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Ko falls just short in New Zealand title defense

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AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12: Tiger Woods of the United States reacts to a shot from the pine straw on the ninth hole during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)  - 

Lydia Ko fell just short in her bid to successfully defend her title Sunday at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open.

Two strokes down with two holes to play, Ko, 16, made it dramatic in her Kiwi homeland, making birdie at the 17th but missing a 20-footer for birdie at the last in the Ladies European Tour season opener.

South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee closed with a course-record 9-under-par 63 to win the event at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch. At 9-under 207, Lee finished a shot ahead of Ko (70) and two ahead of Americans Beth Allen (70) and Anya Alvarez (73).

Ko will tee it up again in two weeks when the LPGA stages its second event of the year, the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, an event co-sanctioned by the LET.