Golf

Former world No. 1 golfer Lydia Ko ends title drought in style

Ex-world 1 wins Lotte C'ship with record score ahead of HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko ended her three-year LPGA title drought in impressive fashion, firing a final-round 65 to win the Lotte Championship by seven strokes yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The two-time Major champion finished with a tournament record of 28-under 260, easily outdistancing four players who finished tied for second - South Korea's Park In-bee and Kim Sei-young, Ireland's Leona Maguire and American Nelly Korda.

It was the 16th career LPGA victory for the New Zealander but first in three years as she took home the top prize of US$300,000 (S$400,000) .

Her impressive win at Kapolei Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii, puts her in good stead for the HSBC Women's World Championship, which will be held at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore from April 29 to May 2.

Heading into the final round, Ko took a one-shot lead over Korda, but as the American struggled on the greens, she marched relentlessly to victory.

Ko, who turns 24 on Saturday, pushed her lead to two with a four-foot birdie at the third hole, then saved par from the front fringe at the fourth before taking firm control with four birdies in a row at the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th.

She added birdies at 14 and 17 for good measure, admitting that there had been times during her long, highly scrutinised dry spell that she wondered if the victories would come again.

"When you're in that position (to win) and it doesn't happen, you do doubt. If I said, no, I didn't doubt myself at all, that would be a lie," Ko told Golf Channel after her victory.

"Hand on my heart, there were times when I wondered, 'Hey, I don't know if I'm ever going to be back in the winner's circle'.

"To be back in this kind of position is obviously super cool. You know, with Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama winning the last couple weeks - and I know it's been a while since they won, as well - that kind of gave me a little bit of hope that maybe I could follow that trend."

But near misses at the Gainbridge LPGA and the ANA Inspiration - she finished second and tied for second respectively- didn't affect her.

Relaxed and smiling throughout much of the round, Ko was clearly emotional after her final putt dropped on 18.

"I just continued to stick to my game plan, and I think this kind of proves it to myself and that's the biggest thing," she said.

Korda, seeking a second victory of the season after beating Ko by three strokes at the Gainbridge LPGA, could not apply the same pressure on Ko that she did on Friday.

With the putts not falling, she was one-over on the front nine after a bogey at the eighth and trailing by four at the turn.

She followed a birdie at the 11th with back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13, birdies at 14, 15 and 17 pushing her back into a share of second.

"You know, I'm happy with a second finish," she said. "You never complain finishing second in a tournament. Left a lot out there, but Lydia played so well. It was her time."

Park had roared to 21-under with a nine-under 63 that featured an eagle and seven birdies - including three to cap her round.

Kim joined the group at 21-under with a bogey-free seven-under 65 that included an eagle and five birdies. - AFP, REUTERS

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