After reaching the top of the Women’s Rolex Rankings 4 weeks ago, Lydia Ko looks set for a long reign after successive victories in Australia & New Zealand
Four weeks after becoming the youngest ever world number one, New Zealand’s 17-year-old sensation, Lydia Ko, has given every intention that she will be immensely difficult to dislodge after successive victories in the ISPS Handa Australian and New Zealand Opens.
Last week she clinched the Australian title by two in Melbourne, and this week she doubled that winning margin to four at Clearwater Golf Club in New Zealand to claim her national Open for the first time as a professional, with her previous victory in the event coming two years ago as a 15-year-old amateur.
Record-breaking New Zealander, Ko, was helped in no small measure by a scintillating second round 11-under-par 61 which was both a career-best and a course record. Despite that, she went in to the final round just three clear of England’s own teenage wonder, Charley Hull, who is just a year older than Ko and who last year became the youngest ever winner of the Ladies’ European Tour Order of Merit.
When Ko double-bogeyed the 8th and Hull eagled the 10th to close the gap to two, despite struggling with her putting for much of the front nine, it looked like the two teenagers might deliver a thrilling finish. In the end it wasn’t to be, thanks largely to a three-shot swing on the 12th where Ko birdied and Hull doubled after straying long into the water.
Hull unravelled a little down the stretch, eventually signing for a 75 and a share of 6th place with Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell among others, leaving Australian amateur, Hannah Green, to claim second place after a joint best of the day closing 68.
Ko went on to sign for a one-under 71, which was comfortably good enough in the end, setting a new tournament record score of 14-under par in the process.
Reflecting on her excellent start to the year, Ko admitted it had gone better than she might have dared to hope: “I tied second in my first week, tied seventh the week after, then won my last two events. So this is even better than I would ever have imagined. It’s just great to have won the two Opens back to back.”
After a week off, the Ladies’ European Tour resumes in two weeks’ time for the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills, where South Korea’s Inbee Park is the defending individual champion.