Fires another score of 64 to overcome 4-shot deficit to force a playoff
Two days after tying a tournament record score of 64 on Friday, Jin Young Ko conjured up another 64 (-8 under) in Sunday’s final round to catch Hee Jeong Lim, the 54-hole leader. Lim entered today’s final round with a four shot margin (-18 under), posting progressively better scores of 67, 66, and 65 to put her into position to win her first ever LPGA event and potentially claim the tour membership that accompanies a win by a non-member.
Lim played the entire tournament, all 72 holes plus a playoff hole, without recording a single bogey or worse. After posting progressively better scores through the first three rounds, Lim posted a 68 (-4 under) on Sunday to finish atop the leaderboard with a score of 266, ( -22 under). On the week, Lim’s play was superb. The 4-time Korean LPGA winner finished the tournament having recorded 54 of a possible 56 Fairways in Regulation (FIRs) and 61 of 72 Greens in Regulation (GIRs).
Unfortunately for Lim, Jin Young Ko, managed to pull off another score of 64 (-8 under) to get her score to -22 under erasing Lim’s 4-shot lead. After her slow start on Thursday, Jin Young Ko overcame her opening round 71 (-1 under) by playing flawless golf for the next three rounds, recording 21 – birdies while never posting a score higher than par. It was just good enough to finish the 72 hole tournament in a tie with Hee Jeong Lim. The pair would retreat back to the 18th tee box for the playoff.
During the extra playoff hole, a 430 yard par-4, Lim played a beautiful tee shot to the middle of the fairway. Ko, meanwhile, followed up with a beautiful tee shot of her own, finding the middle of the fairway, settling some 10 yards ahead of Lim’s shot. Hee Jeong Lim played first, playing a hybrid shot to the front right of the green, bounding up the green, before rolling out and settling down for a lengthy 30 foot putt.
With an approach shot of 185 meters, Ko also pulled a hybrid, striking a clutch shot as her ball landed on the right middle of the green, releasing and rolling forward to the flag, stopping approximately 3 – feet from the hole.
"It was 185 meters to the hole, and I knew that Hee Jeong played a great shot, and I knew that if I didn't birdie that hole, that we would probably go to another playoff. So I was a bit more aggressive the second time around. And I also missed the green left at No.18 before the playoff. So I focused on avoiding that same mistake."
Confronted with the likelihood that Ko would sink her 3-foot putt, Lim courageously went after the hole, striking a putt that just ran out of speed just before reaching the hole,veering right. Leaving herself with a testy 5-foot putt for par, Lim confidently converted the putt to finish without a bogey.
Meanwhile, Ko sank her 3-foot putt for birdie and victory – her fourth of the season. With the win, Jin Young Ko entered the annals of Korean Golf history, recording the 200th win on the LPGA Tour by a Korean player, joining Ok-Hee Ku (the 1st win), Ju Mi Kim (50th), So Yeon Ryu (100th), and Amy Yang (150th).
Statistically, though Hee Jeong Lim played a terrific tournament, she felt that her ball striking and putting was not as good as it could have been, particularly on Sunday when she was playing with the additional pressure of being the leader.
“I don’t think my ball striking was to the place where I wanted it to be. This was an event that I really wanted to win, so I really practiced hard with this event in mind. And I think overall my putting didn’t really go well either. There was also that pressure having been in the lead as well.”
Given the success of Jin Young Ko in professional golf with 11-wins on both the Korean LPGA and the LPGA, including 2- Major championships, today was the first time that Ko found herself in a playoff. Despite never competing in a playoff before, Ko approached it with plenty of confidence, knowing that she had been striking the ball so well today and making her putts when needed.
“Actually, I wasn’t that nervous going into the playoff. I think I was feeding off the confidence I had during the round. When I was heading to the tee ground, I turned to Dave (her caddie) and I told him that this was my first playoff ever, and he smiled and said “Welcome.” And that helped me ease those nerves.”
With the win, Jin Young Ko will regain the No.1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings after surrendering it to Nelly Korda earlier this summer. In addition to recapturing the top ranking in the world, Ko also finished the season as the player with the most top-10s, with one event remaining in the regular season schedule. Ko also leapt to the top of the CME Race to the Globe standings over Nelly Korda with only the Pelican event remaining before the season ending CME event.