Last-hole birdie gives teen Ko fourth LPGA title
New Zealand teen Lydia Ko birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Ryu So-Yeon to win the $1.4 million Marathon Classic and capture her fourth career LPGA title.
South Korean-born Ko fired a six-under par 65 in the final round to finish 72 holes on 15-under 269 and become the youngest LPGA player to reach $1 million in prize money at only age 17.
"I hit the ball well and gave myself a lot of opportunities," Ko said. "You have good chances when you get the ball on the green."
South Korea`s Ryu, seeking her second title at the event in three years, sank a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-5 17th to match Ko for the lead.
But the teen prodigy responded by putting her third shot five feet from the cup at the par-5 18th and sinking the pressure-packed putt to reclaim the lead.
"I knew I needed to make a birdie," Ko said.
Ko, a portrait of calm composure on the course, could hardly watch as Ryu eyed an eight-foot birdie putt at 18 to equalize once again.
But Ryu pulled the putt right of the cup and Ko was a champion for the second time this season, having claimed the Swinging Skirts LPGA crown in May.
"I can`t do anything about it. That`s what makes it so nerve wracking," Ko said. "My heart was beating (so fast). I thought she had a big chance to make the putt and get into a playoff."
Ko birdied the third, fourth and par-3 eighth holes, then began the back nine with another birdie to seize command, setting the stage for a birdie at 16 and the decider at 18 to end a bogey-free afternoon.
Ko won the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Women`s Open titles as an amateur, then turned professional late last year before claiming her first LPGA crown as a pro two months ago.
Ryu settled for second on 270 with American Cristie Kerr third on 272 after a closing 67, but she finished with back-to-back pars, unable to make up ground when it mattered most.
"The last four holes was kind of the story of the tournament for me," Kerr said. "I didn`t play the last two holes well all week."
Malaysia`s Kelly Tan, Australian Katherine Kirk and South African Lee-Anne Pace shared fourth on 273.
American Mo Martin, coming off a victory in the Women`s British Open, shared seventh on 274 with compatriot Kris Tamulis, Sweden`s Pernilla Lindberg, Australian Lindsay Wright and Paraguay`s Julieta Granada.