NAPLES, United States (AFP) - New Zealand teen Lydia Ko parred the fourth playoff hole to beat Carlota Ciganda and win the LPGA Tour Championship, completing a US$1.5 million (S$1.95 million) haul Sunday that included a season points crown.
Ko tapped in for par on the final extra hole after her Spanish rival buried her approach under a bush, giving the Seoul-born 17-year-old her third title of her first full LPGA season.
"This has been a big year, a roller coaster ride," Ko said. "I've learned so much this year. Winning these playoffs I've learned a lot. I think it's going to be even better next year."
Ko, Paraguay's Julieta Granada and Ciganda each finished 72 holes on 10-under par 278 to force a playoff, staged entirely on the 18th hole at Tiburon Golf Club. Ko had already clinched the LPGA season points bonus prize of $1 million, edging American Stacy Lewis for the big payoff by virtue of her top-three finish, but had another fight to add the $500,000 top prize from the season-ending event.
All three parred the first playoff hole but Granada lipped out a three-foot par putt on the second extra trip to the 18th, leaving Ko and Ciganda to fight for the crown. On the third extra visit to the course's second-hardest hole of the week, Ciganda dropped her approach six feet from the hole. Ko came up inches short from 30 feet but Ciganda missed right of the cup and both parred to extend the drama.
On the fourth playoff hole with sunset approaching, Ciganda's approach trickled down a slope and under a lakeside bush in a hazard beyond the green. She took a drop and was well short with a chip. Ko then two-putted from 25 feet for the title.
The Kiwi's $1.5 million day nearly matched her prior winnings this year, but she said the riches never crossed her mind as she played. "I really didn't think about it," Ko said. "Even playing today out there, I just set myself a goal of making birides and having fun."
Ko won the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Women's Open as an amateur and the LPGA waived an 18-year age minimum so she could join the tour this year for her demonstrated proficiency.
Ko edged Lewis by a stroke to win her first LPGA event as a professional, the Swinging Skirts Classic, in April and added the Marathon Classic crown last June on her way to clinching LPGA Rookie of the Year honors and $1.58 million in prize money entering the Tour Championship.