South Korea’s IK Kim conquers demons to win first major

The crowd fell silent as In-Kyung Kim turned away, barely able to believe what she had just done.

With a major championship resting on a one-foot putt, the South Korean had missed the unmissable and endured every golfer’s worst nightmare.

The shot lipped out, spinning agonizingly around the circumference of the cup.

A playoff ensued, which she lost to compatriot Yoo Sun-young, and her hopes of winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship — now called the ANA Inspiration — had been shattered.

That, though, was five years ago.

Kim conquered her demons at this week’s Women’s British Open, defying the experts who predicted she’d never sufficiently recover from that torrid day at Missions Hills.

She had to hold off a spirited late challenge from England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff at Kingsbarns Links, but kept her nerve to par the final five holes for a closing 71 and winning total of 18 under par.

“Things happened to people you know,” Kim told reporters, reflecting on her loss in 2012. “Missing that putt isn’t the worst thing that can happen to people in life and that’s how I look at it.

“We might make some mistakes but I hope those mistakes can have a positive impact on our lives. You can dwell on it, but I think the present moment is more special.”

The 29-year-old said she felt “uplifted” to have secured her first major after entering the tournament with minimal expectations.

In truth, the trophy was all but won before Sunday’s showdown, with Kim holding a six-shot lead heading into the final day after an impressive third-round 66.

Shadoff came closest, notching eight birdies and 10 pars for a final-round score of 64 — equaling the course record at Kingsbarns.

Her reward for second place — $300,000 — was more than double her previous highest paycheck.

“I didn’t think I’d have a shot,” Shadoff told reporters, having started the day nine shots adrift from the eventual champion.

“I holed a great putt on the first hole for par and that set the tone. My putter was just on fire.”

After notching a birdie on the par-five second, Shadoff really got into her stride at the sixth — hitting five more in succession.

Further birdies at the 13th and 17th reduced Kim’s lead, but this time it was not to be relinquished.

Kim approached the final hole with a two-shot margin and headed to the clubhouse $500,000 richer and with a smile on her face.

She is the third South Korean winner of the Women’s British Open in the last six years, following in the footsteps of compatriots Jiyai Shin (2012) and Inbee Park (2015).

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