Lydia Ko's Victory Makes Her A Name to Watch at Shoal Creek
April 30, 2018
By Joey Flyntz, USGA
For the first time in 45 starts, former world No. 1 Lydia Ko is a winner again. Ko, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, defeated Minjee Lee, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, in a playoff on Sunday in the Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.
Playing the same course on which she won her Girls’ Junior title, Lee, of Australia, took the clubhouse lead by one stroke, thanks in large part to holing out for birdie from a greenside bunker on the par-3 17th hole. Playing in the final group, Ko, of New Zealand, nearly chipped in for eagle on the par-5 18th to win the tournament in regulation, but settled for a tap-in birdie to force a sudden-death playoff at 12-under 276.
After a pair of crushed drives off the tee on No. 18, Ko executed a brilliant shot with her 3-wood, nearly wrapping things up with a double eagle. Lee missed the green right and settled for birdie before Ko converted her winning 3-foot eagle putt.
It was Ko’s first LPGA Tour victory since winning the Marathon Classic in July 2016 and her 15th LPGA Tour victory.
“I have a lot of emotions right now. My whole team and my family, they’ve worked really hard for this,” said Ko, who was a semifinalist in the 2012 Girls’ Junior. “I’m happy that a few of them were here and we can celebrate together.”
Ko entered the final round with a one-stroke lead over Jessica Korda and a three-stroke cushion over Lee. However, Ko played her first six holes on Sunday in 3 over par before rallying with a 3-under 33 on her inward nine. Ko, Korda and Lee were in a three-way tie with six holes remaining, but Korda fell off the pace with three bogeys on the back nine to finish in a tie for third.
Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2011 Girls’ Junior champion and 2012 medalist at Lake Merced when Lee won, shot 7-under 281 to finish in a tie for seventh.
For Ko, her breakthrough performance is hopefully a sign of things to come, as the two-time major champion has a little over a month to prepare for the 73rd U.S Women’s Open Championship at Shoal Creek from May 31-June 3.
Ko was the 54-hole leader in the Women’s Open at CordeValle in 2016, but a final-round 75 placed her in a tie for third, two strokes out of a playoff with Anna Nordqvist and eventual champion Brittany Lang. Her Marathon Classic victory came the following week. When she arrives at Shoal Creek, that winning feeling will be fresh in her mind once again.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.