It’s too bad that there wasn’t the usual crowd to witness what went down at this year’s HSBC Women’s World Championship, because it was a thrill from start to finish.
The tournament, which took place at the lush expanses of the Sentosa Golf Club, saw the creme de la creme of the golf world going head-to-head, including Jin-young Ko, Danielle Kang, Inbee Park and 2019 champion Sung-hyun Park.
But it was another South Korean golf player who took home the winning title and the US$240,000 (S$320,469.60) cheque prize: Hyo Joo Kim, who closed with a bogey-free 64. Kim’s victory at the tournament was even sweeter because it marked her first LPGA win in five years, and her fourth throughout her career.
“Winning after such a long time, it feels like my first win of all. It feels like a dream at this moment!” shared the 25-year-old, who watched the final round at the players lounge while eating a Pop-Tart. “I thought everybody had the opportunity to win. I didn’t make any mistakes on the front nine, and as I went to the back nine, I felt I might be able to win.”
It was indeed a nail-biting match, and who would emerge as champion was anyone’s guess. In fact, Australia’s Hannah Green came pretty close: the Perth player took the lead with an eagle on the par-four 14th, and a birdie on the 16th hole. But bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes meant that she finished one stroke back of Kim, keeping her from bagging her third LPGA win.
“Made a really good putt on 16 to make birdie, but obviously pretty disappointed to have two 3-putts finishing,” said the Australian player. “Felt a little nerves on the last, which is nice, because I guess having the spectators out there it kind of meant something to me.”
Having landed the runner-up position, Green was closely followed by a trio of players who shared third place on the leaderboard. One of them is China’s Xiyu Lin, who graduated from the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf programme. Lin headed into the final day of the tournament with a 54-hole lead — a first for her LPGA career.
“If you told me at the beginning of the week, I’m going to do that well, like finish top three, I’ll be like, ‘are you kidding’,” shared the 25-year-old, who competed on a sponsor invite from HSBC. “I just feel really grateful that we have that kind of company [like HSBC] supporting the whole of golf in China.”
Lin was tied with South Korea’s Inbee Park, a two-time winner of the tournament, as well as newcomer Patty Tavatanakit from Thailand. Having made her debut on the international golf scene earlier this year, the 21-year-old Bangkok native skilfully rose through the rankings after a modest start to the week. The ANA Inspiration winner eventually finished with seven under par 65, putting her two back from Kim — not bad for a Tour rookie.
There was certainly lots to applaud at this year’s HSBC Women’s World Championship. The results have also given champion Kim a chance to qualify for the South Korean Olympic team, after missing out on the opportunity to do so in 2016.
Her victory follows her two wins at the KLPGA last year (Kim had chosen to remain in Korea and skip the 2020 LPGA Tour when the pandemic broke out). Now, she ranks No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s Rankings, putting her in the final spot of the South Korean team after Jin Young Ko, Inbee Park and Sei Young Kim. If she maintains her position, she’ll get to represent her country at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
“I heard from my fans that they want me to end up on the Olympics,” she said. “So with this win, I feel very confident to represent Korea.”
Header photo credit: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images