Birdie Kim sinks 30-footer to capture Women's U.S. Open

by Ben Zimmerman | 6/28/05 5:00am

History was in the making at last week's U.S. Open. Everyone knew it.

Annika Sorenstam, who had already collected the first two majors of the year, would most likely dominate the field in similar fashion, coming one step closer to the ever-elusive Grand Slam.

If that didn't work out, golf enthusiasts could always fall back on the army of ultra-talented teenage amateurs, each looking to become the youngest champion in the Open's 52-year existence.

Either way, the little town of Cherry Hills, Colo., was guaranteed a Sunday afternoon to remember.

And then, in truly spectacular fashion, a golfer named Birdie Kim ruined it all.

Manufacturing a little history of her own, Kim lived up to her name and holed an improbable 30-foot bunker shot on the 18th hole to win the 2005 U.S. Women's Open.

By Saturday, Sorenstam fell out of contention, but up to -- and even after -- Kim's miracle chip, the little girl's storyline was playing out to perfection.

Fifteen-year-old Michelle Wie, the Ladies Professional Golf Association's most popular minor, began the final round tied for first, and though she fell out of contention with a brutal 11-over-par, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang -- 17-and 19-years-old respectively -- quickly assumed her place as the teenagers to beat.

As the tournament leaders approached the final tee, Mexican player Lorena Ochoa led the tournament at 3-over, with Kim, Pressel and Lang one stroke back.

Ochoa removed herself from contention with a nerve-rattling quadruple-bogey, and when Kim lofted her second shot into a bunker off the green, she looked to be heading in the same direction.

Seeing her competition wounded, Pressel strode down the 18th fairway like a queen in the moments before her coronation, but all the majesty and purpose in her step withered away once Kim connected on one of the greatest golf shots of the last quarter century.

Pressel went on to bogey No. 18, and Lang followed suit, both finishing in a tie for second place.

The much-hyped Sorenstam could not find her stride during the four-day event and, uncharacteristically, never threatened to win the tournament.

Down by five strokes heading into Sunday, Sorenstam borrowed a page from the legendary Arnold Palmer and pulled out her driver on the first tee.

Playing at Cherry Hill in the 1960 U.S. Open, Palmer drove the green with his first shot of day, ultimately charging from seven strokes back to take the tournament and shock the golfing world.

While Sorenstam may currently dominate her sport to an even greater extent than Arnie ever did, she will never be the king. The top female golfer in the world launched her opening drive into a creek and bogeyed No. 1.

Sorenstam ended the day 23rd overall at 12-over, marking the first time she has finished above par since 2001.

As for Birdie Kim, who has made only 10 cuts in 34 LPGA starts, winning the U.S. Open will change the course of her career.

Aside from the $560,000 winner's fee, which totals more than seven times her career earnings as of last Thursday, Kim is guaranteed a five-year exemption on the LPGA Tour and three of the majors. She also gets to return to the U.S. Women's Open for the next 10 years.

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