Birdie putt in playoff puts Ko in winner’s circle

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Birdie putt in playoff puts Ko in winner’s circle

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko twice thought someone else would leave Lake Merced with the champion’s trophy this year.

She was on the putting green listening for a cheer if Morgan Pressel were to make a 15-foot birdie putt in regulation to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

Ko heard nothing.

In a playoff, she could only watch as Pressel stood over a 10-foot birdie putt for the win.

It grazed the edge of the cup.

With the tournament finally in her capable hands, Ko rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Pressel on the second playoff hole and cap off another birthday week in style. She turned 18 on Friday and is only getting better.

She played the par-5 closing hole at Lake Merced three times and made birdie twice, the first one an 8-foot putt in regulation for a 2-under 70 that set up the playoff. Pressel played it three times and made par.

Knowing that Ko was in tight for a likely birdie on the second playoff hole, Pressel missed from 8 feet.

The finish was inevitable. If the South Korean-born Kiwi isn’t winning, she’s always around the top of the leaderboard.

Given one too many chances, Ko converted.

“It’s always a close one whenever I play this event,’’ Ko said. “Last year was the first time that every little shot counts.’’

A year ago, Ko had to make a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to hold on for a one-shot victory.

This one was even tighter, and Ko had reason to believe this wouldn’t be her week when she followed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th by making a sloppy bogey on the 16th and missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

“I said, ‘If I want to put some pressure, I need to make a birdie or better on 18,’’’ Ko said. “Ended up being good for that. But yeah, this tournament always makes my heart clench. I got so nervous. It’s a good thing they’re going in the hole.’’

It was a tough loss for Pressel, whose last victory was in 2008 at the Kapalua LPGA Classic. She had a two-shot lead with four holes to play until making back-to-back bogeys, and then failing to make a birdie on the 18th.

The par-5 closing hole could not be reached in two, so it effectively came down to a wedge and a putt.

“It all comes down to putting,” said Pressel. “She birdied it twice and I didn’t.’’

Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old Canadian, holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 14th to stay close to the lead and she had a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to join the playoff. It missed on the low side and she had to settle for a 74.

Ko, already the No. 1 player in women’s golf, moved to the top of the LPGA Tour money list with her second LPGA Tour win this year.

Ko, who matched Pressel at 8-under 280, earned $300,000.

AP
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