LOS ANGELES (AFP) - South Korea's Ko Jin-young's seven birdies included a late string of three in a row that pushed her to a third LPGA title on Sunday (March 24) at the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona.
The 23-year-old started the day four off the lead of China's Liu Yu, but a bogey-free round of seven-under 65 at Wildfire Golf Club carried her to a total of 22-under 266 and a one-shot lead over Liu, Spain's Carlota Ciganda and American sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda.
Ko, who seized the tournament lead with birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 16, was on the practice green keeping warmed up for a possible play-off with Liu, who arrived at the 72nd hole at 22-under but made her only bogey of the day to cap a two-under 70 for a 21-under total of 267.
"I don't need to practise any more!" a delighted Ko told well-wishers when the victory was secured, later adding that she had played the whole round just trying to stay in the moment.
"I didn't think about winning today," she said. "I had to really focus on my game. I just tried (to play) shot by shot and not thinking about the future, just, like, now.
"So, amazing day," she said of her first victory on US soil, after titles at the 2017 KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea and the 2018 Women's Australian Open - part of her 2018 Rookie of the Year campaign.
Liu was trying to become just the second Chinese player to win on the LPGA Tour after Feng Shanshan, who has nine titles.
She started well enough with birdies at the second and fifth, but on a day when birdies abounded, she would not find another until the par-five 15th.
That tied her with Ko's clubhouse lead, but she was unable to get past - or force a play-off - as her par attempt at 18 slid past the edge of the cup.
Ciganda, who started the day one adrift, was 22-under through seven holes. She gave a shot back at the eighth, but her real trouble was a bogey at the par-five 11th - perhaps the easiest on the course, and one more birdie on the way to a three-under 69 would not get the job done.
The overnight leaders were under pressure on the back nine, not only from Ko but from both Kordas.
Jessica Korda, in her first tournament of the year after time off to recover from a forearm injury, surged up the leaderboard with an eight-under 64 that included six birdies and two eagles - at the 11th and 15th.
"I had a lot of rust at the beginning of the tournament. I didn't hit a lot of great shots out there, But it's slowly coming back together," she said.
Younger sister Nelly, winner of the women's Australian Open in February, joined the group sharing second with a final-round 66.