Ko wows home fans with New Zealand Open triumph

Lydia Ko showed that she is human with some nervous mid-round wobbles but was able to right the ship in time to claim the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch.

Playing in front of huge galleries, the 17-year-old world number one won by four shots over 18-year old Perth amateur Hannah Green, but what looked to be a final round procession was anything but.

Lydia Ko Lydia Ko (Credit: LET)

Ko held a three-stroke overnight lead after her stunning 11-under 61 on Saturday – which included an opening hole bogey – and extended the lead to five strokes over the early holes on Sunday.

The huge crowds which included NZ Prime Minister John Key were hushed when Ko stumbled with a double-bogey, bogey run on 8 and 9, while front nine birdies and an eagle at the 10th from England’s Charley Hull cut the margin to just two.

However, a three-shot swing at the 12th, as Ko birdied to Hull’s double-bogey, allowed the mercurial teen to power home for her second national Open title in a fortnight following her Australian Open win in Melbourne last week.

“I really wanted to win in front of such great crowds, this is probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen,” said Ko. “It’s always cool winning on home ground. We were walking up 16 and (playing partner Giulia Sergas) said ‘they like you’. I said ‘well, it’s home’.”

“It’s just great, the spectators have been amazing. It’s one of the best tournaments I play each year, the atmosphere and everything.”

Ko shot a 1-under 71 in the final round to defeat the fast finishing Green who shot a four-under 68 to post 10-under.

Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen (71) finished alone in third at 9-under while Hull faded to finish in a tie for fifth at 7-under, behind Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord and American Beth Allen who tied for fourth.

This was Ko’s second New Zealand Open win and her sixth title world-wide since turning professional in late 2013.

“The more W’s (wins) the better, but it was just great, and I think I had a really good break which got me fresh going into this year,” Ko said.

“I tied second in my first week, tied seventh the week after then won my last two events. So this is even better than I would ever have imagined.”

“It’s just great to have won the two Opens back to back.”

Aside from Green’s fantastic performance, the next best of the Australians was Sarah Jane Smith who completed the three rounds at 6-under in a tie for 10th.

The ALPG season moves to a conclusion with the Bing Lee Fujitsu NSW Women´s Open being staged at Sydney’s Oatlands Golf Club from 6 – 8 March.

Although the event is not co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour, the $125,000 purse has ensured a very strong field of LPGA, LET and ALPG players will be on show, including defending champion Joanna Klatten from France.