Lydia Ko feels under par but still delivers goods

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:02 02/02/2014
Lydia Ko
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

LOW KO: Champion Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko spent yesterday morning at a Christchurch after-hours medical facility with a stomach complaint before playing on at the New Zealand Women’s Open.

Mi Hyang Lee
Iain McGregor Zoom
CHAMPION: Mi Hyang Lee from South Korea celebrates with Kyu-Jung Baek, left and Seonwoo Bae from Korea.

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It was the fear of letting down her fans that stopped an unwell Lydia Ko from pulling out of the New Zealand Women's Open yesterday.

The 16-year-old was taken to a Christchurch after-hours medical facility yesterday with stomach pains and what turned out to be an upset stomach.

Ko confirmed she nearly pulled out, but a source close to her family said a fear of letting down the public and disappointing a crowd of nearly 4000 helped make up her mind.

The world No 4 did not eat for 24 hours as she battled her illness, but still shot a second straight three-under 69 to be alone in second place. She said she felt unwell during her round, but had taken medication and still gravitated towards the top of the leaderboard, behind surprise leader American Anya Alvarez.

It is understood Ko was taken to Christchurch's 24 Hour Surgery, but there was a large queue. A family friend then called another friend who works in the medical sector. They rang the clinic and Ko was rushed through.

She was still a long way from 100 per cent when her round started yesterday afternoon.

She showed few ill effects, though did look low on energy and was keen to leave the Clearwater course as soon as she could.

After starting with four straight pars, Ko picked up shots on the par-five fifth, the par-four sixth and she chipped in on the eighth hole.

She gave a shot back on the ninth before playing the back nine one-under, courtesy of two more birdies and a three-putt-bogey on 18.

She remained confident she could still defend her crown.

"Two shots? That can happen over a hole," she said.

It's surely an ominous sign that Ko can still be in touch with the lead and shoot three-under when she's far from her best.

Her main concern, however, wasn't winning. "Maybe [I'll think about winning] if I do get really close or if I'm in that position where I'm leading. But right now I just want to feel better because this is not the only tournament I'm playing for the year. I've got lots to come.

"I haven't had a proper meal since yesterday.

"It seems like she [Alvarez] is playing really well so I've just got to keep to my own pace and obviously I'm going to try my best to win but you really don't know because a lot of players are five-under and stuff so they could be the one that shoots six-under tomorrow."

There are six players within four of the 24-year-old Alvarez who has much happier memories of this low round than another.

In 2012, she shot an eight-under 64 and in all the celebrations she forgot to sign the card and was disqualified.

She has conditional status on the LPGA Tour and is hoping to qualify for the Australian Open in a fortnight by playing well today.

Ko is used to the big galleries now and it is expected yesterday's crowd of 3891 will be comfortably topped.

Alvarez has never played in front of such a big gallery. "I just hope that they are kind enough to cheer for me when I hit a good shot too," she said.

"It will be fun tomorrow. I've never led a tournament before so this is pretty exciting. But I have to keep my head in the game. I have 18 more holes to play."

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New Zealand No 2 Cathryn Bristow is set for a handy payday and is in a tie for 16th after a second-round, one-under 71. It was an up and down round for the 29-year-old, which included five birdies and four bogeys.

Northland's Caroline Bon is the third Kiwi to make the cut, despite shooting a three-over 75 and finishing on the cut line at two-over.

- Sunday News

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If she is able to, when do you expect Lydia Ko to win her first major?

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