Ko makes history at ANA Inspiration

2016 ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko4 April 2016 - Lydia Ko etched her name into the record books once again with dramatic second major championship victory at the ANA Inspiration on Sunday. The world number one birdied the 72nd hole for a flawless 69 to move to 12-under par and finished one shot ahead of Charley Hull and In Gee Chun.

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, who looked like she had the win locked up with three holes to play, bogeyed her final three holes to finish fourth at 10-under par.

At 18 years, 11 months and nine days, Ko is officially the youngest two-time major winner in LPGA history and the youngest male or female with two major wins since Young Tom Morris in 1869.

Success at Mission Hills marks her 12th career LPGA victory and second this season, having won last week’s Kia Classic.

Ko, who won her first major title at the 2016 Evian Championship, said the second was just as sweet. She closed with a final-round, bogey-free 69.

“It’s amazing. You know, you can’t really rank them,” said Ko. “Every one of them is special, and every event is so different, so unique. I think winning this event is great, but obviously jumping into the Poppies Pond - that kind of tradition will definitely be one of the highlights of my career.

“I’ve never really played well at this course before, so just to know that, hey, I can still play well at a course that I haven’t really played well before gives me confidence.”

Ko started the day just one shot behind third-round leader Lexi Thompson and capitalized early on Thompson’s shaky start with birdies at five and eight to take the lead at 11 under.

Ko went nine holes without a birdie and was overtaken by Jutanugarn, who produced a trio of birdies mid-round to take a two shot lead.

However, poor tee shots at 16 and 17 led to bogeys and she was tied with Ko and England’s Charley Hull on 11 under playing the last. Ko had made clutch putts to save par throughout the round, but said the par-save at 17th was pivotal to her victory.

“I first really got to see the scoreboard at 17 and saw where I was positioned, what I needed to do,” said Ko. “Obviously making the putts on 11 and 13 was crucial, too, but just not knowing anything, I wanted to focus on my game and just what I could control.

“On 17 I knew what I needed to do. Something like a miracle needed to happen, so I think 17 was probably the most crucial putt.”

Knowing she needed to birdie the last to have a chance at the outright victory, Ko stuck her third shot on the par five closing hole to 16 inches to set her up for a winning birdie. She said it might rank as one of the best shots of her career considering the circumstance.

“I mean it would be up there. Every shot is special in its own way, like every win is special, because every tournament is so different. “But playing the 72nd hole, birdieing the last hole, that’s always a good feeling. Obviously for that shot to mean so much that I would win the event and that makes it extra special. I obviously laid up to the right number and hit it to the exactly right spot. I thought it was going to be a little short, but with the greens firming up, it ended up being perfect.”

Jutanugarn hit another poor tee shot on the final hole and found the water on the left side. The 20-year old bogeyed the final hole to drop to 10-under par.

Breaking another age record has become ho-hum business for Ko and she said the extra records are just the icing on top of the actual wins.

“To me it’s more special to have just won this event and to win a major,” said Ko.

“Obviously it makes it extra special that I’m the youngest winner to win two majors, but just to win any event is special, and just to know that the hard work that you’ve put in as a team kind of paid off.

“All the stats and everything comes at the end. Just to embrace this win, I think that’s the special part, more than the youngest something.”

Quotes and photo courtesy of the LPGA Tour; edits Lali Stander.

 

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