Golf

Lydia Ko back in winner's circle with drought-breaking win at Lotte Championship

Lydia Ko torched Kapolei Golf Club and tournament records after her final round on Saturday left her at 28-under 260 and seven shots ahead of the pack to claim the Lotte Championship.

Former world No. 1 snaps 3-year winless streak with tournament-record 28-under

Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, holds the Lotte Championship trophy after her final-round 65 on Saturday left her at 28-under 260 and seven shots ahead of everybody else. (Marco Garcia/Associated Press )

Lydia Ko is golfing like she is a kid again. In other words, she's tough to beat.

No one came close at this week's Lotte Championship. Ko torched Kapolei Golf Club and tournament records in the process. A final-round 65 Saturday left her at 28-under 260 and seven shots ahead of everybody.

It brought back vivid memories of the teenager from New Zealand who became the youngest golfer — female or male — to rise to No. 1 the world in 2015. She is the LPGA's youngest-ever winner, major winner, Rookie and Player of the Year.

Ko, who turns 24 next Saturday, won 14 times in her first 81 starts, including twice as an amateur in 2012 and '13. But she had only won once since — three years ago — until Saturday.

WATCH | Ko records 5 birdies on back 9 to seal 7-stroke win:

Lydia Ko finishes strong in Hawaii for 1st win since 2018

9 months ago
Duration 1:54
Ko recorded 5 birdies on the back 9 of the Lotte Championship's final round on her way to a 7-stroke win. 1:54

"When it doesn't happen you do doubt," Ko said. "If I said I didn't doubt myself at all it would be a lie. I wondered if I'd ever be back in the winners circle, but obviously I'm grateful for all that's happened in my career so far.

"It's been a fun week in Hawaii and to be back in this position is obviously super cool."

Ko came up three strokes shy of the LPGA record of 31 under. That was set by Sei Young Kim, who finished tied with Inbee Park, 22-year-old Nelly Korda and Irish rookie Leona Maguire at 267.

Park and Kim, both from South Korea, are ranked 2-3 in the world and Korda is fourth. Kim beat Park in a Lotte playoff six years ago, while Maguire was in the midst of a brilliant college career at Duke.

Park, who vacationed in Hawaii as a child, now has five Top-Five finishes at Lotte, but no wins. With her 63, she shared low-round honours Saturday with Jenny Shin.

WATCH | Golf increasing in popularity during pandemic:

Canadian golfers heading to the green in droves during pandemic

10 months ago
Duration 5:18
Golf Canada is capitalizing on a remarkable interest in the sport while seeing paralleled success on the pro tours. 5:18

Shin tied for sixth another two shots back with Wei-Ling Hsu, Sarah Schmelzel, reigning U.S. Women's Open champ A Lim Kim and 19-year-old Yuka Saso, making her sixth LPGA start.

Saso led after two rounds. Ko and Korda surged ahead Friday, with Ko's 21 under score after 54 holes a shot better than Lotte's 72-hole tournament record. That was set at Ko Olina Golf Club, which hosted Lotte its first eight years.

It wasn't a huge surprise. In Ko's last round two weeks ago she closed the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major, with a 62. In her last 100 holes she has just one bogey.

Canada's Henderson finishes tied for 27th

Korda struggled early and when Ko made a long par putt at No. 8 she was three shots ahead. That putt flipped a switch.

She birdied the next four holes and six of her last 10. She was flawless, again. Low rounds were common this week, but no one came close to catching Ko, who tried to "keep it simple" and admitted she was inspired by Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth's recent wins.

"I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I know there were expectations," Ko acknowledged. "I slept great last night. I just said, `Hey, my fate is already chosen.' I'm just going to play the best golf I can today. I hung in there."

Ko's $300,000 US first prize pushes her over $11.5 million for her career.

"I think it's a great on her," Park said. "She definitely had her really good times and she really definitely struggled in the middle there, and to come back strong like this is great to see."

Canada's Brooke Henderson, who won the last two Lotte championships, finished in a tie for 27th.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now