RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lydia Ko’s streak of sub-par rounds ended Friday in head-scratching disappointment.
Needing a birdie at the 18th hole to break the modern-day LPGA record for consecutive rounds under par, Ko hit her attempt to lay up too far at the ANA Inspiration. She knocked it into the water in front of the green and ended up making bogey, ending her streak at 29.
Ko, 17, shares the record with Annika Sorenstam.
“It was so cool that I was tied with someone amazing and as great as Annika,” Ko said. “I was like, 'Man, I would love to reach 30 in a way.' But as I said, I'm relieved that this question is not going to be asked. I think 29 is pretty good in my book.”
With that closing bogey, Ko shot 73, leaving her seven shots off the lead.
Unhappy with her driving all day, Ko made a frustrating pass at her tee shot at the par-5 finishing hole, flaring it out to the right.
After finding her tee shot in the rough, Ko huddled with her caddie, Jason Hamilton. They calculated she had 160 yards to the end of the fairway, 190 yards to the water. She wanted to hit her layup 150 yards, to leave herself 10 yards short of the end of the fairway. That would leave her 85 yards to the flagstick, the layup yardage she really wanted.
Ko caught a flier.
“I just hit a three-quarter 6-iron, and I would have never guessed that I was going to hit a 6-iron 190, not even if I was Lexi [Thompson],” Ko said. “So, obviously, that was the wrong club at the end of the day.”
Hamilton said Ko asked him if a 6-iron could reach the water.
“It shouldn’t,” Hamilton said he told her.
Ko and Hamilton both thought even if she caught a flier, the rough would stop the shot from reaching the water. Afterward, Hamilton said he regretted not being more forceful about the trouble a 6-iron could bring.
Ko couldn’t believe the big bounce her layup took when it hit the fairway, and that it ran so hard into the water.
The drama was over after Ko took a penalty drop and failed to hole a wedge for birdie from the fairway.
“I believe the story has a full stop to it,” Ko said.
Ko hit just six fairways in the round, uncharacteristically errant for the Rolex world No. 1. Still, she scrambled all day to give herself chances. She watched a 15-foot birdie putt agonizingly go halfway into the cup before horseshoeing out at the 13th hole. She just missed a 10-footer for birdie at the 17th.
“I just really couldn't get my driver going, and when you're in that kind of position, it's not easy around this course,” Ko said.
The streak may be over, but Ko still has a chance to set another record this weekend. With a bounce back on Saturday, Ko can give herself a chance Sunday to become the youngest winner of a major championship. She’ll be 17 years, 11 months and 12 days old on Sunday.
“Hopefully, I’ll get my tee shots together,” Ko said.