Date: February 01, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Ko tops world, heads for Melbourne

17 years, nine months and 7 days.

That’s the almost inconceivable number for Lydia Ko, who today become the world’s youngest ever No.1 golfer.

The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open-bound New Zealander ascended to the top of the Rolex World Rankings after finishing tied second at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Coates Golf Classic in Florida.

And while she watched a four-shot lead disappear as good friend Na Yeon Choi won the event, Ko’s result combined with previous No.1 Inbee Park’s T13 finish meant the young Kiwi took almost four years off Tiger Woods’ previous record of 21 to reach the top of the men’s game in 1997.

Former Australian Open champion Jiyai Shin, who was 22 when she scaled the summit in 2008, previously held the women’s record.

Ko began today’s final round one shot clear of a chasing pack, but drained long birdie putts on the first two holes to surge four strokes clear.

But a bogey on the par-four eighth hole allowed Korean playing partners Choi and Ha Na Jang to turn up the heat.

Choi snatched the lead with a birdie on the 14th hole before Ko fired a birdie on the 15th to hit back.

But a double-bogey double bogey on the 17th was her eventual undoing, sliding to 15 over alongside Jang and Jessica Korda, one shot behind Choi.

Ko, playing in contact lenses for the first time this week, had 15 top-10 finishes and pocketed more than $US2million in prizemoney last year alone.

She first came to global prominence in 2012 when she won the New South Wales Women’s Open, becoming the youngest player ever, aged 14, to win a professional event.

But she really set tongues wagging with back-to-back wins in the LPGA Tour’s Canadian Open in 2012 and 2013, both as an amateur.

Ko turned professional in late 2013 and has already won four events, including the richest prize in women’s golf, the 2014 CME Tour Championship.

Ko will play the LPGA Classic in the Bahamas next week before venturing to Royal Melbourne to play the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.