Sei Young Kim takes 1-shot lead in LPGA Tour finale
Naples, Fla. — Sei Young Kim is in position to defend her title in the CME Group Tour Championship, take player of the year honors, win the money title and possibly even move to No. 1 in the world.
Kim took a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Jin Young Ko into the final round of the LPGA Tour season, shooting a 5-under 67 on Saturday in warmer conditions at Tiburon Golf Club to reach 13-under 203. Ko had a 69.
“Really good chance to chase everything,” Kim said. “If I play well tomorrow, good chance.”
For Kim to take the No. 1 spot in the world from Ko, she would have to win Sunday and have Ko finish solo 10th or worse. Ko has held the top spot for 73 weeks in a row.
Georgia Hall was third at 10 under after a 68.
Lexi Thompson (71), Brooke Henderson (66), Charley Hull (66), Minjee Lee (66) and Austin Ernst (69) were 9 under.
Kim is tied for the tour victory lead with Danielle Kang with two, winning the major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Pelican Women’s Championship in consecutive starts in October and November. The South Korean star played a 12-hole stretch from the second to the 13th in 6 under, then dropped a stroke on the par-4 18th.
“My vibe was really good because warmer weather, and then I play pairing with Jin Young and Lexi (Thompson). Those are my favorite player, so yeah, it was fun. We wasn’t talking much but it was very comfortable and chill out there.”
Ko had three birdies in a bogey-free round.
“I said yesterday my goal is like just a bogey-free round on the weekend, so I made it today,” Ko said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Kim and Ko are longtime friends.
“Always fun playing with her,” Ko said. “We play together last year and we played — we practiced together at the U.S. Open last week. So we know each other. But this is competition, so we are close but we have to separate on the course.”
Coming off a second-place tie last week in Houston in the U.S. Women’s Open, Ko has a chance to win the money title in only four events. The $1.1 million winner’s prize, down from $1.5 million last year, is the richest in women’s golf. Ko is 13th with $567,925. Inbee Park is the leader with $1,365,138, and Kim second with $1,207,438.
Race to CME Globe leader Park was tied for 28th at 3 under after her third straight 71. Second-place Kang was tied for 42nd at even par after a 70.
The guy with a swoosh on his shirt and a Tiger head cover on his driver looked pretty good.
So did Tiger Woods.
Charlie Woods, the 11-year-old son of the 15-time major champion, made his national TV debut Saturday in the PNC Championship. And according to his dad, he played just like he does at home.
Never mind that he had some 250 people following along, more than his dad had watching him at the Masters. Charlie confidently twirled his club before shots, quickly picked up the tee on his drives and even pumped his fist on the par-5 third hole with a 3-wood into 3 feet for eagle.
They finished the scramble format at 10-under 62, four shots behind Matt Kuchar and son Cameron.
“I don’t really care about my game,” Woods said. “I’m just making sure that Charlie has the time of his life. And he’s doing that.”
Charlie Woods is the youngest to play in this 36-hole event that began in 1995 for major champions and their sons, and now includes all family members. He loves the game enough to start playing in a few junior events, and he had no qualms playing before a crowd or the cameras.
A television camera was position some 15 feet away to the right of Charlie on the opening tee at The Ritz-Carlton Club at Grande Lakes, and he was a little quick with his swing, pulling it to the left. They used his father’s tee shot and wedge into 2 feet – Charlie made the birdie putt.
That was the last time Team Woods used Tiger’s tee shot on a long hole until No. 15. It helped that the 11-year-old was able to use a forward tee, 100 yards ahead of the PGA Tour players on some holes.
Woods was not surprised from what he’s seen at home. This was different – a tournament with pros, a scorecard that had to be signed, a television audience. But it sure looked the same.
“I’ve seen this all along. Probably not a lot of people have,” Woods said. “A lot of the shots he hit, I’ve seen them back home at The Medalist this entire year. The junior events he played in, he hit a lot of these. It was a matter of stringing these out for 31/2 hours. It’s a totally different deal.”
The swing was smooth. The mannerisms were familiar. Charlie belted one on the par-5 fifth hole, bending over to grab his tee while the ball was still in flight. Justin Thomas, playing in the group with his father Mike, smiled and said, “God, you are so much like your dad.” Waiting for Thomas to putt, father and son stood side-by-side, right leg crossed over left ankle.
The Woods’ were 8 under through nine holes, capped off by Charlie making an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 9 and walking it in when the ball was a few feet away. Just like Dad.
The kid had game in other ways, too.
During the pro-am, Charlie hit one through the fairway into the trees. Mike Thomas, a longtime club professional whose specialty is working with juniors, was in the group ahead and playfully left a note next to Charlie’s ball that said, “Draw Hole!” On Saturday, Mike Thomas hit his drive into a bunker on the short par-4 13th.
“In typical Woods’ fashion, he kept the paper,” Justin Thomas said. “My dad hit in the bunker, and he took that exact paper and put it behind the ball. So a little karma there.”
Justin Thomas spends a lot of time with them at home, so he knew how the kid could play. Even so, Thomas said he a different kind of nerves – for his dad and for Charlie.
“I knew he was going to wow a lot of people,” Thomas said. “It was cool to see him shape the ball both ways and hit great shots. We feel probably what our parents felt growing up watching us play. You want them to do well, but you can’t do anything about it.
“It was competitive, it was joyful, it was memorable and we had some banter.”
And they get one more day.
They finished with a birdie on the par-5 18th – across the water left of the fairway, a small group of people posted a banner on the bridge that said, “Charlie Woods Fan Club – and were tied for sixth.
“The kid’s a gamer. He’s a grinder. He’s competitive. But he’s so young,” Justin Thomas said. “I’m pulling for him. I want him to keep it fun, keep it light. It can get nasty out there with what people say. Expectations are going to be high, but I hope it remains manageable for himself. I hope he stays within himself.
“There’s 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds sitting on their couch at home that can’t hit those shots on the range. And he’s doing it in front of a crowd and on national TV.”