Australia’s Grace Kim wins the LOTTE Championship in the playoffs

HONOLULU (AP) — Australian rookie Grace Kim won the LOTTE championship for her first LPGA Tour title at breezy Hoakalei Country Club on Saturday by beating Yu Liu and Yu Jin Sung with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff.

While Liu and Sung climbed left of the green on the par-5 18 after their second shots, 22-year-old Kim walked right across the water and then chipped to 8 feet to set her yardie. Liu made a par and Sung had a bogey and hit her third across the green and past Kim’s second.

“Kind of speechless right now,” Kim said. “I will let you know that my second shot at that playoff hole was unintentional. I was kind of lucky there.”

Kim played alongside Sung in the final three-pointer and posted a 4-under 68. He rebounded off a bogey on the par-4 14 to make the last two holes a birdie. She stepped up and down from the front left bunker on 18 in regulation and did a 7-foot.

“I think just that birdie in 17th place was definitely the big momentum changer,” said Kim, who earned her LPGA Tour card last season by finishing fifth on the Epson Tour money list.

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Sung finished on a 69 and went up and down on an 18 with a 9 footer from the right front bunker. The 22-year-old South Korean played on a sponsor-free basis with the Korean LPGA after winning the LOTTE Open last year.

“Very interesting and good experience for my golf life. Very good experience.” Sung said.

Liu started the round five strokes behind Sung in 15th place, then hit a 64 – his best result in two years at Hoakalei – and scored 12-under 276 points. The 27-year-old from China finished the final group about an hour earlier.

“It was a bit unexpected, to be honest,” said the former Duke player. “I felt pretty overwhelmed today.”

Linnea Strom, the Swede playing in the penultimate group, missed a 10-foot birdie attempt on 18 to end a setback with Peiyun Chien. Strom hit a 69 with a double bogey on the 14th. Chien of Taiwan closed with a 67.

“Got a good putt, just got it a little wrong,” Strom said. “Well, there’s not much I can do about it. I’m super happy with the long putt I made on 17 to at least give me a chance to go into 18. So I’m very happy about that. Also the way I treat myself after the double on 14.”

Thailand’s Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, tied on points after each of the first two rounds, had a 70 to take sixth place with 9 under. 20-year-old Vongtaveelap started the LPGA Tour for the second time. In February, she won her first two events as a pro on the Thai LPGA Tour, then finished second to Lilia Vu in the LPGA Thailand.

Lauren Hartlage (70) and Georgia Hall (71) were also 9 under.

Brooke Henderson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7, had a 71 to finish with 7 under 11th. She is the only multiple winner in event history, claiming the titles in 2018 and 2019 at Ko Olina.

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