Kim birdies 18 for $1.5M payday at CME Championship

South Korea’s Sei Young Kim drained a 25-foot birdie putt from the edge of the 18th green to capture her third title of the year and take home the $1.5 million winner’s check at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday in Naples, Fla.

Kim, who finished at 18-under 270 at Tiburon Golf Club, survived a late run by Englishwoman Charley Hull, who birdied her final three holes to tie Kim for the lead at 17 under and put the pressure on Kim at the 18th.

“I have no idea,” said Kim, admitting she didn’t know exactly what was at stake on 18. “Last putt I just trying (to) make two-putt because I didn’t see the leaderboard, the hole, 18th hole. I didn’t know what if I made a two-putt it could be go to playoff.

“So I just try and make the right distance; made it. It’s unbelievable. I was like so emotional. Almost crying. But I try I’m not going to cry. So, yeah, still unbelievable, yeah.”

The victory marked the 10th title of Kim’s career and also earned her the Race to the CME Globe, a season-long points competition that was decided this week.

Kim, who led all three rounds and had just one bogey through 54 holes, carded three bogeys and five birdies on the day en route to a final-round 2-under 70.

Hull, who started the day five shots back, went bogey free and posted her second consecutive round of 66. She birdied ride of the last seven holes and had six overall while earning $480,000.

“Yeah, I feel pretty happy considering the first day after the first hole I was 2-over par because I started with a seven. To finish 17-under, and I know just missed by one, but it was so close,” said Hull, who won the 2016 CME Championship but has not won since.

“Honestly, on the 15th hole I thought if I can make birdie in, I’ve got a good chance. I didn’t birdie 15, but 16, 17, and 18, so I was pretty happy.”

World No. 1 Jin Young Ko of South Korea captured the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average (69.062) as well as the 2019 money title ($2,773,894). Her average is second all-time behind legendary Annika Sorenstam (68.697 in 2002).

Despite the accomplishments, she ultimately was disappointed in her performance in Naples.

“I am honored to win amazing awards,” said Ko, who won four times in 2019, including two majors in the ANA Inspiration and The Evian Championship. “I try to do my best today, but putting was not good. Don’t know. Just feel it’s good, but my play was not good. So I will work harder and more, yeah.”

Danielle Kang matched the low round of the day with a bogey-free 65 that featured five birdies and an eagle at 17 to finish tied for third with fellow American Nelly Korda. Korda, who started the day one shot back in second place, had three bogeys and four birdies for a final-round 71.

Canadian Brooke Henderson finished with a 67 to finish three shots off the pace in fifth, while defending champion Lexi Thompson closed out with a 68 to finish tied for sixth at 275.

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