Lydia Ko wins New Zealand Women's Open
Brilliant teenage amateur golfer Lydia Ko has fended off the challengers to win the New Zealand Women's Open today.
The 15-year-old New Zealander has claimed a one-shot victory after closing with a four-under par 68 at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch, finishing at 10-under par for the 54-hole professional tournament.
Ko and American Amelia Lewis were tied at 10-under with one hole to play but Lewis, playing in the penultimate group, missed a four-footer for par to three-putt the 18th.
That left Ko needing par to win and she duly obliged, finding the green with her approach shot from the right rough and two-putting to become to first New Zealand winner of the national women's open.
The victory, in the co-sanctioned event between the European and Australian tours, is the world No 1 amateur's third professional win in the last 13 months.
She won the Australian tour's New South Wales Open and the LPGA Tour's Canadian Tour last year.
The field this week was not as strong as Canada, but it still contained 32 LPGA Tour members and Europe's finest professionals.
And with the added pressure and expectation that came from being her home open, this win can't be underplayed.
A huge crowd followed the New Zealander throughout her round and there was a massive roar when Ko nonchalantly slotted a three-footer for parnat the 18th.
HOLE BY HOLE:
18TH HOLE (finish)
Lydia Ko in the New Zealand Women's Open champion. She made her regulation par four at the last to win by one after Lewis bogeyed 18.
Ko, at just 15, has beaten 143 other golfers, mostly pros and won her third professional tournament.
She's been brilliant all day and while others faltered under pressure, the youngest player in the field didn't.
She received a huge roar and standing ovation from more than 1000 people surrounding 18.
She shot a final round 68 to go with her earlier 70 and 68 and apart from a duffed chip on the third, was a model of consistency.
Ko and Lewis tied with one to play. Ko drove into the rough and was unable to stop her second where she wanted to. She then left her tricky 40 footer nearly four feet away. But cool as you like, Ko saved par. Lewis made her par from a long way away and is heading down 18. Bae missed her birdie putt and needs something very special to feature now. Keating is finished at -8.
Status quo here. Ko doesn't hit the best tee shot at the par three but makes three still. Lewis is on 17 and is a long way away for two. The penultimate hole is a lot easier than the last and if Lewis can't make this long putt, Ko has a real sniff. Bae back within two after making two at 16. Keating's one back and playing the last.
Ko back on top. Lydia Ko hit her second at the short par four 15th to four feet and sank the putt to join Lewis at -10. Lewis, then sinks a four footer at 16 for a par three to stay at -10. Keating remains one back after she too parred 16.
Ko remains one back after missing her fourth birdie putt in a row. This one, on the par five 14th, narrowly missed, catching the lip. She sinks the three footer for par to remain one behind Lewis who also parred 14. Four to go and needs a birdie.
Keating had just dropped a shot on 13 while Lewis made birdie at the same hole to go to -10.
Ko puts her approach at the short par four to just five, but misread the slippery downhiller. She's at -9 and one off the lead with five to play. Bae and Sergas both made fours too.
Three on top. Ko misses a chance for the outright lead. The Kiwi put her eight footer outside the hole and it never took the break.
Bae makes par and Sergas missed the green then three putted from the fringe.
Lewis and Keating are both -6 today and are tied with Ko at -9 for the tournament.
Bae falls back. Seon Woo Bae can't up and down at 11 and drops to two behind Ko and Keating. Sergas sinks a monster for two while Lo makes a two-putt three for par. Lewis is third, one back.
Ko, Bae and Sergas all make fours on the relatively short par five 10th. That puts Ko back on top with Keating who charged up the leaderboard after making an eagle at the par four eighth, making at two at the par three ninth then another birdie at the 10th.
Great golf and in for a gripping finish here.
Ko loses the lead. The tricky par three proved pretty simple for this group. All three found the green. Ko had the longest and toughest putt, down hill and left to right, about 45 feet. She hit an extremely tough putt very gently and it stopped six inches away. Great putt for par. Sergas and Bae both make their short par putts.
And now's where it all gets serious, the tougher, more open back nine on a Sunday afternoon. Big pressure for all, especially the 15-year-old with 95 per cent of the gallery support.
Keating now takes the lead. She's -9 after shooting an impressive 31 on the front nine then making a four on the par five 10th. Leads by one.
American Amelia Lewis eagles 10 to move to -8 alongside Ko. The course is getting beaten up without its usual defence, the wind. Ko needs to make a couple here early in the back nine.
Ko's lead cut in half. Up wind, water all down the right, eight is normally a very tough hole. Not for this group, though. Ko puts her second to 15 feet and the other two are closer. Bae makes her three footer after a sensational second but Ko and Sergas miss. Ko still at -8, Bae now lurking at -7, tied with Australian Stacey Keating.
Ko still leads by two. Three pars at a pretty uneventful seven. Bae and Sergas both two putt from the top tier while Ko's approach was only 12 feet away but she missed the putt. Her iron play is, again, superb.
Ko makes birdie. Lydia Ko has opened a two-shot buffer after sinking a 15-footer for birdie at six. Took on the bunker just short of the green with her second and got the reward. Bae and Sergas miss shorter birdie putts and make par. Ko is -8.
Ko has a tap in for par at the up-wind par five. All three laid up, Ko and Bae made four while Sergas missed a tap in for par and her three-putt six drops her another shot back.
Ko missed the fairway with her second and wasn't able to stop her third as she would have liked. She had the longest birdie putt, about 25 feet, but went the closest. Ko leads by one from Bae and the brilliant Bennett who is -7 through 10 holes today.
Ko and Bae both go close on the short par three fourth but Sergas missed the green badly and got a bad bounce. She fails to get up and down and drops a shot. Bae, from 15 feet, missed her birdie chance. Ko makes her 8 footer. Perfect tee shot. Pin high with a wee uphiller for two which she makes to get back to -7.
A rare blemish for Ko. A second from the rough was big on the short, dog-leg third. That left an awkward chip which Ko duffed. Her next was close and she walks away with a bogey five. Sergas make four but Bae three putts for five. And all three are level at -6
After another perfect drive, Ko missed the green right with her second on the down-wind par 5. She chipped to 12 feet, her third going right over the cup. She left her slippery birdie putt on the left edge and made par.
Bae put her second in the middle of the green and made a relatively simple birdie four while Sergas got up and down from the greenside bunker for birdie.
Ko and Bae tied at -7, one ahead of Sergas. England's Elizabeth Bennett is six-under today through eight holes and only two behind Ko and Bae.
There's still very little wind here and it's very warm on course. The leading group, Ko more specifically, is attracting all the attention and are enjoying a gallery of around 500.
Perfect start for Ko. No early signs of nerves; first drive in prime position and her second, from about 115m ends up about 15 feet short. She rolled in the putt for birdie and the outright lead.
Bae missed the green left but nearly holed her third from the bunker. Ends with par to stay at -6. Sergas was closer than Ko but missed birdie putt and stays at -5
- © Fairfax NZ News
Would you still go and watch the NZ Open if Lydia Ko was not playing?Related story: What if the Lydia Ko-show becomes no-show?