DALY CITY, Calif. – Sei Young Kim hoisted the Mediheal Championship trophy late Sunday with her caddie marveling in the background.
Paul Fusco has watched his player win every which way now.
He watched her put on a spectacular fireworks show winning the Thornberry Classic last year, smashing the LPGA’s 72-hole scoring record. Her 31-under total was four shots better than the previous tour record, which she shared with Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam. Fusco was on the bag when Kim went on that birdie blitz in Phoenix to win the Founders Cup in 2016 to tie Sorenstam’s mark.
Fusco was also there her rookie year, when Kim beat her idol, Inbee Park, in jaw-dropping fashion at the Lotte Championship in 2015. That’s the year Kim rinsed a shot at the 72nd hole, looking as if she was going to blow a chance to win her second LPGA title, but she rallied, chipping in to force a playoff with Park and then later holing out an 8-iron from 154 yards for eagle to win the playoff.
“She’s one of those special players,” Fusco said. “When she’s firing on cylinders, she can do crazy things. Today, she showed she can do it even when she doesn’t look like she’s on her game. She showed she can still win.”
With Sunday’s victory, Kim showed she can win when par’s a good score.
Lake Merced was dressed up like a major, with pinched fairways, thick and gnarly rough and firm, undulating greens.
She has now won at 31-under and at 7-under.
“I think this was the hardest win of my life,” Kim said, who is now 4-0 in LPGA playoffs. “In my other wins, I played well in the final rounds. Today, I wasn’t good in the final round.”
Kim won despite shooting a 3-over-par 75.
She beat Jeongeun Lee6 and Bronte Law with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
This was Kim’s eighth LPGA title, her first “come-from-ahead” victory. That’s what it felt like after she gave away a three-shot lead over the first two holes. She squandered it with a double bogey at the first and a bogey at the second. She shot 40 on the front nine.
It didn’t take long before Kim was chasing, with Law putting on a show in front of her. Law shot 65 in a torrid run of five birdies and an eagle in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of the round.
“The feeling was 'Just hang in there, you did it in the first round and you came back and you can do it again,’” Fusco said.
Kim started the tournament just as poorly. She didn’t look like she was going to make the cut on Thursday. She was 4 over after her first four holes in the first round.
“Something we talk a lot about is not reacting, not getting too emotional when things aren’t going well,” Fusco said. “It just makes the game easier.
“The media always wants to know what a player’s thinking. We don’t really want to do too much thinking. It’s 'Here is the number, hit it.’ I know that’s not what the media wants to hear. It’s not the entertaining thing to say, but it’s really just that simple.”
Kim won on a golf course she didn’t really like.
“It didn’t suit my eye, because of a lot of trees,” Kim said. “I kept talking to myself, telling myself, 'I like this golf course.’ ... I do like it now.”
Kim has now won in each of her first five seasons on tour.
“I learned a lot today,” Kim said.
She learned there may not be a setup she can’t conquer.