THE WORLD’S BEST FEMALE GOLFER CLAIMED HER FIRST
ANA INSPIRATION IN STYLE LAST YEAR
BY BETH ANN NICHOLS
Lydia Ko is a pro’s pro. Funny, warm and
unflappable, the World No. 1 thanked
ANA officials in Japanese at the trophy
presentation last year on the 18th green.
At a mere 18 years, 11 months and 10
days, Ko embodied the definition of a
champion for young players around the
world. The humble and still-soaked Ko
gave her formal press conference in
socks and left the press tent clutching a
“She’s one of the most amazing players
I’ve ever seen,” said Hall of Famer Judy
Rankin. “And I’ve only been seeing her
since she was 15.”
Ko’s youthful success on a global stage
is unprecedented. Nothing fazes her. Not
fame, not fortune, not the Sunday circus
of a major.
“I think it’s because she’s so normal at
home,” said older sister Sura, her road
manager, confidant and best friend.
Ko stuffed a sand wedge to 1 foot on the
72nd hole at the 2016 ANA Inspiration
to make birdie and book her ticket into
Poppie’s Pond. After Ariya Jutanugarn
held the lead for most of the back nine,
Ko benefitted from an untimely collapse.
Jutanugarn, who led by two with three
to play, bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 and then
snap-hooked her drive off the 18th tee into
the water. She bogeyed that hole, too.
It was a shocking turn of events.
Ko, the youngest player to do everything,
became the youngest in LPGA history to
win two majors.
“I don’t feel like I am special, that I’m
better than anybody else,” she said. “To
me, I’m just trying to enjoy playing on the
tour that I’ve always dreamt of playing
amongst these amazing girls.”
Ko believes fun is underrated. Enjoyment,
she says, is at the heart of her success.
While Ko’s approach into the 18th green
will be a tournament highlight for years to
come, it was her putting down the stretch
that kept her alive.
Ko’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, told her
she owed him $10 each time she left a
birdie putt short. Lucky she didn’t have
the problem on the par putts. Ko knocked
in a 16-foot par save on the 11th hole, a
15-footer on the 13th, and 8-foot par putts
on Nos. 16 and 17.
Coming up the 72nd hole, Ko’s drive
landed on a slight downhill lie. She had
202 yards to the front of the green and
Hamilton advised her to lay up.
“It was going to come out low and leak
right,” said Hamilton, who was getting
updates from Golf Channel reporter
Karen Stupples on what was going on in
the group behind.
To avoid disaster, Ko laid up to 87 yards so
that she could hit a sand wedge with spin.
They drew it up, and Ko executed the shot
“That last shot was legend,” said Graham
Hough, a Kiwi who traveled from Auckland
with his wife and 10 more New Zealand
When asked how Ko was impacting golf in
their native country, Jan Hough said: “All
the children know about golf now.”
The victory made it a dozen LPGA titles for
Ko, 39th on the all-time list. She had been
the No. 1 player for 24 consecutive weeks.
And she suddenly became the secondyoungest
winner of this event, exactly one
month older than Morgan Pressel when
she won in 2007.
“The only person I can really compare
her to is Annika in that she’s so strategic,”
said Stupples. Ko isn’t as long as
Sorenstam, Stupples said, but she’s a
Stupples then pointed out all the bombers
on the leaderboard Sunday – Lexi
Thompson, Michelle Wie, Charley Hull and
“Lydia’s style of golf beat them all at the
end of the day,” she said.
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