessly until stepping onto the 18th green. She hit every green in regulation. She was bogey free. She looked like a champion until calamity struck, and she lost in a playoff to Sun Young Yoo.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Kim said. “What’s important is how you react to them.”
Give Kim credit. She’s a generous soul. She proved that donating her entire first-place check to charity after winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in the fall of 2010. While it can’t be easy reliving the loss with all the curious questions in her return this week, Kim is being direct in meeting the challenge. She also did a sit-down interview Tuesday with Golf Channel for Golf Central, and she did a live chat on the LPGA’s streaming TV web site.
The healing, Kim says, is aided by all the people who have reached out to offer support. She says Hall of Famer Judy Rankin gave her a big hug and offered encouragement in the aftermath of the loss. She said U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon also reached out to her. She said Anna Nordqvist, Pat Hurst and Lexi Thompson were among friends who have made a difference.
“One putt isn’t going to make a difference in my life and who I am,” Kim said. “I love golf, but after I’m done playing, I’m I.K. Kim. I’m a person, not just a golfer. I have a lot of family and friends who mean a lot to me.”
Kim won’t be alone trying to rebound at the Lotte Championship this week.
Battered and bruised, a bunch of players are hobbling back after enduring hard blows at the Kraft Nabisco.
OK, they’re not actually physically damaged from what happened on the Dinah Shore Course that Sunday almost three weeks ago, but but they got beat up emotionally.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng, tied for the lead going into the final round, bogeyed three holes on the front nine and didn’t make her first birdie until the 12th. She shot 73 and finished third.
Hee Kyung Seo, runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer, had a three-shot lead on the back nine before making bogeys over the final four holes.
Karin Sjodin seized the lead from Tseng on the first hole in the final round, only to shoot 74 and tie for fourth.
Michelle Wie didn’t make it to the weekend, missing a cut in back-to-back starts for the first time in five years.
Call this week the Lotte Championship Rodeo, because there are a lot of players looking to get back in the saddle after being thrown from their horses in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Kim, Tseng, Seo, Sjodin and Wie are all in a strong field this week. Fourteen of the top 15 players in the Rolex World Rankings are scheduled to play, including Paula Creamer, who won the last LPGA event played at Ko Olina back in 2008.
It’s a big week for Wie, a good place to get her game back on track in a return to her roots. She grew up in Honolulu, and Ko Olina was once her home course. Wie, 22, will be part of an intriguing threesome that knows what it’s like to be teen phenoms. She will play the first two rounds with Jessica Korda, 19, and Lexi Thompson, 17.
Tseng, the tour’s headliner with her dominant run, will be looking to win for the fourth time this season.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Golf Channel, from 6:30-11 p.m. ET on Wednesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 7:00-10:00 p.m. on Saturday.