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Shocking miss on No. 18 turns major

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — I.K. Kim raised her left hand to her mouth and turned her head, unwilling to look at what just happened. Fans at Mission Hills gasped, groaned and screamed in a chorus of shared pain.

With a major championship resting on a 1-foot putt, Kim lived every golfer's nightmare.

She had done the unthinkable. She had missed the unmissable.

A few minutes later, the Kraft Nabisco Championship was in a playoff — and with an improbable second chance, Sun Young Yoo didn't flinch.

Yoo won the LPGA Tour's first major of 2012 with an 18-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday, earning her first major title after Kim's mind-boggling miss on the final hole of regulation.

Kim, 23, a South Korean who lives near Los Angeles, couldn't explain any of it. After barely missing a long birdie putt, she lined up the 1-footer patiently, and thought she hit it decently. But the ball toured the lip of the cup before coming out.

After tapping in for bogey that dropped her into a tie with Yoo, Kim raised both hands to her ears as she left the green, staring down blankly while walking to the scorers' tent.

The playoff ended four strokes later, with Yoo confidently seizing her second career LPGA victory.

"On the playoff hole, it's just hard to kind of focus on what's going on right now," Kim said. "Because I was still a little bit bummed (about) what happened on 18, honestly."

Yoo was steady play on a day in which five players held the lead. After finishing with par in the group before Kim, Yoo figured she would collect a fat runnerup check and head home to Orlando. Kim made a 15-foot birdie on No. 16 and a 20-footer on No. 17 to break a three-way tie for the lead.

Then Kim made a mistake reminiscent of Scott Hoch's missed 2-foot putt that would have won the 1989 Masters, and Doug Sanders' 3-footer miss to cost him the 1970 British Open.

"I thought I had no chance," Yoo said. "I thought I.K. was going to make the putt, but it didn't happen."

Yoo, 25, also of South Korea, and Kim finished at 9-under 279 after each shot 3-under 69.

Yoo and Kim played No. 18 again in the playoff, and Kim's drive barely cleared the water, landing in the rough. She left a birdie putt short from the fringe, and Yoo finished it off.

Third-round co-leaders Yani Tseng (73) and Karin Sjodin (74) fell out of contention late. Sjodin and Hee Kyung Seo each led by three strokes at one point in the round.

Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse finished with 73—287, tied for 26th.

Mahan takes Houston

HUMBLE, TEXAS — Hunter Mahan shot 1-under 71 to win the Houston Open, edging Carl Pettersson by a stroke and becoming the first two-time champion on the PGA Tour in 2012. Mahan, 29, shot 16-under 272 and moved to No. 4 in the world, the first time he has been the highest-ranked American. "That's a pretty surreal thing to think about," he said.

EUROPEAN: Thorbjorn Olesen shot 69 to win the Sicilian Open by a shot at 15-under 273 in Sciacca. He held off Chris Wood, who equaled the course record with 8-under 64.

.FAST FACTS

76th Masters

When/where: Thursday-Sunday; Augusta, Ga.

Course: Augusta National Golf Club (Par 72, 7,435 yards)

Defending champion: Charl Schwartzel

Purse: TBA ($8 million in 2011)

Field: 97 (91 professionals, six amateurs)

Cut: Top 44 and ties, and anyone within 10 shots of the lead

Television: Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m., ESPN; Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Ch. 10; Sunday, 2 p.m., Ch. 10

Online: masters.com

Shocking miss on No. 18 turns major 04/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 12:57am]

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