Lydia Ko weathers storm as top amateur

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012
Lydia Ko
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LYDIA KO: "I am hoping to play well but it will come down to how we work together as a team."

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Lydia Ko sighed deeply, then a smile quickly appeared as she completed her first British Open with a birdie at the 72nd hole, and one could sense what was flicking through her mind in those few seconds.

The Kiwi sensation, 15, had just endured the toughest day of golf in her young life as she battled howling winds and driving rain to post scores of four-over 76 and six-over 78 in brutal conditions at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, near Liverpool.

Ko has a handicap of +6 and regards any score not in the 60s as well below average.

However, the world's No 1 amateur quickly realised her performance was not that bad, hence the smile.

The Auckland player had finished in a highly creditable tie for 17th in a field of 144 in her second major championship - she was 39th on debut at the US Open in June - and had comfortably done enough to claim the Smyth Salver as the leading amateur.

Her nine-over par total of 297 (72-71-76-78) was two strokes better than the next best amateur, England player Holly Clyburn.

"In those conditions, most 15-year-olds would have started crying and just given up, because it was so hard out there," Ko's coach and caddie, Guy Wilson, said from Liverpool yesterday.

"But she grinded it out, even after she made a triple on the 14th, to finish with a couple of birdies.

"She never gives up."

In most tournaments, weekend scores of 76 and 78 would result in an almighty tumble down the leaderboard.

However, those scores were par for the field at Royal Liverpool.

The 57 players who made the cut were forced to complete the final two rounds yesterday, with the second round having been abandoned, and the treacherous weather was matched only by the scoring, with plenty of bogeys and not many birdies.

Ko battled as she dropped from a share of sixth after two rounds - she was one-under at that point.

However, to highlight how tough scoring was in the afternoon, Ko's 78 saw her drop only three places after starting the final round in 14th position.

"I wasn't that happy with my game, but I got leading amateur and that's what I wanted after yesterday, so I guess I have to be happy about that," Ko said.

"This is my first experience at the British Open, and I did much better than the US Open, so I can't say it was a bad day, and I have had lots of fun playing the course," the teenager said.

All players finished over par, except the winner, Jiyai Shin, of South Korea, who produced a simply astounding week of golf.

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She finished at nine-under - after final rounds of 71 and 73 - to win by nine shots from compatriot Inbee Park.

American Paula Creamer was third at one-over.

Ko will remain in Europe to represent New Zealand at the world amateur teams championship, the Espirito Santo Trophy, which will be held in Turkey this month.

She will then return to Auckland to prepare for end-of-year school exams - she is a straight A student - but not before reflecting on a brilliant four-month overseas campaign, where she became the second-youngest US Amateur Championship winner, the youngest winner of a LPGA Tour professional event, at the Canadian Open, and the top amateur at both the US Open and British Open.

- Wellington

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