Posted by: happyfan08 | January 12, 2011

2010 Awards (2 of 10): Best Korean Confrontation

Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner is: Na Yeon Choi downs Kim, Kim and Kim at the Farr Classic

This year’s Jamie Farr featured one of the most amazing battles of top Korean golfers in the game’s history, and this despite the fact that five time Farr champion Se Ri Pak was not in the field.  In the end, the tournament came down to a playoff between Na Yeon Choi, Song Hee Kim, In Kyung Kim and Korean American Christina Kim.  Meanwhile, top Korean star Jiyai Shin shot a final round 64 and missed the playoff by one shot, and Inbee Park, another top star, missed out by two strokes.  What this means is, the top five Korean golfers in the world were all in the top ten, with three of them winding up in a playoff.  Talk about bragging rights!

Na Yeon Choi during round 3 of last year's Jamie Farr

In the end, Choi outlasted the other three.  She had led the tournament pretty much all week, but struggled a bit in the final round while several other stars made big runs at the top.  In Kyung Kim shot a final round 64 to finish at 14 under par, and Song Hee Kim shot a 66 to also reach that level.  Christina Kim did not play as well, but still had a chance to put the tournament away with a 12 footer.  But first, Choi had a 22 footer just to get back to 14 under and a possible playoff.  Na Yeon made that birdie in grand style, but Kim’s attempt to get to 15 under missed just off the right edge.  And so, the four way playoff commenced.

Christina misses a crucial putt during the Farr

On the first playoff hole, all four made the green but missed birdie tries.  They then went to the 17th hole.  Song Hee Kim, looking for her first win on tour, would have to wait until another day, as her approach flew the green and she hit a poor bunker shot, effectively eliminating herself.  The other three all had birdie putts.  Christina’s was from 20 feet, but she missed it.  Next came In Kyung Kim from 12 feet, but she also could not convert.  Now it was Na Yeon Choi, who had hit her wedge close and had little trouble making the birdie to claim her third career win.

Na Yeon and the title host of the event, Jamie Farr

What a fantastic battle, and an even more fantastic headline for fans of the Korean golfers: “Choi beats Kim, Kim and Kim”.

Honorable Mentions:

Shin beats Wie, Match Play; Wie beats Shin, Canadian Women’s Open

The Odd Couple: Jiyai Shin and Michelle Wie

When Jiyai Shin and Michelle Wie faced each other in the quarterfinals of this year’s Sybase Match Play tournament, you would be forgiven if you believed that Wie was the heavy favorite all ready to beat up on a hapless foe.  The press has always been enamored of Wie’s booming drives, and all but gave her the ticket into the next round.  Her opponent, meanwhile, had simply won 6 LPGA events coming into this season and led last year’s money list.  And, oh yeah, was the top seed at the tournament.

The match was fascinating to watch.  Wie got out to a strong start, but Shin has always been known for her near perfection, and as the 18 holes wore on, she was relentlessly unflappable.  Finally, it was Wie who cracked, and Shin got the win to move on to the semifinals.  She lost in that round to fellow Korean and eventual champion Sun Young Yoo, and wound up finishing third overall.

Wie would have her revenge later in the season, however.  At the Canadian Women’s Open, she got out to a great start and looked well on her way to her first win of the season.  But in rounds two and three, Shin slowly hacked away at Wie’s lead, until they were all tied up entering the final 18 holes.  Playing together, it looked like the Final Round Queen Shin would be able to rattle Wie much as she did at the Match Play.  But actually it was Wie who played well, while Shin uncharacteristically missed a lot of fairways.  Wie didn’t hit many, either, but she is far more used to hitting shots out of the rough than the ultra accurate Shin, and Wie ended up with the win while Jiyai finished tied for second.

Na Yeon vs. Song Hee, Hana Bank Championship

Good friends, great rivals: Na Yeon Choi and Song Hee Kim

This year’s Hana Bank Championship, the lone LPGA event contested in Korea each year, featured a great mano a mano battle late in the year.  Song Hee Kim had a fantastic 2010 season going, but was still looking for her first career LPGA victory.  Na Yeon Choi was the defending champion, with three career wins to her credit.  In her last victory, she had beaten Song Hee in a playoff.  They are best of friends, but also fierce rivals on course.

Song Hee got out to the better start, shooting a 68 to be one of two golfers tied for the lead.  Choi, however, was only one shot back.  In round 2, Kim vaulted to 8 under, with Choi remaining just a shot back.  They would play together in round 3, the final round of the tournament.  Once again, it was Song Hee who buckled while Na Yeon soared.  In the end, Song Hee made a clutch putt on the final hole to maintain a solo third finish, while Na Yeon Choi became the first Korean in several years to successfully defend a tournament title (the last time it happened was back in 2002, when Se Ri Pak did it at the Tournament of Champions). 

Kim had a chance to win right until the end, despite the presence of Korean American Vicky Hurst, who wound up second.  But after an unexpected bogey on the 16th hole, Choi negotiated an extremely tough putt on 17 to save par and hold on to her two stroke lead.

Jiyai Shin vs. Na Yeon Choi, Met Life KLPGA Championship

Shin & Choi meet the press before last year's KLPGA Championship

In 2010, Na Yeon Choi became the first Korean of her generation to successfully mount a challenge against Jiyai Shin, who has since 2007 been the uncontested best of the best among the Seoul Sisters.  They duked it out for all the top LPGA honors much of the year.  One of their best battles came outside of the American tour, at this year’s KLPGA Championship, the second Major of the KLPGA season.  Both players returned to their homeland for the chance to collect this coveted title, and they did not disappoint the fans who were looking for a great battle.  They were neck and neck the first two rounds, finishing tied for the lead on Friday night.  On the weekend, however, Shin asserted herself, roaring out to a three shot lead after three days, then cruising to a surprisingly easy 4 shot win in front of enormous crowds who cheered her every shot.  Choi wound up tied for third, and was visibly frustrated that this tournament slipped away from her.

Na Yeon feels the frustration late in the KLPGA Championship

After they were done, both ladies gave their entire checks to charity.  A wonderful gesture to cap off a memorable weekend!

Best Korean Finish

And the Winner Is: Koreans score 8 of top 9 at Farr Classic, including all four in playoff (with one Korean American)

Na Yeon Choi with her Farr trophy

Up above in the Best Korean Confrontation award, I talked about the great playoff that happened at last year’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.  Not only were all four players in that playoff Korean or Korean American, but 8 of the top 9 on the leader board were Seoul Sisters, a truly amazing result.  The winner was Na Yeon Choi, who beat In Kyung Kim, Song Hee Kim and Christina Kim in the playoff.  One shot out of the playoff was the top Korean golfer Jiyai Shin.  Inbee Park, yet another top Korean star, was just another shot back at 12 under.  Among those tied for 7th were Hee Young Park and Meena Lee; Hee Young shot a final round 64 to get to that level.

Australian Katherine Hull, tied for 7th, was the highest ranked player in the field without Korean blood.  Incredible!

Honorable Mentions:

JLPGA’s Daikin Orchid Ladies

This year’s opening event on the JLPGA tour featured a win by rookie Sun Ju Ahn.  Tied for second were two other top Korean golfers, Jiyai Shin and Inbee Park, who was also playing her first event as a JLPGA golfer.

Kia Classic

Hee Kyung Seo & her first LPGA trophy: the Kia Classic

Hee Kyung Seo, invited to participate in this year’s inaugural Kia Classic by the sponsors, made the most of it, cruising to a six shot win that earned her tour membership for 2011.  In second was Inbee Park (there’s that name again!).  Tied for third were Jiyai Shin and Jee Young Lee, while Korean American Michelle Wie tied for 6th, but would have been higher but for a silly rules infraction that cost her two strokes (we might get to that again later in these awards!).

Women’s World Amateur Team Championship

Not only did the Korean squad destroy the competition in this event, but the Korean ladies swept the top three spots on the individual leader board as well.  Yep, we’ll be talking more about this one, too!



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