Golf: Ko ends two-year wait to defend first US LPGA title

Ko Jin-young of Korea in action during the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, New Jersey, on Oct 2, 2021.
Ko Jin-young of Korea in action during the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, New Jersey, on Oct 2, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Second-ranked Ko Jin-young has waited more than two years to defend her first US title at this week's LPGA Founders Cup on a new course and date.

The 26-year-old South Korean captured the 2019 Founders Cup at Arizona in March but the 2020 edition was not staged due to Covid-19 and the event was shifted to suburban New York and October for the 2021 campaign.

"In 2019, this tournament was my first time winning in the US, so it was really big for me and it had great memories.

"I played really well in Arizona, so I'm happy to be here. It has been two years, but yeah, I'm still happy."

Ko and world number one Nelly Korda are among those who will compete at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, New Jersey.

Ko won her first LPGA title in South Korea in 2017 and her second in 2018 at Australia. Just two weeks after her Founders Cup title, she captured her first major crown at the 2019 ANA Inspiration and followed with another major at the Evian Championship.

Now Ko seeks her 10th career LPGA title and third of the year after taking advantage of the chance to make her first visit to New York City.

"I went shopping. I went to New York City. It was my first time visiting there," Ko said.

"I saw a lot of fancy stores. I went to a lot of good stores but a lot of things were out of stock so I couldn't get anything.

"I was just window shopping. It was fun. I want to visit again at Christmastime."

Ko comes to the Founders Cup off a runner-up effort at the ShopRite Classic and a triumph last month in Portland.

"This course is like a major course," Ko said.

"Everything is in perfect condition so it feels like a major and I'm defending, so it's going to be a long week."

While Ko plans two play an LPGA event in two weeks in South Korea, Korda will take a break until next month's two season-ending Florida tournaments.

Korda, the Tokyo Olympic champion, won her first major title at June's Women's PGA Championship and chases her seventh career LPGA title.

She has rested a shoulder injury for a couple of weeks, setting down her clubs most of that time.

"Just overuse," Korda said.

"There were so many weeks, so much travel, so much luggage that I had to get off the carousel that it was just overused and I needed to rest.

"My body has been actually pretty decent. My mind, I've definitely been very tired just because I have been in contention in big events and you just go through so much pressure you just get a bit more tired.

"I was definitely needing that break, needing to sleep in a little longer, which felt really nice."

Korda plans to be patient and easier on herself about mistakes this week.

"Definitely going to have to be more patient. I haven't played in three weeks, so getting back into tournament golf and being under pressure is different," she said.