It was hard to gauge Hyo Joo Kim’s emotions at Sentosa Golf Club all week as the South Korean golfer played with a mask on … but once it was confirmed that she was the 2021 HSBC Women’s World Championship winner when Australian Hannah Green missed a par-save at the last hole, a joyous celebration ensued in the players’ lounge.
And it was a well-deserved celebration indeed. While Green blew a one-shot lead with bogeys on the last two holes, it was still Kim’s blistering closing 64 at Sentosa’s Tanjong Course that forced the issue and – as things turned out on yet another exciting day of golf – made her a deserving winner of the US$1.6 million tournament.
Kim’s final round was near-perfect from tee to green and on the putting surface, as she raked in eight birdies to set the clubhouse target of 17-under-par. When all was done and dusted, that proved just enough for the 25-year-old to claim her fourth LPGA title and first since the 2016 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Playing in the final flight with overnight leader Xiyu Lin of China and Korean legend Inbee Park, Green had looked to be the one who would finish strong when she holed her second shot at the 14th for eagle and birdied the par-five 16th to move ahead by one. Needing to par home to take the title, the Australian fell prey to nerves as a three-putt on 17 and a pulled approach followed by an overcooked first putt from the fringe on the final hole saw her come up agonisingly short in her quest for a third LPGA title.
“Winning after such a long time, it feels like my first win of all. It feels like a dream at this moment,” said Kim, who became the sixth player from South Korea to lift the coveted title.
“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,” she added.
Kim did not play on the LPGA Tour at all in 2020, opting to stay in Korea and compete on the local circuit. That decision paid off as she won twice en route to topping the Korea LPGA Order of Merit.
“My goal this year was to get a win, and I’m glad I already achieved that. While I was playing on the KLPGA Tour last year, I honed my skills and wanted to adapt them to this year on the LPGA, and I’m very happy that these results came out,” noted Kim.
While obviously disappointed, Green noted that she was happy that she was able to contend for the title.
“I didn’t really feel like I was in it until I holed the shot on 14. That was a nice way to get my momentum. Made a really good putt on 16 to make birdie, but obviously pretty disappointed to have two three-putts finishing.
“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. So I’m obviously very close, so I just hope that I can continue this momentum and who knows, have a good result next week,” said the 24-year-old from Perth, who closed with a 69.
Meanwhile, Lin’s quest for a maiden LPGA title continues with the 25-year old from Guangzhou undoubtedly getting closer. A graduate of the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf programme and a sponsor’s invite to this year’s tournament, her third place finish is testament to the impact such initiatives continue to have on grassroots golf in China.
“Throughout my whole career, HSBC is definitely one of [a few] sponsors that is participating in every part of my career. The first year being a rookie on tour, I got one sponsor invite to play in this tournament, and then this year, same. I just feel really grateful that we have that kind of company
supporting the whole of golf in China,” said Lin, who has won five times on the China LPGA Tour including two co-sanctioned events with the Ladies European Tour.
Another sponsor’s invite, Thai hotshot Patty Tavatanakit, also impressed while saving her best for last. After a modest start to the week, the long-hitting 21-year-old powered her way up the leaderboard with a spectacular closing round of seven-under-par 65, finishing tied her for third on 15-under-par with Lin and Park.
Reflecting on her week in Singapore before the LPGA Tour moves on to her native Thailand next week, the 2021 ANA Inspiration winner said: “I’m already confident with my game ever since ANA and I feel like I can compete out there even more.
“If anything, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself because next week, I know the course, I’ve played there. It’s my home country. Obviously there’s a little bit more pressure because everyone wants me to play well, but you know, seeing what I can do out here and try to carry it on to next week, it’s going to be important.”
Seven-time Major winner Park was in imperious form early on as she challenged for a third title in Singapore, but dropped shots on the 13th and 16th holes saw the leaders pull away from her. Closing with a birdie on the last hole, she signed for two-under-par 70.
“I feel like I played great this week. Just a couple of bad holes, had a couple of bad shots, that’s it. But I really enjoyed myself in Singapore. I played very well all week, so very happy with it,” said Park.
In sixth place on 12-under-par was another South Korean, So Yeon Ryu , while seventh place was shared by Carlota Ciganda of Spain, In Gee Chun of Korea, Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Gaby Lopez of Mexico.
Partners of the 2021 HSBC Women’s World Championship include Rolex, Fairmont Singapore & Swissôtel The Stamford, Lexus, Singapore Airlines, Under Armour, ECCO, Epson, PengWine, Titleist, Sony, Cobra Golf, Young Master Brewery, Ice Mountain, 100PLUS and Aon.
RESULTS (Top 10)
271 (-17) – Hyo Joo Kim (KOR) 67-68-72-64
272 (-16) – Hannah Green (AUS) 71-66-66-69
273 (-15) – Patty Tavatanakit (THA) 70-70-68-65, Inbee Park (KOR) 64-69-70-70, Xiyu Lin (CHN) 67-68-67-71
276 (-12) – So Yeon Ryu (KOR) 67-69-70-70
277 (-11) – Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 69-67-73, In Gee Chun (KOR) 71-69-66-71, Lydia Ko (NZL) 69-68-69-71, Gaby Lopez (MEX) 68-71-65-73
For more information, visit the tournament website at hsbcgolf.com/womens