Golf: Lydia Ko hopes past success in S'pore can spur her to HSBC victory this week

Lydia Ko of New Zealand jokes with her caddie after teeing off at the 11th hole during the Pro-am event on the eve of the HSBC Women's Champions on March 4, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Lydia Ko of New Zealand jokes with her caddie after teeing off at the 11th hole during the Pro-am event on the eve of the HSBC Women's Champions on March 4, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Before she became the world No. 1 golfer, Lydia Ko spent 130 weeks as the top ranked amateur, and one of her lasting memories of Singapore was her first visit here in 2012 as part of the New Zealand squad competing in the Queen Sirikit Cup.

Then, she had led her country to a runner-up finish in the event, also known as the Amateur Ladies Asia-Pacific Invitational Golf Team Championship, losing out to South Korea.

Recalling her trip on the sidelines of the HSBC Women's Champions at Sentosa on Wednesday, she said: "I really didn't know what to expect of Singapore but I heard so many great things about it and I had so much fun. Our whole team went on the Singapore Flyer at night and we got to see the whole view of Singapore and that was just one of my many great memories here."

Ko astounded the golf world last month by reaching the No. 1 ranking spot at the age of just 17, the youngest by a male or female player, smashing the record set by Tiger Woods who reached the pinnacle at 21.

She will be hoping to produce even more special moments this week at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course, as she is targeting a victory in the US$1.4 million (S$1.91 million) LPGA sanctioned tournament.

"I still feel like I've got little bits to improve," said Ko, who won back-to-back tournaments last month in Australia and New Zealand to begin her reign at the top of the world rankings.

"Every course is different so it's really hard to say my game is perfect. I played well last week in Clearwater Golf Club and I know that I can score well and that gives me a lot of confidence going into the next few weeks."

One of her main rivals, for this week and this season, will be world No. 2 Park In Bee, who was overtaken by Ko last month. The five-time Major winner said: "I let Lydia have my No. 1 spot earlier this year so if I can capture that back at some point, that will be a very good goal to have."

jonwong@sph.com.sg