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After 3 years, Lydia Ko wins again on LPGA

Lydia Ko wins 2021 LPGA Lotte Championship
Lydia Ko strides triumphantly toward her 1st LPGA victory in 3 years.

Former child prodigy, who won her 1st LPGA title at age 15, posts tournament-record 28-under score to win Lotte Championship

After three winless seasons on the LPGA, Lydia Ko finally has won again.

Ko, 23, the former child prodigy from New Zealand who at age 15 became the youngest winner in LPGA history, wrapped up a record-setting seven-stroke victory Saturday at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii. Ko shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 at Kapolei Golf Club on Oahu, just west of Honolulu, to seal a tournament-record 28-under 260 total (scores). The victory was her 16th on the LPGA and first since April 29, 2018, at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

“It had been such a long time,” Ko said. “I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, and I know there were expectations. I slept great last night. I just said, Hey, my fate is chosen. I'm just going to play the best golf I can today. I hung in there.”

Winner Lydia Ko in final round of 2021 LPGA Lotte Championship
Lydia Ko closes with a bogey-free 7-under 65 at Kapolei Golf Club in Hawaii on Saturday to cruise to victory at the Lotte Championship, her 17th career triumph on the LPGA and her 1st title in 3 years.

Indeed, she did. She ran off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 9-12 to erase any doubt, then birdied both par 5s on the back side, Nos. 14 and 17, to add an exclamation point to the runaway victory.

“I knew it wasn't going to be easy, especially around a golf course like this,” Ko said. “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 proves to myself. 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.”

That journey had taken a detour in recent years. Ko won 14 times before turning 20, and she had risen to world No. 1 at age 17, the youngest ever. Yet in recent years, she had failed to notch that elusive 17th victory, until the past weekend in Hawaii.

But Ko said the victory won’t change her, or her outlook, especially her relationship with those closest to her.

“No matter if I shoot 81 or 61, they [her family] don’t love me more or less,” Ko said. “Even if you win, it doesn’t make me a better person. Yes, it makes me a little happier in the moment, but it doesn’t change anything else.”

Ko’s 28-under score fell three strokes shy of the LPGA-record 31 under posted by Sei Young Kim in winning the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. Kim, of South Korea, shot a final-round 65 and shared second place with compatriot Inbee Park (63), American Nelly Korda (71) and Ireland’s Leona Maguire (67) at 21-under 267.

“Lydia played so well,” Korda said. “It was her time.”

Ko earned $300,000 from the $2 million purse, pushing her career earnings to nearly $11.6 million.

“I wondered if I'd ever be back in the winner’s circle,” she said, “but obviously I'm grateful for all that's happened in my career so far.

"It's been a fun week in Hawaii, and to be back in this position is obviously super cool.”

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