NAPLES, Fla. – Sei Young Kim may be the most underrated South Korean star.
With her 7-under 65 Thursday, she took the first-round lead at the CME Group Tour Championship, positioning herself early for a run at the $1.5 million winner’s check, the richest in the history of women’s golf.
Kim, 26, is looking to claim her third LPGA title this year, the 10th of her career.
How good is that among South Korean stars who have played the American-based tour?
Only Se Ri Pak (25), Inbee Park (19) and Jiyai Shin (11) have won more LPGA titles than Kim.
Pak, Park and Shin all won major championships. Kim is still looking for her first. She’s considered the best player in the women’s game today who hasn’t won one.
“I think she’s going to end up winning all the majors,” said Paul Fusco, her caddie. "We talk about it a lot. Maybe she doesn’t win them all, but it’s just a matter of time until she starts winning them. She believes she can.”
This week’s event isn’t a major, but it’s the next best thing with that winner’s jackpot. Kim won the LPGA’s Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club outside San Francisco in May on a course set up like a major.
She won in single digits (-7), showing how her game is suited to any kind of setup, whether par’s a good score or birdies are required in bunches. Kim smashed the LPGA’s 72-hole scoring record winning the Thornberry Classic last year. Her 31-under total there was four shots better than the previous tour record, which Kim shared with Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam.
“Yeah, I’m biased, but when Sei Young is on, nobody can touch her,” Fusco said.