Hyo Joo Kim wins Founders Cup with birdies on 5 of last 8 holes
Hyo Joo Kim overcame her fear of bees — and beat Stacy Lewis, too.
Forced to hit under a tree with a beehive above her head, the 19-year-old South Korean player birdied five of the next eight holes to outlast Lewis on Sunday in the JTBC Founders Cup.
"I was just scared of the bees and I didn’t want to be stung," Kim said through a translator. "So, I kept asking if I can get relief and I kept asking and they said, `No, you can’t.’ So, I just swallowed my fears and tried to play the shot as best I could."
Kim hit back to the fairway, wedged to 10 feet and two-putted for a bogey to drop into a tie for first with Ilhee Lee with eight holes left at Desert Ridge.
The long-hitting Kim birdied the next three holes — making putts of 5, 50 and 3 feet — and finished with a 5-under-par 67 to beat Lewis by three strokes for her second LPGA Tour title in 13 career starts.
"I think the situation on hole 10 helped," Kim said. "After I went through there and I got a bogey, I just realized there’s no time to feel pressure or feel afraid. I just had to go out there and play."
The third-ranked Lewis shot a 68. She matched Kim’s birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 15 and pulled within a stroke with a birdie on the par-4 16th.
"The way I played on the front, to think I could still be within a shot coming up those last few holes was pretty amazing," Lewis said. "I’m proud of the way I hung in there. I was in three divots today in the fairway, so that didn’t really help things."
Kim made a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th to finish at 21-under 267. Lewis three-putted for bogey, missing her comebacker from 4 1/2 feet after the outcome was decided.
"In the morning I wasn’t concentrating on winning because I was playing with Stacy Lewis and as a rookie, I just felt that by playing with her, I would learn a lot from her," Kim said. "I was just trying to make a good impression as a rookie."
"She’s just really solid," Lewis said. "Kind of had to battle back from some adversity there on 10. … Even when I did make some putts, she made the putts to follow and she put a lot of pressure on."
On 18, Kim hit her 140-yard approach pin-high to the right of the difficult pin placed over the large left-side bunker and in front of a rear falloff.
Lewis drove into a sand-filled divot in the fairway, making it nearly impossible to clear the bunker and stop the ball near the pin. She ended up 30 feet away at the back of the green.
"For the lie I had, I hit it a really good shot," Lewis said.
Lewis won the 2013 tournament and has 11 LPGA Tour victories. The 30-year-old Texan finished second for the second time this year and the 17th time in her career.
Projected to jump from eighth to fourth in the world, Kim won the Evian last year in France for first major title and has eight victories on the South Korean tour.
Kim is the fifth South Korean winner in the first six events this year — and the other champion, top-ranked Lydia Ko, was born in South Korea.
Lee shot a 66 to tie for third with Mi Hyang Lee (68) and Pornanong Phatlum (67) at 16 under.
Ko had her third straight 69 to tie for sixth at 15 under. The 17-year-old New Zealander has broken par in her last 24 LPGA Tour rounds and 27 worldwide, a streak that started in the first round of her victory last year in the season-ending event. She won the Women’s Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open in consecutive weeks this year.
Anna Nordqvist, Austin Ernst, Sei Young Kim and Na Yeon Choi matched Ko at 15 under. Nordqvist, the former Arizona State player from Sweden, had a 64 for the best round of the day.
Alison Lee, the 20-year-old former UCLA player who matched the course record with a 63 on Saturday, had a 74 to tie for 24th at 11 under.
Karrie Webb, the 2011 and 2014 winner, shot a 69 to tie for 34th at 9 under. Michelle Wie tied for 64th at 4 under after a 71.