Woodcock: Ko defeated but on a major track

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014
Lydia Ko
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OUT IN FRONT: Lydia Ko in action at the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona.

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OPINION: When Lydia Ko gets over the fact she bombed a chance to secure her first LPGA Tour win as a professional, she'll be positive about her game two weeks out from the first golf major of 2014.

The 16-year-old Kiwi couldn't keep up with her early pace or that of the players around her, finishing tied for second at the $1.76 million JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona.

Most weeks a two-under par 70 in the final round would be enough, but the world No 4 didn't bring enough guns to the shootout and finished one shot shy of a playoff.

Aussie great Karrie Webb scorched home to win her second tournament this season, and notch her 41st career victory on the LPGA Tour. Webb nailed a 20-footer for birdie at the 18th to shoot a nine-under par 63 and finish at 19-under.

Notwithstanding the fact she collects a handy cheque of $100,720 for her week's work, Ko will be a tad miffed.

She took a one-shot lead into the final round and extended the gap to three after four successive birdies from holes No 2 through 5. A procession loomed and, it appeared, there was only going to be one leader. But what followed was highly uncharacteristic.

She lost some rhythm with her swing and her putting stroke, three bogeys in six holes around the turn meaning she would have to play catch-up on the back nine at the Wildfire Golf Club.

"For a couple of those (bogeys) . . . (it was) my shot making," Ko said. "Then I hit my putts . . . way too hard, so I kind of ran past the hole by four or six feet, those kind of putts are not the most ideal lengths to have for your par."

She righted the ship somewhat and made a tidy up-and-down from the greenside bunker for a birdie four at the par-five 15th to get back in contention.

Needing one birdie over her final three holes to force her way into a playoff, Ko missed a couple of eight-foot putts at 16 and 17, where she made poor strokes, and came up short.

She finished in a five-way tie for second at 18-under with American Stacy Lewis (66 yesterday), Spain's Azahara Munox (67) and South Koreans Amy Yang (67) and Mirim Lee (69).

Still, the Kiwi moves from No 9 to No 5 on the Race to the CME Globe standings, in her rookie season as a professional on the LPGA Tour, and she is looking on the bright side.

"I think I played really well overall," she said, "so I'm just going to take the positive out of it."

Ko has two previous wins on tour, the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Open titles which she claimed as a amateur. While she is yet to win on the LPGA Tour as a pro, she snared the Swinging Skirts Ladies Masters title in Taiwan late last year, just weeks after turning professional.

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And, despite not completing the deal yesterday, there are many things to like about her game right now as she prepares for the Kraft Nabisco Championship in California from April 3-6, the first of five majors in 2014. 

- Canterbury

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