DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — When In-Kyung Kim’s 40-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole disappeared into the cup Saturday in the Longs Drugs Challenge, she raised her arms high above her head in celebration.
On Sunday, the 20-year-old South Korean could be celebrating her first LPGA Tour victory in just her second season on the tour.
Kim finished with a 3-under 69 in windy conditions Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Angela Stanford at Blackhawk Country Club. Kim had an 11-under 205 total.
“I think I have to keep going, do what I need to do, calm myself down a little bit,” said Kim, the 2005 U.S. Girls Junior winner.
Stanford, the Bell Micro LPGA Classic winner last month in Alabama, shot a 67, the best round of the day. She birdied her final three holes, chipping in on No. 16.
LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng (70) and Mollie Fankhauser (73) were tied for third at 6 under, and Kristy McPherson (71) was 5 under.
Lorena Ochoa, a seven-time winner this season who lost a playoff to Suzann Pettersen last year at Blackhawk, shot a 74 to fall to 4 under. She opened with a double bogey after hitting her drive out of bounds.
Although Kim hasn’t won on the tour, she has come close. Last year, she lost a playoff to Ochoa at the Wegmans LPGA. That’s the last time she played in the final group in the final round. This year, she tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open and tied for ninth at the Women’s British Open, her past two majors.
Kim said she’s better prepared to deal with the final-round pressure after learning a lesson as a rookie.
“I just learned golf is what I do not who I am,” Kim said. “It really helped me out.”
Kim spent much of the day making pars and watching most of the field fall back. Kim opened with four straight pars, birdied the fifth, then strung together five more pars before getting up and down from a greenside bunker for a birdie on No. 11. That put Kim at 10 under, one ahead of Fankhauser, two ahead of Stanford and three ahead of Ochoa.
Then on the par-3 12th hole, Kim holed her 40-foot birdie putt to go 11 under.
“I tried to putt it with the right speed,” Kim said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I got it.”’
Stanford is playing some of the best golf of her career despite a painful left shoulder that forced her to withdraw from the Navistar LPGA Classic a week after her victory in Mobile.
“You know, sometimes it’s good for me to be preoccupied,” Stanford said. “I’ve been so preoccupied with the shoulder and everything that maybe it’s good, because I’ve really had to rest more than normal.”
Stanford tied for third last week at the Samsung World Championship. She said playing in the final group with Samsung champion Paula Creamer will help her Sunday.
“Well, I mean, she never had a bogey,” Stanford said. “And to not have a bogey on a Sunday with the best players in the world breathing down your (neck) is pretty impressive. She never lost her cool, and she made the putts that she had to make.”