The legend of Lydia Ko continues to grow! In her 2nd event as a professional, the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, she entered the final round 1 shot behind So Yeon Ryu and fell 2 more shots behind Ryu on the front after she couldn't chip away at a 2-shot swing on the very 1st hole over the rest of that 9. But to kick off the back 9 she engineered a 2-shot swing of her own and followed it up with another birdie to pull event with Ryu. Even though she bogeyed the par-4 13th to fall 1 behind again, she continued playing steady golf and was the beneficiary of 2 big Ryu mistakes, a double on the par-3 14th (another 2-shot swing) and a bogey on the par-4 16th (the last of the 2-shot swings). When all was said and done, Ko had fired a a 34 on the back and a 69 on the day to get to -11 for the week, while a 40 on the back had sent Ryu back to -8 for the week, still in 2nd place, 1 shot ahead of world #1 Inbee Park, but not the result she wanted.
In a week when Pornanong Phatlum made like Shanshan Feng in overtaking Stacy Lewis down the home stretch, Lydia Ko did pretty much the same thing in Taiwan to another of the best players in the world. So add this KLPGA/TLPGA title to Ko's growing total--it'll be an LPGA co-sponsored event in 2014, and we already know she's good at defending titles (cf. Canadian Women's Open).
With Jaye Marie Green just burning down Q-School and Amy Anderson showing her 20 college wins were no fluke, maybe the Rookie of the Year race for the '14ers will be a little more competitive than most of us were anticipating. Just a little. They have to go from beating those who struggled to keep their cards to beating those vying for #1 in the world. Like Lydia Ko!
[Update 1 (3:17 pm): Brent Kelley notes this is Ko's 5th win on a professional tour--and she doesn't even turn 17 until April! And reader Colin points out she'll be defending this title on the LPGA when that time comes. Other important things to note about Ko's win: she beat the top 2 players on the KLPGA, 2013 Rookie of the Year Hyo Joo Kim and Player of the Year Ha Na Jang, by 8 and 9 shots, respectively. And against much more seasoned Japanese young guns, who had a real coming-out year this season, it wasn't even that much of a contest! Lala Anai ballooned to a final-round 82, leaving Ritsuko Ryu and Kaori Ohe at +6 in T28 as the low Japanese golfers this week. Finally, even though Paula Creamer and Ya Ni Tseng bounced back from terrible rounds yesterday with 68s today, they still barely avoided getting beat by double digits! Again, this underscores how impressive a golfer Ko already is and raises expectations for 2014 even higher.]