Lydia Ko – photo Ladies European Tour

Twelve months ago Lydia Ko was languishing in 40th place in the Rolex World Ranking, having slipped outside the top 50 earlier in 2020.

Today the 24-year-old New Zealander won her second tournament of 2021 and along with a remarkably consistent run this year which has seen her record another ten top tens, her emphatic victory in Saudi Arabia should see her move close to the top five in the women’s game.

Her five shot victory at the Ladies European Tour’s Saudi Ladies International adds another US$130,000 to her bank account but importantly has her continued her return to the top of the world ranking, a position she last held in June of 2017 after becoming the youngest ever No 1 in 2015.

The event was a Ladies European Tour event, but it featured several LPGA Tour players, the US$1 million purse and no doubt an appearance fee of some sort for a player of Ko’s calibre, an attraction to an event being played in a region where controversy reigns in terms of that country’s involvement in international professional sport.

Ko, however, dominated the tournament from day one, sharing the lead first round lead with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, leading by two after day two and then leading by four after her third round of 63 split the field apart.

Taking a four-shot lead over the brilliant Thai youngster and the LET’s dominant player in 2021, Atthaya Thitikul, into today’s final round, Ko closed the door completely with an outward nine of 31 and although Thitikul herself had reached the turn in 32, it was essentially all over by then.

“When I was out there, I was just trying to play the best golf that I can,” said Ko. “I knew a lot of the top names were playing really well and this is a golf course where there’s a fair amount of birdies, so I was just trying to have my fair share of them and have fun out there.

“It helps when you’re going into the final round with a four-shot cushion, you could shoot the same score as others, but you have those shots from the last three days.

“I birdied the first hole and holed two really good putts for par on two and three which really set the momentum up, and from there I tried not to look back and just go forward.”

Thitikul confirmed her standing as the winner of the Race to Costa Del Sol the Ladies European Tour’s and her place as the 2021 Rookie of the Year on the LET.

West Australian Whitney Hillier finished in a share of 5th place this week, New South Wales’s Stephanie Kyriacou was tied for 7th and Minjee Lee 7th and Amy Walsh 63rd.

The Ladies European Tour has just one more event to play, that being the Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open de Espana in two weeks’ time.