Ko caps a magical April with win


Not a bad week for Lydia Ko.

She celebrated her 17th birthday, was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and won the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

Ko’s monumental week in San Francisco didn’t stop there. She also built her own golden gate. She built a nice little bridge to give herself a chance to get to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She jumps to No. 2 in the world with her third LPGA title, leaping over Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen to get within striking distance of overtaking No. 1 Inbee Park.

“I don’t think I could have a better birthday week,” Ko told media. “It’s just a really special week for me.”

Ko’s triumph was her sixth in a professional event. She builds on a month to remember for the LPGA.

Adding to an April of fantastic finishes, Ko joins Michelle Wie and fellow teen Lexi Thompson in a trifecta of marketing gifts to the women’s game. The trio brings dynamic storylines for the LPGA to build upon.

Ko won Sunday coming from one shot behind Lewis. She won in a dramatic back-nine struggle that didn’t end until she closed out with a birdie at the final hole, beating Lewis by a shot and a hard-charging Jenny Shin by two.

Ko did all of this a week after Wie came from four shots behind in the final round to beat Angela Stanford at the Lotte Championship in Wie’s Hawaiian hometown and after Thompson opened the month beating Wie in a Sunday duel to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Beating Lewis wasn’t easy, but Ko made her move with a birdie at the ninth, pulling even going to the back nine. She made another move at the 13th. When Lewis pulled her drive into the rough, Ko took advantage, carving her approach to 10 feet to make birdie, taking a two-shot lead with Lewis making bogey. Ko never gave the lead back, even as Lewis and Shin pressed her.

With another birdie at the 14th, Ko maintained her two-shot lead.

“She hit every shot she needed to hit from the 13th on,” Lewis said. “I made three birdies in that stretch and she still got me.”

It was another tough finish for Lewis, who recorded her seventh second place without winning in her last 16 worldwide starts.

“Every time Lydia needed to hit a shot, she did,” Lewis said.

Lewis witnessed this before. When Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open at 15, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA event, Lewis played alongside her in that final round. Lewis started a shot behind Ko in Canada but Ko never gave her an opening.

Ko closed hard again Sunday at Lake Merced. A shot ahead going to the 18th, Ko pulled her second shot at the par 5 left, into some thick rough. Lewis looked poised to force a playoff after stiffing her approach to 4 feet, but Ko answered, carving a wedge to 5 feet to set up her closing birdie for the win.

Beyond her birthday, and the Time magazine honor, Ko found the week especially satisfying with her father, G.H., there to watch her win. It’s just the second time he has watched her play in an LPGA event. He was also at the Lotte Championship last week and even caddied for his daughter there.

“It’s really special him being here,” Ko said. “Tears nearly ran down my face after I made the putt and also during my speech.”

It was the perfect ending to her perfect week.