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Kim birdies way to U.S. Open title

Posted: Monday, June 27, 2005

 

  Birdie Kim, of South Korea, celebrates her birdie on the 18th hole at the U.S. Women's Open in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., Sunday, June 26, 2005. Kim won the tournament by two strokes. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch) LAURA RAUCH

Birdie Kim, of South Korea, celebrates her birdie on the 18th hole at the U.S. Women's Open in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., Sunday, June 26, 2005. Kim won the tournament by two strokes. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)

LAURA RAUCH

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — She changed her name to Birdie so everyone would know who she was, and even that wasn't enough at a U.S. Women's Open where historical moments belonged to everyone else.

It started with Annika Sorenstam and her quest for the Grand Slam.

Then came 17-year-old Morgan Pressel playing the lead role in a parade of teenage contenders, poised to become the youngest major champion in golf history.

Ultimately, the most compelling moment of a riveting week at Cherry Hills belonged to Birdie Kim.

With a spectacular shot that allowed her to live up to her nickname, the 23-year-old from South Korea holed a 30-yard bunker shot for the only birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to win the U.S. Women's Open.

''I never think about to win,'' she said. ''I was never a good bunker player. Finally, I make it.''

Equally shocked was Pressel, the fiery teen from south Florida who marched confidently up the 18th fairway, believing she was about to make history at Cherry Hills. Instead, she watched in disbelief from 200 yards away as Kim's bunker shot rolled across the green and disappeared into the cup.

''It was like, 'I can't believe that actually just happened,''' Pressel said.

Sorenstam wondered what hit her, too.

She looked so unstoppable winning the first two majors of the year, but was never a factor at Cherry Hills. Sorenstam even tried to emulate Arnold Palmer's final-round charge in 1960 to win the U.S. Open by trying to drive the first green. Instead, she clipped a tree and went into a creek, making bogey on her way to a 77.

Sorenstam finished over par in a 72-hole event for the first time in four years, ending up at 12-over 296.

''Just didn't happen,'' she said.

Still, the biggest surprise was Kim.

In two years on the LPGA Tour, she had made only 10 cuts in 34 starts and only once had finished in the top 10. Her career earnings were a meager $79,832.

One shot that ranks among the most dramatic finishes in a major changed everything. Kim, who closed with a 1-over 72, finished at 287 and earned $560,000, the biggest payoff in women's golf.

It was reminiscent of Bob Tway sinking a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to win the 1986 PGA Championship.

''I heard about the name,'' Kim said. ''He's an old guy, right?''

Pressel went for broke on her birdie chip to force a playoff, sent it 20 feet by and made bogey for a 75 to tie for second with 19-year-old amateur Brittany Lang, who missed an 8-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 71.

The other teens melted on a difficult day at Cherry Hills, where Lorie Kane (69) was the only player to break par and the average score was 76.1.

Michelle Wie, the 15-year-old from Hawaii coming off a runner-up finish in the last major, double bogeyed the first hole on her way to an 82. Eighteen-year-old Paula Creamer had two double bogeys and a triple bogey for a 79.

Barclays Classic

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — Padraig Harrington curled in a big-breaking 65-foot eagle putt on the final hole to beat Jim Furyk by a stroke in the Barclays Classic at sun-baked Westchester Country Club.

Harrington took advantage of Furyk's late meltdown in the 90-degree heat for the Irish star's second PGA Tour victory of the season, overcoming a three-stroke deficit with five holes to play to stun the 2003 U.S. Open champion.

Bank of America Championship

CONCORD, Mass. (AP) — Mark McNulty birdied the second extra hole to win a three-way playoff in the Bank of America Championship — the record fourth consecutive Champions Tour event that went to a playoff.



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