Lydia Ko, during the third round of the Lotte Championship on Friday, had hit her back-nine tee shot and begun her stroll down the fairway when she cracked open a plastic container and started eating some fruit. Ko would even offer a cameraman a piece, and he dug in, too.
Ko hadn’t won since the Mediheal Championship on April 26, 2018, a nearly three-year drought. Before that, she hadn’t won since the Marathon Classic on July 14, 2016, a one-victory-in-almost-five-year slide. How, you ask, was the 23-year-old 15-time overall winner feeling on the cusp of snapping it all, the drought, the whispers?
Just like the fruit.
Just like her swing.
Just like the victory on Saturday. Ko entered the final round at the Kapolei Golf Club in Hawaii with a one-shot lead, she added to it with a five-birdie-in-six-hole run midway through and she’d finish a whopping seven shots ahead of four players after a seven-under 65, tied for the second-best round of the day. It also extends a remarkable five-round run — in the final round of the ANA Inspiration, Ko shot a 10-under 62, the lowest round in the final round of a major championship, and she’s now a whopping 38-under par over her past 90 holes.
“When you’re in that position and it doesn’t happen, you do doubt,” Ko said on Golf Channel after her round. “If I said no, I didn’t doubt myself at all, I think that would be a lie. There were times where I wondered, hey, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be back in the winner’s circle. But I’m obviously grateful for everything that has happened in my career so far.”
Ko had been close before this week. At the Marathon LPGA Classic last August, she led by four entering the final round, and by five with six holes to go, only to finish with a two-over 73 and tie for second. At the Gainbridge LPGA in February, she led by a stroke after 36 holes before also tying for second. Then came the 62 at the ANA at the beginning of April.
“I know I played really solid golf coming into this week,” Ko said on Golf Channel. “Sean [Foley, her coach], in particular, has been a huge help to clear a lot of questions and doubt in my mind.”
On Saturday, Ko was one under through eight before birdieing 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14. On the par-4 9th, she hit to within 6 feet; on the par-4 10th, it was 7 feet; on the par-4 11th, 4 feet; and on the par-3 12th, she hit her tee shot to 5 feet. After a two-putt par on 18, she was doused with the customary champagne.
“With Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama winning the past couple of weeks and I know it’s been a while since they won as well, so that kind of gave me a little bit of hope, thinking I could maybe follow that trend,” Ko said on Golf Channel.