Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - Page 20 News List

NZ teen sensation Lydia Ko wins Championship

AFP, NAPLES, Florida

Lydia Ko of New Zealand reacts after winning the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

New Zealand teen Lydia Ko parred the fourth playoff hole to beat Carlota Ciganda and win the LPGA Tour Championship, completing a US$1.5 million haul on Sunday that included a season points crown.

Ko tapped in for par on the final extra hole after her Spanish rival buried her approach under a bush, giving the Seoul-born 17-year-old her third title of her first full LPGA season.

“This has been a big year, a roller coaster ride,” Ko said. “I’ve learned so much this year... I think it’s going to be even better next year.”

However, it will be hard for Ko to top the richest payday in women’s golf history: the US$500,000 tournament top prize and the US$1 million season points bonus — an actual box filled with money.

“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen that much cash in one place before,” Ko said.

Ko, Paraguay’s Julieta Granada and Ciganda each finished 72 holes on 10-under 278 to force a playoff staged entirely on the 18th hole at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

Ko had already clinched the LPGA season points bonus prize, edging the US’ Stacy Lewis for the big payoff by virtue of her top-three finish, but had to win another fight to take the season-ending event.

All three parred the first playoff hole, but Granada lipped out a three-foot par putt on the second extra trip to the 18th, leaving Ko and Ciganda to fight for the crown.

On the third extra visit to the course’s second-hardest hole, Ciganda dropped her approach six feet from the hole. Ko came inches short from 30 feet, but Ciganda missed right of the cup and both parred to extend the drama.

On the fourth playoff hole, Ciganda’s approach trickled down a slope and under a lake-side bush in a hazard beyond the green. She took a drop and was well short with a chip. Ko then two-putted from 25 feet for the title.

The Kiwi’s US$1.5 million payday nearly matched her prior winnings for the year, but she said the riches never crossed her mind as she played.

“I really didn’t think about it,” Ko said. “Even playing today out there, I just set myself a goal of making birdies and having fun.”

World No. 2 Lewis fired a 71 to finish in a share of ninth on 284 and secure three season-ending awards, including LPGA Player of the Year, the Tour’s money title and the Vare Trophy for low-scoring average. She became the first American to capture all three in the same year since Betsy King in 1993.

“The US$1 million would have been nice, but those are what I came here for,” Lewis said.

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