SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — It doesn’t sound as if Christina Kim intends to play it safe in the final round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
“I’m out for blood – but not necessarily anybody’s blood – other than the golf course’s,” she said Saturday after erasing all but one shot of a five-stroke deficit to leader Na Yeon Choi late in the third round.
Choi had a hole-in-one at the 131-yard eighth hole and shot a 3-under 68 to get to 14-under 199. She was five shots ahead with five holes left and appeared to be close to pulling away for her third LPGA victory.
“It didn’t bounce. It just slam dunked,” she said of her first tour ace. “After that, I fixed the cup.”
She had two more birdies before things began to unravel somewhat.
Choi bogeyed 14 and 15, and Kim – perhaps more famous these days for her book about tour life, “Swinging From My Heels,” than for her play – came roaring back. Playing in the next-to-last foursome, Kim had a birdie at the 15th to cut the gap to two shots and then rolled in an 8-footer for birdie on the closing hole.
One of the tour’s characters, Kim, who finished off a 67, professed to not having any idea how far she was behind.
“On 12 I was five back? I really didn’t even notice,” she said. “My only thing was trying to get that damn ball in the hole.”
Choi has been down this road before. The South Korean had a seven-shot lead at the Samsung World Championship last September in the final round, lost it, then birdied the final hole for her first tour win.
Speaking through interpreter, good friend and playing partner Inbee Park, Choi said that victory will give her some consolation in Sunday’s final round.
“That definitely helped me,” she said. “The Samsung World Championship was the first win for me. It was really tough to get the first win. That tournament gave me a lot of confidence.”
Kim loves the spotlight and was one of the emotional leaders of the victorious U.S. team in the Solheim Cup last fall. She wasn’t bothered when she heard on the course that Choi had made a hole-in-one.
“After Na Yeon made the ace, I was kind of like, ‘All right. OK. That’s awesome. But let’s just focus on trying to make your own putts now,'” Kim said.
Choi has led throughout the tournament, taking a one-shot lead after an opening 64, then going up two after a second-round 67.
Her nickname on tour is based on her initials. Her peers call her “NYC” or “Big Apple.” She even wore a spangled, sequined belt buckle on Saturday that bore her initials.
“I have been (there) just one time, a couple of months ago,” she said. “It’s like Seoul, in South Korea.”
Katherine Hull (65), Kristy McPherson (67) and Park (70) were 10 under Song-Hee Kim (68) and Azahara Munoz (66) were another shot back.
Song-Hee Kim said she thought Choi would stand up well to the pressure of carrying the slim lead into the final round.
“I don’t think she’ll be nervous,” she said.
Choi said she tried not to look at the leaderboard on the course.
“I didn’t even know I had a five-shot lead during the round,” she said. “I just focused on my game. I just made a couple bogeys coming in, just a couple of bad holes. I’ll concentrate on my game and play better tomorrow.”