Lydia Ko wins first LPGA title in three years in dominant performance in Hawaii

A trophy, at last: Lydia Ko of New Zealand with the silverware after winning the LPGA LOTTE Championship at Kapolei Golf Club. CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Lydia Ko ended her three-year winless run on the LPGA Tour in spectacular, dominant style in Hawaii on Sunday (NZT).

The Kiwi former world No 1 was unstoppable in the LPGA LOTTE Championship at Kapolei Golf Club in Honolulu, closing with a final round of seven-under-par 65 to win by seven shots.

Remarkably it was 1,084 days since Ko’s previous title, the LPGA Mediheal Championship in 2018.

Ko teed off in the final round with a one-shot lead over playing partner Nelly Korda and never looked like surrendering it as she finished 28-under. At one stage she threatened the LPGA Tour’s 72-hole record of 31-under set by Sei-Young Kim in 2018.

Ko seized control with four successive birdies between the ninth and 12th holes, and when she putted out for par on the 18th she extended a stretch of just one bogey in her last 100 holes.

There was a four-way tie for second on 21-under: Korda, Kim, fellow Korean Inbee Park and Leona Maguire of Ireland.

The 23-year-old’s coach Sean Foley got some of the plaudits. “He has been a huge help to clear a lot of questions and doubt in my mind,” she said.

“Before [the last tournament] I couldn’t even sleep on Saturday night. Even though I’d been in that position before it had been a long time and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and there were expectations. I slept great last night and said ‘hey, my fate is already chosen and I’ll play the best golf I can play today’,” Ko said.

Asked if she ever doubted herself during that long run of outs, Ko said: “When you’re in that position and it doesn’t happen you do doubt. If I said no, that would be a lie. Hand on heart, there were times when I wondered if I was ever going to be back in the winner’s circle.

“With Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama winning the last couple of weeks, it’s been a while since they won, that gave me a little bit of hope and maybe I can follow that trend.

“When you’re playing the best female golfers it’s not easy and I’m proud of the way I stayed patient. I know there’s still aspects of my game I need to work on and I’m just keeping it simple.”

Ko was knocking on the door of a drought-breaking victory with two runner-up finishes in her last four starts, including a near miss at the first major championship of the year, the ANA Inspiration.

She scorched the Mission Hills course with a final round of 10-under 62 to finish within two shots of winner Patty Tavatanakit.

Since the Covid-19 enforced break last year the New Zealander had an excellent run of results, and worked her way back up to No 11 in the world rankings after languishing outside the top-50 at one point.

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