Chris Carlson, Associated Press
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — I.K. Kim raised her left hand to her mouth and turned her head away, unwilling to look at what just happened at her feet. Fans at Mission Hills gasped, groaned and screamed in a chorus of shared pain.
With a major championship resting on a 1-foot putt, Kim had just lived every golfer's nightmare.
She had done the unthinkable. She had missed the unmissable.
A few minutes later, the Kraft Nabisco Championship was in a playoff — and with an improbable second chance to win, Sun Young Yoo didn't flinch.
Yoo won the LPGA Tour's first major of the season with an 18-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday, earning her first major title after Kim's mind-boggling miss on a tap-in on the final hole of regulation.
Kim, the 23-year-old South Korean who lives near Los Angeles, couldn't explain any of it. After barely missing a long birdie putt, she lined up the 1-footer patiently, and thought she hit it decently — but the ball toured the lip of the cup before coming out on the same side it entered.
"I played straight, and it actually just broke to the right, even that short putt," Kim said. "So it was unfortunate on 18, but ... I feel good about my game. It's getting better."
After tapping in for a bogey that dropped her into a tie with Yoo, Kim raised both hands to her ears as she left the green, staring down blankly at the bridge while walking to the scorers' tent. The playoff ended four strokes later, with Yoo confidently seizing her second career LPGA Tour victory when Kim couldn't relocate her groove.
"On the playoff hole, it's just hard to kind of focus on what's going on right now," Kim said. "Because I was still a little bit bummed (about) what happened on 18, honestly."
Yoo lurked in the pack with steady play down the stretch of a frantic final round in which five players held the lead. After finishing with a par in the group before Kim, Yoo figured she would collect a fat runner-up check and head home to Orlando.
And then Kim made a mistake reminiscent of Scott Hoch's missed 2-foot putt that would have won the 1989 Masters, and Doug Sanders' miss on a 3-footer to win the 1970 British Open.
"I thought I had no chance," Yoo said. "I thought I.K. was going to make the putt, but it didn't happen."
The 25-year-old South Korean got to make the traditional leap into the frigid waters of Poppie's Pond only after Kim's epic 1-foot mistake.
"She's a great putter," Yoo said about Kim. "She really doesn't miss those kinds of putts, but ... that's golf. You never know what's going to happen. I was just watching from the putting green, and that's some luck."
Kim's miss on the Dinah Shore course will go down in LPGA Tour infamy, but she'll have more than $182,000 to console her — along with the knowledge she had been the most consistent contender amid the wild momentum swings of the final round. She went bogey-free through 17 holes, making a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th and a 20-footer on the 17th to break a three-way tie for the lead.
Yoo and Kim played the 18th again in the playoff, and Kim's drive barely cleared the water, landing in the rough. She left a birdie putt short from the fringe, and Yoo calmly reached the green before burying her winning putt.
Yoo, who joined Grace Park as the only South Korean winners in Kraft Nabisco history, seemed a bit reluctant to celebrate after hugging Kim, but she joined her caddie for a high-energy leap into Poppie's Pond. Yoo surpassed $3 million in career earnings with her $300,000 share of the $2 million purse.
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