Any lingering doubts about whether Lydia Ko was ready for the pro ranks were answered emphatically Sunday when she closed with a 6-under 64 to defend her title at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
In a rout.
The 16-year-old New Zealander was already the youngest winner in LPGA history, and she now sits 1-2 on the list after her five-shot victory Sunday over Karine Icher. She is also the first player in nearly two years to successfully defend an LPGA title; Yani Tseng was the last to go back-to-back (2010 and ’11 Women’s British Open).
“I’m pretty surprised,” Ko said afterward, “but I played some really good golf out there, so I was really happy about that. My goal today was to shoot 5 under and just play my own game. If somebody else shot better, then I can’t do anything about it.”
They didn’t, not even close, as her final-round 64 was the lowest score of the day by three shots.
With this victory, Ko is projected to move from No. 19 to No. 7 in the latest Rolex World Rankings. The teen phenom hasn’t missed the cut in any of her 14 LPGA starts in 2012 and ’13.
Ko was one shot back of overnight leader Caroline Hedwall but pulled ahead with three birdies in the first four holes and a front-nine 30. Her path to the winner’s circle was decidedly easier once closest pursuer Suzann Pettersen made a double-bogey 7 on the 14th hole, opening up a five-shot lead.
Last year at Vancouver Golf Club, Ko won by three shots over Inbee Park to become the youngest winner in LPGA history. At 15 years, 4 months and 2 days, she eclipsed the previous record set by Lexi Thompson, who was 16 when she won the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic.
This Ko victory, at 15-under 265, came at Royal Mayfair Golf Club. It was her fourth career triumph at a professional event, following victories at the 2012 New South Wales Open, 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open and 2013 ISPS Handa Women’s New Zealand Open.
Because of her amateur status, Ko has been unable to claim about $600,000 in prize money at this event.
Last month, GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell reported that Ko’s family had already begun researching the possibility of seeking a waiver of the LPGA’s policy requiring its members to be at least 18 years old. Though Ko is interested in a college education, it’s still possible for a player to play the tour while pursuing a college degree.
After winning the 2011 Navistar, Thompson, then 16, petitioned the tour and was granted membership two weeks after her victory, with membership deferred to the start of the 2012 season.