Sei Young Kim's dominance this week at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic moved beyond being a provincial thing Saturday and became something historic.
The 25-year-old from South Korea continued to blister Thornberry Creek at Oneida GC, birdieing four holes in a row starting at No. 13 to shoot 8-under-par 64 and get to 24-under for the week. That matched the LPGA Tour's all-time scoring record for most strokes below par after 54 holes set by Annika Sorenstam at the 2003 Mizuno Classic, equalled the mark for fewest strokes after 54 holes set by Sorenstam at the 2003 Mizuno Classic and tied by Nasa Hataoka at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in early June.
That left virtually just two questions to be answered — does she have another low round in her and are the LPGA Tour's 72-hole scoring records in jeopardy?
"Two years ago at the Founders Cup, I shoot a 27-under," Kim said Saturday, referring to another historic run in which she matched the record Sorenstam set at the 2001 Standard Register Ping for most strokes below par but came up three shots shy of the lowest 72-hole score set in 2004 by Karen Stupples — the lead analyst for this week's event on Golf Channel — and matched in 2013 by Angela Stanford and Hee Young Park at the Manulife Classic.
"Before I tee off (Saturday), I was (like) 'If I shoot like 8-under or 7-under it's possible to (break) my score ... record. I hope to break it (Sunday)."
Kim essentially put herself out of reach of her closest pursuers in what has otherwise been an entertaining and ultra-competitive tournament. She will take an eight-stroke lead over Amy Yang into the final round when Kim and her fellow South Korean head to the first tee at 3:30 p.m. CDT Sunday.
Yang was alone in second place by one stroke over Australia's Lydia Ko (66), Sweden's Anna Nordqvist (67) and American Emma Talley (68). Five more golfers were tied for sixth, 10 shots back at 14-under 202, including 2017 champ Katherine Kirk, who birdied Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17 to get there.
In case you were wondering, the largest come-from-behind victory in LPGA history is 10 strokes by three different golfers, most recently Louise Friberg at the 2008 MasterCard Classic. The biggest rally this season was authored by Michelle Wie, who came from five shots down to win the HSBC Women's World Championship.
In other words, the odds are stacked against the field near Green Bay.
"I was seven shots behind the leader on Thursday and then I shot 6-under (Friday) and I was still seven shots behind," Ko, the former world No. 1, said after her second straight 66. "I mean, Sei Young is tearing up the whole golf course. ... It's hard when it's like that, but it's also good that you're out there trying to make as many birdies as you can and being maybe sometimes a little more aggressive than you normally are. ... It's fun to play this kind of golf. You definitely need to be hitting the ball pretty well and you have to putt well. Obviously, Sei Young has been doing that very well the last few days."
It's been a fairly simple formula for Kim, the 2015 LPGA Rookie of the Year: Shoot 33 on the front nine and see how low you can go on the back nine.
That's how she opened with rounds of 63-65 and that's how she glided to an effortless 64 in Saturday's third round. An eagle at the par-5 third hole and a birdie at the par-5 ninth helped Kim shoot her third straight 33 on the front.
After starting the back nine par-birdie-par maintain a safe distance from the pack, Kim rattled off four straight birdies to get to 24-under. She finished par-par on two of the tougher holes this week to shoot 31 on the back nine and give her something to shoot for on what could be an epic Sunday.
In addition to her pursuit of LPGA scoring records, Kim is also poised to take a run at two other marks. She has 25 sub-par holes through 54 holes; the LPGA Tour record is 30 set by Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller and Lexi Thompson, all at the 2017 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Class. And if she is able to stretch her lead much further, the 32-year-old LPGA Tour record for largest margin of victory — set by Cindy Mackey at the 1986 MasterCard International Pro-Am — could come into play for the runaway leader as well.
"Is this the best you've been playing in your career?" Kim was asked.
"Yeah, it's (the best) ever," she replied. "(Best) ever in (my) life."