SINGAPORE (AP) — Jin Young Ko won for the first time in a year at the HSBC Women’s World Championship and hopes this signals a new start from a year of battling injuries that cost her the No. 1 ranking.
Ko answered an early charge by Nelly Korda, held her nerve during a 58-minute storm delay late in the round and closed with three straight pars for a 3-under 69 and a two-shot victory Sunday.
Ko now has 14 career wins on the LPGA Tour, including two majors, along with 11 titles on the Korea LPGA. She called this win her “most important.”
“Because I had a tough year last year and fought with injury, and not good game and mentally tough and everything,” Ko said. “And then I won this week.”
Ko has been at No. 1 in the world ranking longer than any active player, and she was on top of the world when she won in Singapore a year ago. But then she began to struggle with her wrist, and even taking time off for rest late in the year didn’t seem to help. She now is No. 5 in the world.
Taking down an familiar foe in Korda only added to the moment.
“It’s always hard to play with Nelly, especially on Sunday,” Ko said. “We had a lot of times to play in 2021. She hits it farther than last year, I think, so I don’t look at her ball. It’s hard, but love to compete with Nelly.”
The 27-year-old South Korean began with a two-shot lead and opened with a birdie to extend the lead. Korda charged back with three straight birdies and closed to within one shot, only to make her lone bogey on the sixth hole. Ko eventually restored the lead to three shots.
Korda closed with a 69.
“Didn’t play really well but kind of didn’t really battle as much as I wanted to,” Korda said. ”I just made a couple kind of silly mistakes here and there. It was nice to finish with a birdie and be in contention again, be in the final group feeling the emotions and hopefully I can build off of that going into the next few events now in the States.”
Ko wasn’t paying close attention to the leaderboard and thought she had a one-shot lead when play was halted because of the weather. While in the clubhouse, she saw on TV that she had a three-shot lead with two to play.
“OK, let’s make par, play safe. But it was really hard to make par on 17, 18,” Ko said. “It’s a great honor to defend this title again.”
She is the first back-to-back winner of the HSBC Women’s World Championship and joins Inbee Park as the only multiple winner of the tournament.
Ko finished at 17-under 271 and earned $270,000.
Allisen Corpuz (69), Danielle Kang (68) and Ayaka Furue (67) tied for third at 14-under 274.
Lydia Ko, who took over the No. 1 ranking at the end of last year and already has won in Saudi Arabia this year, closed with a 74 and finished 12 shots behind.
The LPGA Tour is off for the next two weeks before resuming in Arizona.