Ko wins Korea's 200th LPGA title at BMW Championship
The title will put her back at world No. 1, as it also comes as a back-to-back victory for Ko, who won the most recent LPGA trophy at the Cognizant Founders Cup on Oct. 10.
After a sizzling competition against KLPGA favorite Lim Hee-jeong in the final round, Ko was the one to emerge victorious after the first hole of the playoff.
Lim entered the final round on top, four strokes ahead of runner-up Ko, having played a bogeyless three rounds. Lim carded a five-under, 67 on the first day, then just kept getting better and better. She carded a six-under, 66, on the second day and then a seven-under, 65, on moving day.
What seemed like a safe lead was quickly overcome by Ko, who birdied three holes in a row twice in the first nine while Lim birdied twice. Ko took a solo lead birdying the par-4 12th, but Lim wasn’t ready to let go of her chance at winning her first-ever LPGA title and took back the lead on the par-5 15th, sinking the birdie putt while Ko missed and parred. Lim held on to the one-stroke lead as the two headed to the second-to-last hole.
On the par-4 17th, Ko showed off her comeback skills, landing her second shot from the rough close to the hole to score a birdie while Lim missed her birdie putt and the match was level at 22-under-par.
The two headed to the last par-4 18th looking more determined than ever. Lim’s second shot made the green, but rolled some distance away. Lim’s slight mistake seemed to have deterred Ko, as she let go of her club out of disappointment after her shot as the ball landed even further from the hole than Lim’s.
Regardless, distance was not an issue for Ko, who was able to put the ball right next to the hole, setting herself up for a safe par. Lim did the same, pushing the match to a sudden-death playoff.
It was all down to the first playoff hole for the trophy. Despite her year's of LPGA experience, Sunday was Ko’s first-ever playoff as a professional golfer. That pressure didn't seem to get to her, however, as her second shot from the fairway not only made the green, but rolled past the mound and stopped right next to the hole, setting herself up for a safe birdie while Lim’s second shot did not make it past the mound and parred the hole.
“I wasn’t that nervous,” Ko said. “I told [my caddie] Dave as we headed back to No. 18 that it was my first-ever playoff and he replied ‘What?’, so that helped me relax.”
Ko carded an eight-under on the final round, matching her personal best, for a total score of 22-under-par, 266. The last time an LPGA title was won with a score of 20-under-par or lower was in May, when Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand won the Honda LPGA Thailand.
“I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t best my personal round record today,” said Ko. “But I think I played comfortably because I didn’t think I would win having entered the final round four shots behind Lim.”
Lim is a great player with strong fundamentals. I am happy to have won, but at the same time I had also wished that Lim would play well here and maybe even come on the LPGA Tour next season. I think I was very lucky to win today.”
Ko has now won Korea’s last four LPGA titles, the Volunteers of America Classic, the Cambia Portland Classic, the Cognizant Founders Cup and now the BMW Championship, which is Korea's 200th LPGA title since Ku Ok-hee won the Standard Register Turquoise Classic on March 27, 1988.
Ko Woo-soon followed Ku with two wins in 1994 and 1995 at the Toray Japan Queens Cup, becoming the first Korean LPGA non-member to win an LPGA title.
If Lim had won the event, she would have been the 16th Korean non-member to have won an LPGA title, and both BMW titles would have belonged to a non-member as defending champion Jang Ha-na won the BMW Championship in 2019 as a KLPGA Tour golfer.
Ko now ties with Shin Ji-yai for the fourth-most wins by a Korean golfer on the LPGA, with 11.
Ko will play the two LPGA tournaments left this season, the Pelican Women’s Championship and the CME Group Tour Championship in November.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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