At 21 under, Lydia Ko entered the final round of the LOTTE Championship with a one-stroke lead on playing partner Nelly Korda, but following a 7-under 65, the New Zealander finished seven strokes ahead of her American rival, and the field, en route to her 16th career title.
The 23-year old Ko finished 28-under par to claim her first win since the 2018 MEDIHEAL Championship.
“Like I told my mom this morning, honestly, before (2020) Marathon (her last 54-hole lead) I couldn’t even sleep on Saturday night. Because even though I had been in that position before because it had been such a long time, I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I know there were expectations,” said an emotional Ko, the former world No. 1.
“I slept great last night. I just said, ‘Hey, my fate is all right chosen.’ I’m just going to play the best golf I can today. I hung in there.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially around a golf course like this – can go really low and it doesn’t matter how far back you are, you can always be in it.
“I just continued to stick to my game plan, and I think this kind of — it proves to myself. I think that’s the biggest thing. I could be here with my team and family, so I’m super grateful that they’re with me along this journey.”
Ko’s 260 total score broke not only her personal-best but also the tournament record. Her 28 under was also the third lowest in LPGA Tour history, behind only Sei Young Kim’s 31 under (2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic) and 29 under from Shanshan Feng at 2019 Thornberry.
In her final round, Ko added seven birdies, highlighted by four straight on Nos. 9-12. In total, over 72 holes, she compiled 29 birdies – the third best all time in a single event.
Despite all this, Ko said she never let up on the gas pedal, remembering her final-round at the ANA, where she shot 62 to come from way behind and nearly catch winner Patty Tavatankit.
“I was quite a ways back a few week ago at ANA and put myself right into it, so I knew that could be the case today,” said Ko.
“So I said to myself, even seeing that I had a six-shot lead, ‘You know what? You just got to focus and do a good job with each shot. You don’t want to make careless mistakes.’
“I think I played smart and felt like I focused until the last putt dropped on the last hole.”
Korda, who started the day at 20 under, finished with a disappointing final-round 71 to finish T2 on 21 under, alongside Inbee Park, who shot a low-round 63, Sei Young Kim (65) and Leona Maguire (67).
Korda struggled on the front nine, parring her first seven holes until a bogey on No. 8, but said she was proud of way she bounced back through two bogeys and four birdies in her last nine holes.
“I’m happy with a second finish. You never complain finishing second in a tournament. Left a lot out there, but Lydia played so well. It was her time,” said Korda.
“But, yeah, every single time I put myself into these positions I learn from it.
“And my putter was definitely — if there is a way for my putter to be dead, ice cold, my putter was dead today. I mean, like it just happens in golf. You have these days. And thankfully I came in with a couple birdies and I fought back to finish tied second.”
Jenny Shin (63), Wei-Ling Hsu (66), Sarah Schmelzel (66) and Yuka Saso, who led after the opening two round, but carded 71-70 to close, finished T6 on 19 under.
2021 LOTTE Championship
Top-5 Leaders: Final Round
Pos-Player-To Par-(Rd 4)
1. Lydia Ko -28 (-7)
2. Inbee Park -21 (-9)
2. Sei Young Kim -21 (-7)
2. Leona Maguire -21 (-5)
2. Nelly Korda -21 (-1)
Material from the LPGA Tour Communications was used to compile this report.