No. 1 Lydia Ko wins LPGA Tour's NW Arkansas Championship
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 27, 2016 01:48 PM
Lydia Ko, of New Zealand (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
KURT VOIGT, AP Sports Writer
ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Lydia Ko began the final round of the NW Arkansas Championship in a tie for the lead.
Much like the rest of her young career, the 19-year-old New Zealander turned her walk around Pinnacle Country Club into a coronation of sorts Sunday.
Sparked by an stretch of four birdies in her first five holes, Ko opened an early four-shot lead and was rarely challenged while closing with a 3-under 68 for her third LPGA Tour victory of the year.
She finished a tournament-record 17-under overall, and the three-stroke victory was her 13th since first winning an event as a 15-year-old amateur in 2012.
Ko has set any number of records since taking the LPGA Tour by storm, everything from being the first amateur to win two events to becoming the youngest two-time major winner at the ANA Inspiration this year.
By those standards, Sunday's victory — Ko's 13th in 79 career events and the third time in three years she's won at least three times — seemed almost commonplace for the teenager who has spent the last 35 weeks atop the world ranking.
Her game, however, once again proved anything but common as she left a talent-laden field in her wake.
"It's gone by so much faster that I could have ever dreamt of or ever imagined," Ko said. "... I feel very lucky with what has happened. I'm going to enjoy it."
Morgan Pressel, tied for the lead with Ko at 14 under entering Sunday, shot a 71 to tie for second with Candie Kung (69).
Pressel was the clubhouse leader by two shots Saturday afternoon before Ko shot a back-nine 28 and tied her at 14 under with an eagle on the par-5 18th.
The New Zealander wasted little time in taking control after teeing off on Sunday, breaking the previous tournament record by two strokes and earning $300,000.
Playing in the final pairing with Pressel, Ko birdied four of her first five holes — only settling for a par once in the five-hole stretch when narrowly missing a short birdie putt on the par-3 third. After Pressel bogeyed the par-5 second, Ko went from even to three shots clear of the field after only two holes.
And that was just the start of Ko's final-round romp on a 6,330-yard course she's tamed in each of her four tournament appearances while finishing no lower than sixth. Ko has shot below 70 in 11 of her 12 rounds at Pinnacle, including matching the course record with her 9-under 62 on Saturday.
"I love coming here, and I look forward to coming back," Ko said.
Ko fell back to 17 under with a bogey on No. 6, but she stayed two shots clear of Pressel with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth. She then reached as low as 19 under with a birdie on the 246-yard par-4 10th, well on her way to topping the previous tournament low of 15 under — set by Seon Hwa Lee in 2008 and matched by Na Yeon Choi a year ago.
By the time Ko finished with a bogey on the 18th to finish 17 under, she had long ended any suspense regarding the outcome.
Pressel stayed within two shots of Ko for much of the round, reaching 17 under following a birdie on No. 10. However, her round unraveled with a poor tee shot on the par-3 11th — leading to the first of four straight bogeys that took Pressel, who is still in search of her first victory since 2008, out of contention.
"It's just frustrating. I had high hopes, certainly," said Pressel, wiping away tears. "I felt like I played pretty well for nine holes, hung in there. But then I just couldn't keep it going and couldn't keep getting lucky, as I had been getting lucky. And it just wasn't my day."