Jin Young Ko fired a 2-under-par 70 Sunday to win the $3 million ANA Inspiration, the first major women’s golf tournament of the year, by three shots over fellow South Korean Mi Hyang Lee at Mission Hills Country Club.
Ko began the round with a one-shot lead over In-Kyung Kim of South Korea and a three-shot lead over Lee and American Danielle Kang.
Ko added a shot to her lead with a birdie on the on the par-5 second hole. A bogey by Kim on the par-4 third dropped her into third behind Lee, who had birdied the first two holes playing in the twosome playing in front of Ko and Kim.
Ko birdied the par-3 fifth. Her lead grew to four shots when Lee bogeyed the par-4 seventh.
Ko lost a shot from her lead with a bogey on the par-3 eighth. Her lead over Lee dropped to one shot with bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes, both par-4s.
However, Lee could get no closer as Ko wrapped up the tournament with birdies on the par-4 16 and par-5 18th, completing the tournament at 10-under- par 278, then took the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond adjacent to the 18th green following her first victory in a major tournament.
“I can’t believe,” the 23-year-old Ko said after her fourth career LPGA victory and second in three weeks. “I’m still excited. I mean, I can’t believe it.”
Ko received $450,000 for the victory, pushing her earnings for the season to a tour-high $1,002,273. American Nelly Korda is second at $481,867 following a nine-way tie for 52nd brought her $9,057.
Ko said that after sinking her final putt, she thought about her grandfather, who died last April.
She dedicated the victory to him.
Ko is the fifth South Korean to win the ANA Inspiration and 15th to win a major tournament, the most of any nation other than the United States.
“It is really great honor to me,” said Ko, the LPGA Tour’s 2018 Rookie of the Year.
The victory is projected to move Ko into first in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings ahead of fellow South Korean Sung Hyun Park, who tied for 52nd in the ANA Inspiration, 14 shots off the lead.
When asked what that meant to her, Ko responded, “I don’t know. I’m just try focus on my game on the course. I’m really doesn’t matter about Rolex World Ranking. … I don’t like numbers like No. 1 or No. 2. I’m just playing on the course.”
The new rankings are scheduled to be released Monday.
Lee received $275,721 for finishing second, her best finish in a major tournament.
“This is a really good momentum for me, so, yeah, I’m so happy with this week,” Lee said.
American Lexi Thompson shot a 5-under-par 67 Sunday to finish third at 6-under-par 282, four shots off the lead after entering the round seven shots off the lead in an 11-way tie for 15th.
Kim shot a 2-over-par 74 Sunday, tying for fourth with Carlota Ciganda of Spain at 5-under-par 283, five shots off the lead. Kang shot a 1-over- par 73 to be among six players tied for sixth at 4-under-par 282.