KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — Sei Young Kim has another chance to show she can protect a final-round lead.
The 22-year-old Kim shot a 2-under 70 on Friday in wind gusting to 30 mph to top the South Korean-dominated leaderboard in the LPGA Tour’s Lotte Championship.
Kim rallied to win in the Bahamas in February in her second start as an LPGA Tour member and came from behind in all four of her wins on the Korean LPGA Tour. But two weeks ago, she had a four-shot advantage going into the final round of the ANA Inspiration and finished fourth in the major championship.
“I’m going to enjoy and try to have a good time,” she said through an interpreter. “In the final round of the ANA Inspiration I was under a lot of pressure. I felt a lot of nerves.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to try to do the same thing I’ve done the past three days here and try to enjoy the round. I think I’m going to be able to come out with a different outcome.”
I.K. Kim was a stroke back at Ko Olina after a 71, and third-ranked Inbee Park was another shot behind after a 69. Jenny Shin was fourth at 8 under after a 70, and Chella Choi made it a South Korean sweep of the top five places, shooting a 71 to get to 7 under.
I.K. Kim entered the round it for the lead, trailed by as many as three before catching up, then bogeyed the final hole to fall back. She has won three times on the LPGA Tour, but the last came in 2010.
“It means a lot to me. I’ve been playing well the last few weeks and working very hard this offseason,” she said. “Where I’m at now I’m very comfortable actually.”
Park shot 69, with just one bogey. She has won 13 times, including six majors, and finished in the top five in the event the last two years.
“I think the most important thing to win the tournament is putting,” said Park, the winner this year in Singapore. “Clutch putts, putts inside 10 feet, that’s probably the most important thing in the final round.”
American Paula Creamer (72) and Japan’s Ai Miyazato (71) were 6 under. Defending champion Michelle Wie had five bogeys and four birdies in a 73 to fall eight shots back in her home event.
DIVOTS: After pulling into the top 20 with a second-round 69, 2013 champion Suzann Pettersen withdrew Friday because of a shoulder injury. Pettersen did not defend her title last year because of a bad back. … Lotte, in its fourth year at Ko Olina, has signed a commitment to be title sponsor in Kapolei for three more years.
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