NEW YORK • With a string of near-misses at the Majors and Olympic champion Park In-bee breathing down her neck, it was a relieved Kim Sei-young who tapped in the winning putt to claim the Women's PGA Championship on Sunday.
Kim's five-stroke triumph at Aronimink Golf Course after a bogey-free, seven-under 63 put paid to her status as the most prolific winner on the LPGA Tour among active players never to have won a Major.
The 27-year-old did so in scintillating fashion, carding not only the joint-lowest final round in tournament history but also a record-low 14-under 266 total to become the ninth maiden winner in the past 10 Majors.
"I'm so excited. I'm really hiding my tears at the moment. It was amazing that I really won it. So I'm very happy and excited that I got it done," the South Korean said, beaming next to the winner's trophy.
Seven-time Major champion Park had beaten Kim for the 2015 title at Westchester Country Club and was only three strokes behind her compatriot going into the final round.
A five-under round might get the job done, she thought and the 32-year-old duly delivered with a 65. But it was not enough as overnight leader Kim rose to the challenge in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to seal an 11th LPGA triumph and her first since last November's Tour Championship.
"Obviously, Sei-young was just much better than anyone else out there today," said Park, who had been chasing a fourth win in the event, the third Major of the year.
"It was just so hard to believe that she never won a Major before because it felt like she won a few."
Kim, who has claimed at least one Tour win each season since 2015, admitted to struggling with nerves before teeing off on Sunday and kept her eyes averted from the leaderboard during her round.
Having finished in a tie for second at the 2018 Evian Championship and claiming an outright runner-up place at the 2015 edition of the Women's PGA Championship, she could be forgiven for having butterflies in her stomach.
However, there was to be no near miss this time.
STEP BY STEP
I did not look at the scoreboard once I knew In-bee was going to play great. But I had to just focus on playing my own game, one shot at a time.
KIM SEI-YOUNG, on how she dealt with the challenge from fellow South Korean and seven-time Major champion Park In-bee.
"I won't lie, I did feel the pressure starting last night," Kim, who beat the previous record low of 267 set by American Betsy King in 1992 at Bethesda Country Club, said. "I actually arrived about 30 minutes later than I normally do at the golf course.
"I did not look at the scoreboard once I knew In-bee was going to play great. But I had to just focus on playing my own game, one shot at a time.
"Sometimes, I'm shaking my head and my legs were shaking but I was able to keep my focus. It means a lot. I feel so emotional. It's a dream come true. I'm waiting for a while to reach my biggest goal."
Japan's Nasa Hataoka (64) and Spaniard Carlota Ciganda (65) shared third on 273, while Sweden's Anna Nordqvist (71) was fifth on 276. Filipina Bianca Pagdanganan (73), who was fifth heading into Sunday, ended joint-ninth on 280, while Malaysia's Kelly Tan (71), the joint first-round leader, was tied 13th on 281.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS