Nerveless world No.1 Ko Jin-young clinches HSBC Women's World Championship on final hole
SINGAPORE — For 71 holes over four days, Ko Jin-young played steadily, making few mistakes and staying close to the leading bunch of golfers at the HSBC Women's World Championship.
And the world No.1 female golfer saved the best for last, launching a spectacular charge with five birdies in the final six holes at Sentosa Golf Club's New Tanjong Course to win the prestigious tournament on the 72nd and final hole on Sunday (6 March).
A six-under-par 66 barely told the story of how the 26-year-old South Korean seemingly fell out of contention after a bogey on the 12th hole, but held her nerve to rein in leader Lee Jeong-eun and finally pip her compatriot for a 17-under total of 271.
"When I bogeyed at the 12th hole, I was angry with myself. So I told myself I needed to make as many birdies as possible. Getting one on the next hole was important, and I got lucky on the next few holes," Ko said after her win.
"I told myself that I had to make a birdie at the last hole, because I didn't want to go into a playoff with a great player like Jeong-eun. It's great that I managed to do so and win."
Heading into the 18th tied with Lee at 16-under, Ko made no mistake with her approach shot to set up a birdie opportunity, while Lee - who had been superb all day with five birdies - found the bunker with her second shot.
Then, disaster struck for Lee as she flubbed her bunker shot to find a deep rough beside the green. The world No.18 eventually made double-bogey to finish joint-fourth on 14-under 274.
Meanwhile, Ko kept her cool and duly birdied her putt to clinch her sixth LPGA title in her last 10 outings. She also broke her own LPGA record of 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s, underlining her credentials as the current dominant female golfer.
"I like this sort of pressure situations, needing to perform at my best to win," Ko said. "I like to experience and learn from these situations."
Overnight leader Chun In-gee stayed in contention for much of Sunday's round, but missed a glorious eagle opportunity at the par-five 16th which could have seen her draw level with Ko and Lee, as her putt lipped around the hole.
She nonetheless finished in second place with a three-under 69 for a 15-under total of 273, tied with Australia's Minjee Lee, who shot the best round of the tournament with a nine-under 63.
“It was a tough game for me during this week because I had a spasm in my neck. I’m not happy, but still I'm proud I made the top two because I tried my best," Chun said. "Jin-young made some really good shots and good putts. She showed me why she's the No.1. I was really happy to play with the world’s best players like Jin Young and Jeongeun today."
Thailand's 19-year-old sensation Atthaya Thitikul also held the lead briefly on Sunday, as she powered up the leaderboard with five birdies in the front nine. However, a costly bogey in the par-three 17th denied her the opportunity to win the tournament, and she settled for joint-fourth with Lee.
Singapore’s Koh Sock Hwee finished with a one-over 73 to finish at 15-over 303.
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