Despite going out of bounds off the tee at No. 17 and watching her birdie putt at No. 18 trickle tantalizingly past the hole, Sei Young Kim of the Republic of Korea captured a 1-up win over Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn at the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Match Play presented by Aeromexico and Delta.

“It was a really tough day today,” said Kim, who trailed for only four of the 95 holes she played at Club de Golf Mexico. “I never had such a hard win like today. I am happy that I was able to win and hold this trophy.”

Kim was on fire early, opening birdie-eagle-birdie to quickly build a 3-up lead over Jutanugarn, the third-ranked player in the world. Kim’s lead dropped to 2 up when she couldn’t convert par at No. 14. But on the 16th green, things truly started to fall apart for the 24-year-old Kim, when her short birdie putt to win the title lipped out. 

Kim then sent her tee shot at the par-5 17th far right and out of bounds, forcing her to tee up a provisional. Jutanugarn saw the open door and went right through, knocking in a birdie from 12 feet to cut Kim’s lead to 1 up. 

“I tried to stay calm but I really couldn’t,” said Kim. “My hands were shaking, my legs were shaking too. It was really hard to keep calm.”

Both players put their approaches to the par-4 18th within 10 feet. Kim’s putt just brushed the hole, knocking her to her knees in disbelief. She could only watch as Jutanugarn was also unable to convert her birdie, handing Kim her sixth LPGA title. 

“I am really pleased, because it’s been one year that I have not played good,” said Kim, whose last win came in June 2016 at the Meijer LPGA Classic. “I got really disappointed, and even last week, I missed the cut. But this week I bounced back and had a really good result. So, I’m really happy with that.”

Prior to today, Kim’s best 2017 finish was a third-place showing at the Honda LPGA Thailand, and she missed the cut at last week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC. She is projected to move from No. 12 to No. 8 in the Rolex Rankings. This was Jutanugarn’s third runner-up finish of the season, joining the HSBC Women’s Champions and the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She is projected to pass So Yeon Ryu and regain her position as No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, behind World No. 1 Lydia Ko.

HUR TOPS WIE IN CONSOLATION MATCH

Mi Jung Hur of the Republic of Korea outlasted American Michelle Wie in a grueling 22-hole competition to win the consolation match and take third place at the Lorena Ochoa Match Play. 

It was all Wie to begin, as the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion won six of the first 10 holes to take a 5-hole advantage. Then, suddenly, Hur won three straight holes to get herself firmly back in the match. 

“Michelle played really good on the front nine and I was struggling, I was 5 down going into 11 holes,” Hur explained. “I was so frustrated with my game. I played 36 holes on Saturday and today as well, my mind was trying to keep it up. My caddie kept saying positive things and trying to keep my focused.” 

Wins for Hur on holes 15 and 17 brought the match to all square, and Wie had a great look on 18 for the win but couldn’t sneak the ball into the hole, leading to extra holes. The duo played 18 first, with Hur missing a long birdie putt just short. On the 20th hole, Wie’s magnificent approach landed about 2 feet from the hole and Hur knew she needed something special from her greenside chip. She proceeded to calmly roll the chip in for the shot of the match.

“She hit it almost 2 foot and I had a 7-yard chip, and I tried to make it and take the pin out,” said Hur. “I thought there was no chance, but I just hit it and landed perfectly and the birdie was amazing.”

Matching pars on the 21st hole led the match to the 16th hole, where Wie just needed to roll in a 2-foot par putt to extend. The downhill roller sharply caught the edge leading to a massive lip-out, and the match was decided.

“After she chipped it in it was pretty close but it was still downhill and I had a putt from there too. It didn’t look easy so I didn’t give it to her,” said Hur. “We had already played 21 holes so I thought maybe she wasn’t very focused, and she missed it by nothing. But it’s a match play, so I’m sorry Michelle.”

The result was the second consecutive top-5 finish for Hur. Wie’s fourth-place finish ties her best result of the season.

HOW THEY REACHED THE FINALS

Sei Young Kim (KOR), winner of the Se Ri Pak bracket

First round, defeated Maude-Aimee Leblanc (CAN), 3 and 1

Second round, defeated Danielle Kang (USA), 3 and 2

Third round, defeated Charley Hull (ENG), 3 and 1

Quarterfinals, defeated Karine Icher (FRA), 5 and 4

Semifinals, defeated Mi Jung Hur (KOR), 5 and 4

Ariya Jutanugarn (THA), winner of the Annika Sorenstam bracket

First round, defeated Amy Anderson (USA), 5 and 4

Second round, defeated Moriya Jutanugarn (THA), 2 up

Third round, defeated Pernilla Lindberg (SWE), 5 and 3

Quarterfinals, defeated Cristie Kerr (USA), 19 holes

Semifinals, defeated Michelle Wie (USA), 4 and 3

 

 

Image Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America

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