Lydia Ko has to settle for second at NZ Open

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 16:56 02/02/2014

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Korean golfer Mi Hyang Lee has upstaged Lydia Ko to win the New Zealand Women's Open with a sensational, final round of nine-under 63.

Three players, including Ko, had an opportunity to force a playoff with Lee by making a birdie on the tough par-four 18th at the Clearwater Golf Course, but all three missed.

Overnight leader Anya Alvarez and Beth Allen both missed the green and then their chips while Ko missed a crucial 20-footer.

A gallery of nearly 5000 around the 18th at Clearwater collectively groaned as the 16-year-old's putt fell short.

The 20-year-old Lee broke the Clearwater course record to win the event, leaping 21 places up the leaderboard with her final round fireworks to win by one.

She made seven birdies and an eagle to get from even par through 36 holes to a nine-under total.

Ko finished second by herself after shooting a two-under 70 on the final day.

Lee had an eagle on the par-five second to jump-start her round and with two more birdies, turned at four-under.

Further birdies at 10 and 11 had her within sight of the leaders, before three more on the bounce from 14 through 16.

While Ko and Alvarez were effectively match-playing through their final round, Lee sneaked past them.

She could have extended her lead further too but missed a 12-foot putt on 18.

Allen too looked gone for all money, but rushed back into contention. She had reason to be upset too as the Clearwater gallery's etiquette interfered.

Standing on the fifth tee, Allen stopped her swing as an eager punter snapped a photo. After a polite word from Allen and a stern word from her caddy, the amateur photographer backed away only for Allen to hit her tee shot well out of bounds.

She recovered somewhat, making four with her second ball for a bogey, but those two shots proved costly.

Ko started the day two off the pace, but dropped a shot on the first.

She stayed within touch of the top throughout, but was unable to sink enough putts.

Before today Lee featured in no-one's thinking. The world No 265 was eight shots off the lead at the start of day having shot two even-par 72s in the first two rounds.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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