Lydia Ko's hitting power has not been confined to the fairways at Royal Canberra - the Kiwi teen's bid to become the youngest ever winner of the Australian Open has also generated unprecedented online interest.
The 15-year-old Korean-born Aucklander's exploits at the LPGA's season-opening tournament has captured the imagination of golf followers around the world - and even convinced the United States-based Golf Channel to broadcast the final round live.
Ko starts the final round of the $US1.2 million event this afternoon sharing the lead with South Korea's world No 8 Jiyai Shin, a 10-time winner on the tour and a virtual veteran at the ripe old age of 24.
The world's leading amateur arrived in the Australian capital buoyed by her history-making success at the New Zealand Open in Christchurch last Sunday and stunned onlookers by opening her campaign with a staggering career-best 10-under 63 on Thursday.
Ko surrendered her slender lead on day two after carding a 4-under 69 and recovered from a glitch during the back nine yesterday to post 70 - a birdie on the 18th enabled her to draw level with Shin at 17-under.
The cheerful part time schoolgirl's progress has been closely monitored by ever-expanding galleries and Golf Australia today revealed Ko's performances have attracted massive interest via its website network.
Golf Australia said its websites had more hits yesterday than it had during the men's Australian Open tournament at The Lakes last December.
There was a huge influx of readers from New Zealand who represented 47 per cent of the viewers compared to 35 per cent from Australia.
Ko's scorecard was clicked upon fivefold by comparison with any other player in the field.
To underscore the esteem in which the future star is held, the Golf Channel will broadcast the final round live after previously showing only highlights packages.
"Watch Ko, 15, try to win back-to-back," screamed the cable channel's advertising blurb this morning.
The station does not often broadcast LPGA events live from overseas, and described the decision as "a rare treat for US golf fans".
Ko's precision and calm demeanour has captivated fans at Royal Canberra from the outset and yesterday the gallery following her progress alongside Australian Kristie Smith was at least four times bigger than the group trailing Shin and former leader Mariajo Uribe.
If Ko, who is ranked 30 in the world on Rolex's ratings, wins it will be her fourth professional victory in just 13 starts and she will replace 2012 champion, 18-year-old American Jessica Korda, as the Australian Open's youngest winner.
Ko burst on to the scene in Australia when becoming the youngest ever winner of a professional tournament - male or female - by claiming the New South Wales Open in January 2012 as a 14-year-old.
She then became the youngest winner of an LPGA tournament by snaring the Canadian Open in Vancouver last August and continued to dominate the amateur scene before scoring an emotional victory at Clearwater seven days ago. Ko will have little time to reflect on today's outcome -- the student's next assignment is the Thailand Open which starts on Thursday at the Siam Country Club in Chonburi.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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