Fri, Apr 01, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Ko in top form heading into first major of the year

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Lydia Ko of New Zealand, left, is presented with the winner’s trophy after winning the KIA Classic at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

World No. 1 Lydia Ko is riding high heading into this week’s first major of the year, but the New Zealand teenager said she is under no pressure at the ANA Inspiration in the California desert.

So far this year, Ko has yet to finish outside the top 15 in six global starts, defending her title in the New Zealand Women’s Open in February on the Ladies European Tour.

She notched her 11th LPGA title at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California, on Sunday.

However, the 18-year-old has not fared especially well at this championship in three prior appearances.

She finished tied for 51st at Mission Hills last year — when she was chasing Annika Sorenstam’s record for consecutive rounds under-par and speculation was swirling as to when she would break through for her first major.

She eventually ticked that box in September last year with a victory at the Evian Championship, breaking Morgan Pressel’s record as the youngest major winner.

With that achievement out of the way, Ko has a simple aim this week at Rancho Mirage.

“I think my goal is to have my personal best finish at ANA,” said Ko, whose best finish in the event was equal 25th in 2013, when she was still an amateur.

Ko’s challengers include defending champion Brittany Lincicome, who also lifted the trophy in 2009.

Last year, she became the seventh multiple winner of the event, firing a final-round 69, including an eagle at the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Stacy Lewis.

America’s Lincicome, 30, has one top-10 finish in six starts this year and her best finish was a tie for eighth at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.

“No doubt it is my favorite stop of the year,”” Lincicome said. “The golf course sets up perfect for my game.”

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