Golf: Inspiration is high on Ko's wish list

Paula Creamer (centre, background) watching anxiously during the ANA Footgolf Faceoff, as her "foot putt" goes into the hole at the Mission Hills Country Club on Tuesday in a preview to the ANA Inspiration.
Paula Creamer (centre, background) watching anxiously during the ANA Footgolf Faceoff, as her "foot putt" goes into the hole at the Mission Hills Country Club on Tuesday in a preview to the ANA Inspiration. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RANCHO MIRAGE (California) • Lydia Ko knows all about pressure. It has been a part of her life since she was 15 and became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour in 2012.

Right now, on the heels of her four-shot victory at the KIA Classic, her first title of 2016, Ko is the overwhelming favourite to take out the ANA Inspiration at the Mission Hills Country Club in the first Major of the year.

The Kiwi golfer could not be in better form.

"That (the KIA Classic) was a good start," she said. "I didn't strike the ball very well last year there, so hopefully I'll be able to hit a few more fairways and give myself a good chance."

Ko was off the pace at the ANA Inspiration last year, finishing joint 51st, as American Brittany Lincicome won the title after making an eagle putt on the 18th hole to force a play-off with Stacy Lewis en route to her victory.

It took three more trips down the 18th fairway before Lincicome secured her second Major championship and sixth career LPGA Tour victory with three straight pars on the extra holes to seal the win.

The LPGA's most iconic Major championship will feature 110 of the world's best golfers and All Nippon Airways has increased the total purse for this event to US$2.6 million (S$3.5 million) in prize money so there will certainly be plenty of incentive on the big stage this week.

With that first Major under her belt, Ko laughs when she says she is perfectly happy to not have that expectation dogging her footsteps at the ANA Inspiration this week.

"I was very fortunate and very special to win the last Major of the year last season," she said.

"I'm glad that especially coming into this week there is no, hey, you could break Annika Sorenstam's under-par record or you could break the youngest major record."

Not that Ko does not have numbers to match or records to keep breaking as she continues her career.

Now firmly entrenched as the world No. 1 with 11 career victories, she believes she is playing solid golf.

"Last week was probably the most solid I've hit to what I can remember.

"But in saying that, I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning, so there goes my memory," Ko said, tongue in cheek.


LPGA ANA INSPIRATION

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, tomorrow, midnight

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Inspiration on Ko's must-have list'. Print Edition | Subscribe