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Is it really even a surprise anymore when Lydia Ko does what she did Sunday?
Seventeen-year-olds aren’t supposed to be that unflappable, that immune to pressure. They’re not supposed to step up to a 72-yard shot, needing a birdie, and hit it to four feet for the win.
But never before has there ever been anyone this good, this young. With the birdie, Ko finished off a final-round, bogey-free, 6-under-par 65 to emerge with a one-shot victory and the fourth LPGA win of her career and second this season.
“I came in today with a goal of shooting 6-under. After my first nine I said, I definitely can shoot that,” Ko said.
Ko, the No. 2 player in the world, still swears she gets nervous on every shot, even if she never seems to show it. The four-footer she drained on the last was particularly clutch considering Ko entered the 18th with a one-shot lead before So Yeon Ryu drained a snaking right-to-left 30-foot bomb on the 17th hole.
But Ryu, playing one group behind Ko, missed a must-make 6-foot birdie on the last to finish one back of Ko at 14-under-par for the tournament.
“I actually couldn’t see it properly because I was behind some people,” Ko said. “I kind of saw by the crowd’s reaction.”
Unsurprisingly, Ko becomes the youngest player in LPGA Tour history to cross the $1 million mark (17 years, 2 months, 26 days) and that doesn’t even include the money she didn’t receive after winning twice as an amateur.
Ko’s 65 came with birdies on two of the last three holes. However, Ko’s still focused on the pocket money that comes from birdies. The 17-year-old who doesn’t even have her driver’s license has an allowance deal going with her mom where the amount she gets increases with each shot under par she finishes.
“I think it’s $10 per under par I shoot,” she said. “I mean, we totally forgot about that. Then like about a month ago I was like, ‘Mom, what’s going on? I need this.’ I mean, I guess finishing 15-under is $150 extra.”
The money doesn’t mean much to her. She’s not “going to spend $1 million and buy something like a diamond ring,” she said with a laugh. Instead, she might splurge with the $150 in allowance she gets from her mom.
“Maybe I might get something electronic. I do what teenagers do and be excited when you get pocket money in your wallet,” she said.
Cristie Kerr had battled Ko all day for the $210,000 cheque, tying her on the 13th hole with a birdie, but she played the final five holes in 1-over-par and finished three back of Ko at 12-under-par. For the week, Kerr played the final two holes – both par-5s – in just 1-over-par. Ko, by comparison, played them in 5-under.
“I didn’t play 17 and 18 well all week. If you’re going to win here, you have to take advantage of those holes,” Kerr said.
Third-round leaders Lee-Anne Pace (tied for 4th) and Laura Diaz (tied for 18th) faltered in the final round with a 71 and 74, respectively.
Australia’s Katherine Kirk produced one of her best performances of the season so far and finished in a tie for fourth place at 11-under par while Lindsey Wright also produced one of her best efforts for the year, finishing in a tie for seventh at 10-under.