Lydia Ko – yet another trophy photo Douglas P. DeFelice Getty / LPGA
Lydia Ko has today won her 17th LPGA Tour title with a narrow but impressive one-shot victory over her close friend, Danielle Kang, at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in Boca Raton on Florida.
For Ko it was just her second LPGA Tour title since 2018 but continued a comeback from a position outside the top 50 in the world ranking eighteen months ago to the point where she is now ranked in 3rd place in the female game. The win will not improve her standing in that regard at this stage but given the manner in which she is playing and her increasing consistency she appears headed for the top once again.
Ko has previously held the top mantle for a collective 104 weeks but the last time she sat atop the ranking was back in June of 2017.
This week’s final round developed into a real shootout between the Ko and Kang, Kang over-coming a two shot 54-hole deficit to draw level with two birdies in her first three holes today and she actually took the lead in the event when birdies at the 11th and 12th saw her move one ahead.
Kang, however, would drop a shot at the 13th and when Ko birdied the 15th and 16th she went ahead and held on to win by one with another shot back to current US Women’s Open Champion Yuka Saso.
Ko and Kang – great friends – photo Getty / LPGA Douglas P. DeFelice
Ko and Kang are the closest of friends and Ko explained after her victory just why. “You know, she is obviously one of the players that I’ve known for the longest time out here. She’s kind of taken me under her wing. Even though we may not text each other every day or don’t live in the same city, I feel like she’s always got my back.
“You know, if she wants to talk to someone about anything I’m always there for her as well. There hasn’t been many times where we’ve played in the final group. I know she’s been playing such amazing golf going into today, so I just tried to focus on me and tried to play the best golf I can.
“I know at points it was a bit of a grind, but I’m glad that I could get that done.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that Ko’s turnaround has come as a result of a switch to former Tiger Woods coach Sean Foley.
“I think last year was kind of a big turnaround year for me,” added Ko. “Even the fall of 2020. When we had that long time off I think it was kind of a time for me to look back at what are the things I need to work on and just take a whole new approach to things.
“Started working with Sean, and I think he’s been a huge help in the technical standpoint getting me to a point where I feel like it’s natural and I’m not trying to make positions. At the same time, him clearing some of the questions and the not-so-good ideas in my head as well.
“So, yeah, I feel like it’s been much more consistent and last year. I feel like even though I didn’t win on the LPGA at the end of the year, I put myself in contention quite a bit.
“I think when you keep knocking on the door you feel like at one point it’s going to open.”
Ko’s earnings on the LPGA Tour have moved beyond US$12.5 million with the win, this 17th victory coming nearly ten years after playing her very first event on the LPGA Tour as an amateur. She now stands just six points short of eligibility for the Hall of Fame which still provides motivation for the 24 year old.
“You know, obviously I have to play well, win, to kind of collect those points along the way. All those awards and accolades and being in the Hall of Fame is great and not many people are there. If I could have my name alongside the many amazing legends in this the Hall of Fame, it would be a huge honour.
“I know there are still things in my game I want to improve and get better at to kind of give myself a run for it. My mom did ask me the other day, she said, Hey, what if you’re near retirement age and you’re one point off (Hall Of Fame). Are you going to keep playing? I think I just have to be realistic at that point, do I think I can get this done or not?”
Ko’s final round highlights (click to expand)