Poised and unflappable, New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko birdied the final hole of the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic on Sunday to claim her third LPGA Tour victory and first as a professional, after holding off Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin in San Francisco, California.
The event went down to the final shots and the teen made a 6-foot birdie putt moments before Lewis knocked in a 4-footer of her own to finish one stroke back.
After starting a stroke behind Lewis, Ko birdied three of her last four holes on the front nine en route to a three-under 69 and 12-under 276 total at the Lake Merced Golf Club.
The teenager celebrated winning the US$270,000 purse on the 18th green just three days after celebrating her 17th birthday at the first tee box with the gallery singing Happy Birthday. The victory will move her up two spots to No. 2 in the next world rankings.
The Kiwi won the Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur the past two years and took the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in December last year in Thailand in her second professional start. Ko has six pro victories overall.
Still seeking her first tour win after posting her best finish this year, Shin hit a 10-under 278 with a 68 on the 6,507-yard course.
On Sunday, the Kiwi’s second of three bogeys came on the 417-yard, par-four seventh in which her tee shot hit a tree and dropped into the rough, while Lewis’ 10-foot birdie putt on No. 9 lipped out.
Ko pulled into a first-place tie at 10-under as they made the turn on a picture-perfect spring day.
It was the third-ranked Lewis’ sixth runner-up finish since she won the Women’s British Open last year.
Michelle Wie tied for ninth at two-under, while second-ranked Suzann Pettersen shot a 70 finish at three-over and top-ranked Inbee Park tied for fourth at six-under.
There were two holes-in-one on Sunday: Jimin Kang on the 164-yard third and Dewi Claire Schreefel on the par-three 157-yard 12th hole that earned her a US$100,000 prize from China Trust Bank.
Former world No. 1 Yani Tseng missed the cut on Friday and among the other Taiwanese competing in California, Hsu Wei-ling placed the highest, tied for 35th place on five-over 293, with Cheng Ssu-chia and Candie Kung a further two shots back.
Meanwhile, Shih Huei-ju finished on eight-over, Liu Babe ended with 10-over, Yu Pei-lin had 13-over and Lee Min 16-over.
Additional reporting by staff writer