NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Sei Young Kim has yet to splurge on the $1.5 million she won last year in the richest prize offered at a tournament in women’s golf.
“I’m just saving up for the future,” she said.
Winning the first major of her career just might be priceless. A 10-time LPGA Tour winner, the 27-year-old South Korean has the unwanted title of winningest active player without a major championship.
Kim went on another streaky run of birdies Saturday at Aronimink, shooting a 3-under 67 to hold the lead and positioning herself to put that label to rest at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Kim sits at 7-under 203, two strokes ahead of Brooke Henderson and Anna Nordqvist, and will try to win it Sunday on a rare early-morning tee time.
“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but I’m also excited about going into the final day,” Kim said.
The tournament was delayed three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, landing its final round smack on a packed sports Sunday. The PGA of America had to get creative with the tee times with NBC having other programming commitments on the weekend. Kim, Henderson and Nordqvist tee off at 8:49 a.m. and the last group goes off at 9:16 a.m. The TV window is noon to 2 p.m. on NBC.
“The only thing I have to keep in mind is that earlier tee times will be a little chillier temperaturewise, so I’ll make sure I have my hand warmers and be ready to play tomorrow,” Kim said.
Kim was runner-up at the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and tied for second at the Evian Championship in 2018. Kim held the 54-hole lead at a major once, at the 2015 ANA Inspiration, where she finished tied for fourth.
The last four winners of the tournament either led or co-led after 36 holes, and Kim played like a golfer poised to make it five.
Henderson, who won the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship, tied her career-best 18-hole score at a major championship with a 65 to stay within striking distance. Henderson had five birdies for a bogey-free round.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m a major champion,” Henderson said. “But definitely in times like this it gives me a little bit of confidence, and I’m excited to try to do it again tomorrow.”
Nordqvist, who had five birdies and three bogeys, shot a 5-under 68 as she tries to win her third major championship.
Inbee Park is three strokes behind the leader and Bianca Pagdanganan shot a 65 for the second straight day to rally her way into fifth at 3 under. Pagdanganan hasn’t had a bogey since the first round.
Park is a three-time winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and would tie Mickey Wright for the most in a career with a win.
“I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about it, but it’s just too crazy to think something big like that, in the history of golf, history of this championship, is going to maybe have a slim chance of happening to me,” Park said.
It’s not happening to an underdog. There’s a four-way tie for sixth place on a leaderboard stacked with the top talent on the tour.
Kim matched a tournament record with a 29 on the front nine on Friday and followed that with a 32 on Saturday.
Kim bogeyed the 18th hole for one of her few missteps of the last two rounds. She impressed on No. 16, nearly making an eagle but using a short putt for birdie. She also birdied No. 15, holing a long putt to go 7 under.
“I feel like I’ve made a few nice mid-range putts, which helped me get the momentum,” she said.
Kim hit the putt of her life last November at Tiburon Golf Club, a 25-foot birdie on the final hole of the CME Group Tour Championship to win $1.5 million, the richest prize in the history of women’s golf.
“If I knew the answer to how to make clutch putts, I would have won so many more times,” Kim said.
The money is far less at Aronimink -- the field is competing for a $4.3 million purse with the winner earning $645,000. But it pales to the prestige that goes with winning an LPGA major.
Just ask Nordqvist, the 2009 champ.
“It’s something that no one can take away from me, and it’s obviously one of my most proud moments as a pro,” she said. “It’s just a great feeling knowing that my name is on the trophy.”
She wants to put her name on it again, and so does Henderson. Standing in their way: the South Korean, with one big check, determined to leave Aronimink a major champion.