Making her second start as the no. 1 player in the world, Lydia Ko captured her sixth-career victory on the LPGA, shooting a final-round two-under 71 at the Women’s Australian Open. The 17-year-old Ko finished with a tournament total nine-under, edging out her closest competitor, Amy Yang, by two strokes.
The entire day wasn’t a walk in the park for Ko, though. The teen from New Zealand got off to a rough start, making bogey on the first hole and then missing a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second. Suddenly, she was trailing, but when Ko is on the prowl, no lead is safe, as she’s proven with four previous come-from-behind wins on Sundays. On the very next hole, Ko made the shot of the day, holing a pitch on the short par-4 third for an eagle.
“I had a shaky start so that kind of got me more nervous,” said Ko. “I came back with a pretty awesome eagle and that kind of settled down my nerves. I was playing with Ariya (Jutanugarn) who was playing really good golf and Amy (Yang) was right in front and I could see that she was making a lot of birdies. It kind of made me a bit anxious because I wasn’t making a lot for birdies but I tried to keep my mind together and it ended up being great.”
As the leading groups were making the turn, play was suspended for 45 minutes due to inclement weather and lightning in the area.
At this point, Yang looked like she was in control, as she was tied for the lead and had an eight-foot eagle putt on the 10th, while Ko had the difficult par-4 ninth to play.
“I think that break was really good for me,” Ko said. “I had some lunch and got my stuff together there and I played much better after that.”
Following the delay, Yang returned only to miss the putt, and from there, Ko dominated, making a birdie on the par-5 10th, and then draining a birdie on the toughest hole at Royal Melbourne’s composite course, the par-4 12th. Yang bogeyed nos. 15 and 17 to end her chances at catching Ko.
“Yeah, whenever I saw the leaderboard, [Amy] had made another birdie and another one, so I was like, ‘Ok, you need to get your stuff together and you need to make birdies’.” Ko said. “She’s such a consistent player and she’s been putting so well on these fast greens so I knew she was tough to get rid of.”
As the world no. 1, Ko wasn’t sure how she’d react to the pressure that comes along with the title of being the best in the world, but she seems to be settling in just fine.
“I didn’t really know how I would play and how I would react to becoming world number one and I always wondered that,” she said. “Sometimes I got close and I was still world number two, three or four and then after Ocala (the Coates Golf Championship) I couldn’t pull off the win but then I became world number one. I played average in the first two days in the Bahamas but then I fired back. It’s good to know that just from my confidence that I can still play good and not really think about the world rankings.”
To celebrate her sixth-career Tour victory, Ko will be returning home to New Zealand, which was a coincidence but perfect timing for the champ. She’s returning home for this week’s New Zealand Open before heading over to Singapore for the HSBC Women’s Champions the following week.
Unfortunately, since she’s still only 17, alcohol won’t be included in the celebration.
“I’m flying home really soon and I’ll be playing back in New Zealand next week,” said Ko. “I don’t know what they have to celebrate on the plane but I know I won’t be getting any closer to alcohol than I was a day ago.
“I think it’s great. My sister’s here, my mum’s here, my agent’s here. We’ll have hopefully good food. Just being able to go home is a big thing. I won in Naples last year and I got to go home and here I get to win and then go home too, that’s the biggest prize.”