Ko Jin-young, Lee Kyoung-hoon look to defend LPGA, PGA Tour titles
Two Koreans will try to defend their title starting Thursday, as Ko Jin-young looks to defend her Cognizant Founders Cup on the LPGA Tour and Lee Kyoung-hoon looks to defend his AT&T Byron Nelson title on the PGA Tour.
With the Cognizant Founders Cup moving from fall to spring, Ko will be looking to defend her title at Upper Montclair Country Club, in Clifton, New Jersey, while countryman Lee looks to defend his title at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.
Last October, Ko won her Cognizant Founders Cup on the same day PGA golfer Im Sung-jae won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, marking the first time ever that two Koreans won both the PGA title and the LPGA title on the same day.
This Thursday, it will be Lee instead of Im trying to defend his title on the PGA Tour, on the same day that Ko defends hers.
Last May, Lee picked up his first PGA Tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, bagging his first victory on American soil 11 years after turning pro.
Lee, who competes as K. H. Lee, overcame tough competition, a crowded leaderboard, heavy rain and even lightning in the final round to lock in a score at 6-under, 66, to win the tournament.
After two bogey-free rounds on the first and second rounds, Lee entered the final round in second place, one shot behind Sam Burns of the United States at 19-under, 197.
A strong front nine, with five birdies and one bogey, put the Korean well out in front. The only crack in Lee's lead appeared on the 16th, when the forces of nature colluded to interrupt his short game.
As Lee lined up a 15-foot putt on the 16th, a bolt of lightning pulled his eye off the ball. A moment later, the horn sounded for a rain delay and Lee had to wait a couple of hours before attempting the ill-fated putt. In the end, it was a bogey, potentially opening the door for Burns.
Lee pulled through with birdies on the 17th and 18th to lock in his victory, finishing the tournament at 25-under, 263, with a solid three stroke lead over Burns. Lee became the eighth Korean ever to win on the PGA Tour.
Heading east to New Jersey, world No. 1 Ko will not only be looking to defend her title but also to win her third Cognizant Founders title in a row.
Last year, Ko won her 10th career win and third of the season in style at the event, routing the field for a wire-to-wire and defending her 2019 title. The 2020 edition of the event had been canceled due to Covid-19.
Other than Ko, three other Korean golfers have won at the event: Park In-bee in 2018, Kim Sei-young in 2016 and Kim Hyo-joo in 2015.
With the win last year, Ko became the fifth Korean golfer to reach double-digit wins in LPGA Tour history, joining Pak Se-ri who has 25 titles, Park In-bee who has 21, Kim Sei-young who has 12 and Shin Ji-yai who has 11. Ko has added three more wins ever since and currently has 13 LPGA wins and 46 Top 10s.
Ko started off her 2022 season with a win at the HSBC Women's World Championship in March. Ko is one of the two Korean golfers to win a LPGA title this season, alongside Kim Hyo-joo who won the Lotte Championship in April.
Ko will be looking to repeat her unmatched success at the event while Lee will aim to defend his title for the first time ever. Ko and Lee will both tee off Thursday.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]