ADELAIDE • Lydia Ko failed in her bid to retain her Australian Women's Open title, finishing three strokes behind winner Haru Nomura at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide yesterday.
The world No. 1 began the final round one stroke behind a trio of players, including Japan's Nomura, the world No. 67.
Although Ko took the outright lead twice, the Japanese always had her number, eventually opening up a two-stroke lead with three holes to play that became three strokes by the end.
The New Zealander carded a five-under 67 in the final round, her best effort of the event, which was good enough for 275 overall and second place - her third top-three finish in a row to start the year.
"It's a good start to the season," said Ko, who will feature at the March 3-6 HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore, after her round.
NOT WITHIN HER CONTROL
By the roars I could hear, she seemed like she was holing a lot of putts. When another player does it, it's really out of my hands.
LYDIA KO, world No. 1, after finishing second to an on-form Haru Nomura of Japan at the Australian Open yesterday.
"If I had won this week, it would have obviously been better, but Haru played amazing golf.
"I think that's the thing about this game - there are things that are really out of your hands and all you've got to do is just try your best."
She added that she could sense that Nomura was on a hot streak down the home stretch - one that included birdies on five of the final nine holes.
"By the roars I could hear, she seemed like she was holing a lot of putts. When another player does it, it's really out of my hands," said Ko.
The pair were tied for first as they began the back nine, and it was with a birdie on the 10th that the Japanese moved into the lead she would hold until the end - though Ko did try to chase her down.
Nomura's first LPGA win came after five seasons on the tour in the United States without drawing much attention.
"There was no pressure," Nomura, 23, said. "Golf is the fight of my own. It's not against someone else, even though someone else plays well. If I hit my goals, then I win."
She is the first Japanese winner of the tournament since 1974, when Chako Higuchi won at the Victoria course.
Australia's five-time Australian Open winner Karrie Webb was third at 279, having joined the lead early in the round with three birdies before faltering.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS