BELLEAIR, Florida – Sei Young Kim found inspiration on Netflix of all places, diving into Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” documentary ahead of weekend play at the Pelican Women’s Championship. The recent major winner promptly went out and extended her lead to five strokes over Ally McDonald, who won the LPGA Drive On Championship last month.
Not even an ace from McDonald could shake Kim, whose advantage immediately shrunk from three strokes to one. The third-degree black belt in Taekwondo responded with four consecutive birdies on Nos. 14-17 to card a 6-under 64. She’s at 14-under for the tournament when only 18 players have managed to break par.
The 11-time winner on the LPGA looks to become the first player since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 to follow her first major title with a victory in her next start.
After the round Kim was asked if she felt pressure to prove herself with fellow South Koreans Jin Young Ko and Sung Hyun Park getting most of the attention in recent years.
“Kind of, a little bit,” she said. “Because if I say no, it’s maybe a lie. But, yeah, I’m very good rival each other. If you have a good rival, I am able to improve myself.”
Kim recorded only one bogey over the last 36 holes.
Former No. 1 Lydia Ko, who sits in fourth place, seven strokes back, calls Kim’s run of late “super impressive.”
“Her first major I guess was at KPMG,” said Ko, “and when there is that kind of pressure, I know what it feels like to be in that position. And the way she finished was absolutely incredible.”
In Saturday’s wind-swept round, Kim, 27, nearly aced the par-3 third hole with a 7-iron when her ball hit the flagstick and lipped out of the hole. McDonald’s hole-in-one on the par-3 12th, the first of her LPGA career, came with a pitching wedge from 132 yards.
“We had some people standing back at the tee, some people on the green,” said McDonald. “So that was obviously like the biggest reaction for anything. I’m pretty sure I just reacted with my hands up and then Dan I and got really excited and stuff. Sei Young was great.”
— LPGA (@LPGA) November 21, 2020
McDonald made the first ace of her life during a practice round at the Marathon Classic in her second year on tour. Her second one came at a Winter Shootout at Old Waverly Golf Club and a third at an event that had her set up on a par 3, hitting the same shot over and over again. That one took about 12 swings.
“You can stand on a par 3 all day and still not make one,” she said, “just happened to be the one.”
While Pelican is open off the tee, it’s easy to make big numbers with an aggressive approach. Even though the gap is wide, McDonald doesn’t plan to stray from what has worked so far in the final round.
“I’m just kind of going to stick with my game plan and try to execute the shots that strategically might be a 20-footer,” she said, “and just trust that I’m rolling it well to roll a few of those in.”
Kim, meanwhile, will prepare with a plateful of carbs and a movie date with Jordan. A winning combination if there ever was one.