HAIKOU, 19 Mar 2017, (HK Golfer News Wire) - With Kim (70) and Bae (69) deadlocked at 14-under 205 through 54 holes on the Mission Hills Haikou Blackstone Course, both players made par at the first extra hole, the 371-yard first. At the next, the veteran made a birdie four at the 524-yard par-five for her third career title as Bae missed an eight-foot putt.
England’s Georgia Hall (67) and Koreans Kim Min-sun (68) and Lee So-young (69) were equal third at three strokes back in the US$620,000 tournament, a tri-sanctioned event between the China LPGA Tour, the LPGA Tour of Korea (KLPGA) and the Ladies European Tour.
Li Jiayun was the top Chinese player as the Guangdong native closed with a 71 to sit equal 27th at one-over for the tournament. It was fourth consecutive year a Korean had won the tournament.
With Bae having to complete the final hole of her second round early in the morning as lightning had forced the suspension of play on Saturday, the 23-year-old started the third round one shot behind Kim. In a round where she carded an eagle three, four birdies and two bogeys, Bae had built up a one-stroke lead going into the final hole of regulation. After finding a greenside bunker on the 510-yard last, Bae had to settle for par while Kim had a tap-in birdie to force the play-off.
Going into the extra session, Kim said she felt confident as she had played in play-offs twice last year in a season where she earned her first two professional wins. On the first extra hole, however, her drive went into the lava rocks prevalent around the Blackstone Course. After finding her ball she had to take a penalty for an unplayable lie and then proceeded to get up-and-down for par.
“On the first playoff hole, I was delighted that I found my ball even though I had to declare it unplayable. I felt that was a chance and it helped me. I was focused on getting a par,” said the Seoul native.Kim added she was able to win as she knew Bae’s game so well after competing against each other on many occasions. “Both of us have had similar professional careers. I watched Bae’s game and her micro-expressions and knew what she had deep in her mind. That’s the key. I could adjust my strategy according to her expressions.”
Bae said she was not disappointed because she had played well. “I didn’t know she (Kim) had a penalty shot in the first extra hole. Unlucky, it’s an unlucky day,” said Bae who was fifth on the KLPGA Order of Merit last year.
“This is the first event in 2017. It didn’t matter whether I could win or not. This finish just shows that I am in a good shape. There are many events to play and I think I can win some of them. There are no bad shots today. It’s just unlucky.”
First-round leader Hall closed with four birdies and a bogey in her three-under round but struggled on the greens. “My putting wasn’t quite there today. I couldn’t see the lines as well as the last two days and my pace was a bit off. I left quite a lot short actually, but my long game all week has been amazing, and my putting has as well, apart from today,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s my second tournament of the year and I played well every round, so I’m very happy.”