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Resurrection is expected side by side

Kim Se-young and Choi Hye-jin both scored their first top three of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand ($1.7 million in total prize money), heralding a leap forward in the 2024 season.

Kim Se-young and Choi Hye-jin cut seven and six shots, respectively, and recorded a total of 18-under 270 in the final round of the first Asian swing tournament of the LPGA Tour at Siam CC Old Course (par 72, 6,576 yards) in Chonburi, Thailand, on the 25th, tying for third, three shots behind Patty Tawatanakit (21-under 267, Thailand), who won the championship on the home course.

The two golfers shook off their sluggish performances last season, vowing to take a leap forward in the "Olympic Year." Kim Se-young, a 12-year veteran of the LPGA Tour, is ready to turn around the winning clock that has been stalled for more than three years, while Choi Hye-jin, a former top player of the KLPGA, has increased her confidence to win her first championship in her third season in the U.S.

Kim displayed her endurance by reducing seven pars by posting eight birdies and one bogey. Starting in a tie for sixth, five pars behind Tawatanakit, Kim cut four pars in the first half and three pars in the second half, including consecutive birdies at holes 1 to 3. She started in a tie for 13th at the LPGA Drive-On Championship held in Florida last month, and ranked third in the second tournament.

Choi started the game tied for third with a four-shot difference, and finished 6-under 66 with one eagle, seven birdies, one bogey and one double bogey. After birdieing at the first hole, she lost three shots at the second and third holes, but after birdieing at the sixth hole, she cut down seven shots to eagle, the chip at the 15th hole, showing persistence to catch up to a two-shot difference. After a successful debut season (6th place in prize money), Choi Hye-jin, who ranked only in the top 10 twice (38th in prize money) last year, has also made a leap forward.

Tawatanakit won her second championship in two years and 10 months after winning her first LPGA debut title at the ANA Inspiration (currently the Chevron Championship) in 2021. She won 750,000 dollars in prize money last week at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International held in Saudi Arabia, and added 225,000 dollars in prize money after winning the title for two consecutive weeks.

Tawatanakit, who started the game with a three-shot lead, tied for the lead with Alban Valenzuela (20-under 272 pars, Switzerland), who shot a 9-under 63 on the day alone, and Tawatanakit, who hit the last 18th hole (par 5), posted his third shot in front of the green next to the hole to secure a one-shot victory. Tawatanakit, who stepped down just before winning the championship in 2021, said, "I was very nervous, but keeping the score in the second half led to good results. My dream came true."

World No. 9 Kim Hyo-joo tied for fifth (17-under 271) and last year's Rookie of the Year Yoo Hae-ran tied for ninth (15-under 273), bringing four Korean players to the top 10. World No. 6 Ko Jin-young tied for 20th (11-under 271) in her first competition of this season.
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Monday, February 26, 2024
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