Ko happy with hot caddie on her bag

The ANA Inspiration victory is Ko Jin-young's second LPGA Tour win of the year.
The ANA Inspiration victory is Ko Jin-young's second LPGA Tour win of the year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Young Korean hails 'good team' after Brooker guides third Major winner at Mission Hills

LOS ANGELES • Let other players take dead aim at titles and trophies. Ko Jin-young is finding success by directing her focus on becoming "the happiest player on the course".

The latest golfing star in South Korea's bright constellation burst into tears on Sunday after closing with a two-under 70 to win the ANA Inspiration.

It was her second LPGA Tour title in less than a month and her first Major championship.

Ko, who posted a 72-hole total of 10-under 278, ended three strokes ahead of compatriot Lee Mi-hyang, who carded a final-round 70, while American Lexi Thompson, the 2014 champion, shot a 67 for third, four strokes back.

For Ko, happiness was a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, after which she collapsed into the embrace of her caddie, David Brooker, who has now guided three players - South Korea's Grace Park in 2004 and Mexican Lorena Ochoa in 2008 as well - to this Major.

After capping her win by leaping into Poppie's Pond with him by her side, the 23-year-old declared they were "a really good team".

She added: "I always think about when I can go in that pond. That's today.

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    South Korean winners of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills.

"I just focused on my swing, on the putting, that's why I won this week. I won. I can believe it now.

"I had a great round and a great week. I felt nervous today, but I just tried to keep myself calm.

"I thank God, I thank my parents, I thank my grandparents. It is an honour for me to join so many great Korean players and it's a real honour for me to win."

Ko became the fifth South Korean, including Yoo Sun-young (2012), Park In-bee (2013) and Ryu So-yeon (2017), to win the event at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, and the 15th from her country to lift a Major.

In her first six starts alongside Brooker, who made the caddying switch from American Paula Creamer at the end of last year, the reigning LPGA Rookie of the Year has five top-three finishes, including two victories.

Having made 16 caddie appearances at the tournament since 1997, Brooker knows the greens like his backyard, which is why Ko, who now has four LPGA titles and 14 overall since turning professional in 2013, trusted him to read many of her putts.

Her final-round scoring average was 66.83 strokes and it is a toss-up as to who is the hottest golfer on the planet - Ko or men's world No. 3, Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, who has seven top-nine finishes, including one victory, in seven starts this year.

Although Brooker "does not think she's going to have one of those 20-year careers" as "she just wants to have fun", Ko's "smartness" is what separates her from her rivals.

With the world No. 5, who is projected to rise to the top of the rankings with this win, firing a warning to her rivals that she will continue to pose a serious threat, he added: "She knows what she's doing out there."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'Ko happy with hot caddie on her bag'. Print Edition | Subscribe