Ko sends Major warning with 11th LPGA win

Lydia Ko claims her 11th LPGA victory after winning the Kia Classic by four shots.
Lydia Ko claims her 11th LPGA victory after winning the Kia Classic by four shots. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARLSBAD (United States) • Four days out from the season's first women's Major, New Zealander Lydia Ko has stamped her authority on her LPGA Tour rivals, coolly staving off a charge by former world No. 1 Park In Bee to win the Kia Classic by four shots.

Not even a rare double-hit could derail the world No. 1 in southern California on Sunday.

Ko shot a fiver-under 67 for a 19-under 269 total on the Aviara Course in Carlsbad for her 11th LPGA victory. She earned US$255,000 (S$349,300) in prize money and will remain No. 1 for the 23rd straight week.

The teenager seemed to be cruising when a putt from off the green at the 10th hole led to a double-hit that could have put her off her game.

As she struck the ball, it popped almost straight up and hit the shaft of her putter, near the top of the hosel, before trickling forward onto the green.

Ko took the mandatory one-stroke penalty and bogeyed the hole. Unfazed, she went on to make five straight pars.

And then, after South Korean Park, who was playing a few groups ahead, pulled to within a shot with a birdie at No. 17, Ko concluded with three birdies in a row.

"I started off real well and gave myself opportunities on one, two, three and four," the 18-year-old told Golf Channel. "I was able to make birdies on one and two.

"I took a peak at the leader board and saw that In Bee was making a lot of birdies. I knew I needed to focus until the last moment."

Ko will seek her second Major title at the ANA Inspiration, which begins on Thursday, to go with the Evian Championship she won last summer.

"Who knows what is going to happen tomorrow, but I'm confident right now," she said.

Japan's Ai Miyazato shot a 66 in the final round to finish third at 276, while South Koreans Park Sung Hyun and Jenny Shin finished tied for fourth at 277 after both shot even par on the final day.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Ko sends Major warning with 11th LPGA win'. Print Edition | Subscribe