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BELLEAIR, Fla. – Christina Kim joked that she could’ve been drafted into the NBA, she jumped so high on the driving range after learning she’d received a sponsor exemption into the Pelican LPGA Championship. She’d just missed out on the Monday qualifier by one stroke and sits at 98th on the CME points list. The top 100 keep their LPGA card.
“Literally rolling around doing somersaults on the ground because I was just so overjoyed,” said Kim, who is taking full advantage of the opportunity.
The popular player, now in her 19th year on the LPGA, currently holds the clubhouse lead at the Pelican with World No. 1 Nelly Korda at 9 under. Jennifer Kupcho, who is still on the course, has moved to 11 under.
At this time last year, Kim was safely into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship thanks to five top-25 finishes. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing from 2020 carried over into this season. Kim’s status reverted back to where she finished in 2019, and she didn’t get into an LPGA event until March of this year.
“Sometimes things go your way; sometimes they don’t,” she said. “But that’s life. What are you supposed to expect?”
Korda, who trails Jin Young Ko by 15 points in the LPGA Player of the Year race, matched Kim’s 66 by hitting 14 fairways and 16 greens. Her average drive on the measured holes: 309 yards.
“The fairways are pretty wide open,” she said, “and so I just kind of get up to it and try to rip it.”
A victory this week is worth 30 points toward the Player o the Year race.
Ko, who has won four of her last seven events, shot 66 and moved into the top 20. Yuka Saso, the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open winner, posted a 64 to move into the top five.
Kim has missed six of her last seven cuts on the LPGA and said she spent the last three weeks in hyper-stress mode. Getting into the Pelican, however, gave her a sense of controlling her own destiny, and she finds herself in contention for her first LPGA title since 2014.
When asked if her time working for PGA Tour Live on Sirius was a preview of her second act, Kim insisted that her focus remains on her playing career.
“You know, yes, I’m 37 years old, but I still tell fart jokes,” she said, “so I don’t really feel like – you know, and I’m truly in the best shape of my life, so there is no reason why I can’t sit there and think all the experience that I’ve had … with three Solheim Cups, three singles wins – no big deal – my tour wins around the world, that that can’t help me out here.
“You know, yeah, sure, there are literally players on here that can be my children if I had chosen to have them. That doesn’t mean anything, though. This is my passion. This is my love. My entire life is golf. I’ll stop when it’s time. I’m damn nowhere near close to that yet.”