Lydia Ko etched her name into the record books once again with her dramatic victory and second major championship title at the ANA Inspiration. Ko birdied the 72nd hole to get to 12-under par and ﬁnished one shot ahead of Charley Hull and In Gee Chun. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, who looked like she had the win locked up with three holes to play, bogeyed her ﬁnal three holes to ﬁnish fourth at 10-under par.
With her win, Ko becomes the youngest two-time major winner in history (18y/11m/9d) and the youngest male or female with two major wins since Young Tom Morris in 1869. It is her 12th career LPGA victory and second this season, having won last week’s Kia Classic. She made history with her ﬁrst major win last September at the Evian Championship but said the second was just as sweet. She closed with a ﬁnal-round, bogey-free 69.
“It’s amazing. You know, you can’t really rank them,” said Ko. “Every one of them is special, and every event is so diﬀerent, so unique, and I think obviously winning this event is great, but obviously jumping into the Poppies Pond, that kind of tradition will deﬁnitely be one of the highlights of my career. But I’ve never really played well at this course before, so just to know that, hey, I can still play well at a course that I haven’t really played well before I think gives me the conﬁdence.”
Ko started the day just one shot behind third-round leader Lexi Thompson and capitalized early on Thompson’s shaky start, making birdies on No. 5 and 8 to take the solo lead at 11-under par. But a mid-round surge of three-consecutive
birdies by Jutanugarn and a nine-hole streak with no birdies for Ko changed the momentum. Jutanugarn walked to the 16th tee with a two-shot lead but poor tee shots on both the 16th and 17th holes led to bogeys and dropped her to 11-under and into a tie with Charley Hull, who was in the clubhouse, and Ko, who was on No. 18.
Ko had made clutch par putts throughout the day but said her par putt on the 17th was the most crucial in her victory.
“Probably 17 because that’s when I ﬁrst really got to see the scoreboard and where I was positioned, what I needed to do,” said Ko. “Obviously making that putt on 11 and 13 was crucial, too, but just not knowing anything, I wanted to focus on my game and just what I could control, but on 17 I knew what I needed to do. Something like a miracle needed to happen, so I think 17 was probably the most crucial putt.”
Knowing she needed to birdie the last to have a chance at the outright victory, Ko stuck her third shot on the par-5 18th to 16 inches to set her up for the go-ahead birdie and to ﬁnish at 12-under par. She said it might ranked as one of the best shots of her career considering the circumstance.
“I mean, it would be up there. Every shot is special in its own way, like every win is special, because every tournament is so diﬀerent,” said Ko. “But just playing the 72nd hole, birdieing the last hole, that’s always a good feeling. Obviously for that shot to mean so much that I would win the event, that makes it extra special. But I obviously laid up to the right number and hit it to the exactly right spot. But I thought it was going to be a little short, but with the greens ﬁrming up, it ended up being perfect.”
Jutanugarn hit another poor tee shot on the ﬁnal hole, this one ﬁnding the water on the left side. The 20-year old bogeyed the ﬁnal hole to drop to 10-under par.
“Actually it’s pretty good, just only the last three holes,” said Jutanugarn. “I really get nervous, especially being my ﬁrst time leading. Next time it’s going to be so much fun to be there, but I got a lot of experience from this week.”
Breaking another age record has become ho-hum business for Ko and she said the extra records are just the icing on top of the actual wins.
“To me it’s more special to have just won this event and to win a major,” said Ko. “Obviously it makes it extra special that I’m the youngest winner to win two majors, but just to win any event is special, and just to know that the hard work that you’ve put in as a team kind of paid oﬀ. All the stats and everything comes at the end. Just to embrace this win, I think that’s the special part, more than the youngest something.”
CAREER WEEK FOR HULL
Charley Hull nearly won the whole thing, but her runner-up ﬁnish at the ANA Inspiration also marked her career-best ﬁnish on the LPGA. Hull shot a ﬁnal-round, 3-under 69 to ﬁnish one shot behind Ko and in a tie for second with In Gee Chun.
“I feel like I’ve been playing great all season, like I put a lot of good work in over Christmas and over new year, so I feel conﬁdent in my game,” said Hull. “I feel like I’m in a good place outside of golf, as well. Like with my friends, I feel like that helps me relax on the golf course, also.”
Hull was 2-over through four holes of her ﬁnal round but rallied on the back nine with four birdies. She said delivering down the stretch and under pressure was a huge takeaway from the week.
“I’m happy because I played some great golf on that back nine. It kind of started from the ninth hole where I made birdie there,” said Hull. “I’m happy. I feel like I can — I know I can play well under pressure now when I have to get it going,
I think, so it kind of helps me with that, making birdies in when you’re down, and that’s what I kind of did out there today. I’m happy I holed that putt on the last, and I’m proud of myself. It feels great. Lydia hit a great shot into the last, and she should be proud of herself.”
Hull said she’ll take a short break after this week and looks forward to continuing her strong play.
“I think it’s great. I can’t wait for my next tournament,” said Hull. “I’m going to take three weeks oﬀ, but I’m buzzed for the rest of the season.”