NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Lydia Ko hit a fairway metal to 8 feet to set up the birdie she and Jason Day needed to win the Grant Thornton Invitational on Sunday. They closed with a 6-under 66 in modified fourballs to capture the first mixed-team event in 24 years.
Playing the par-5 17th hole, Ko and Day were tied with the Canadian duo of Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson, who had to settle for two closing pars and a 63.
The format allowed for both players to hit tee shots, then switch to the other player’s golf ball and finish out the hole. Day was in a bunker left of the green at the par-5 17th, no easy up-and-down. Ko had 208 into a slight wind and her fairway metal never left its target.
“That is so nice,” Day said as Ko’s shot was in the air. It landed near the hole and rolled out about 8 feet. Her eagle putt never had a chance, but the hard work was done. Both secured easy pars on the 18th to finish at 26-under 190.
“It’s weird because that felt like the most stress-free win, because I knew she was going to step up in the end,” Day said.
That she did, and it allowed Ko to cap off an otherwise poor year on a winning note. Ko was the Race to CME Globe champion on the LPGA Tour last year at Tiburon. This year, she failed to be among the top 60 who returned as she went winless — until Sunday.
It was the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA had a mixed-team event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, and players on both tours spoke endlessly about looking forward to the next one.
Conners holed out from the fairway for eagle on the ninth hole and briefly took the lead until Day made a 15-foot birdie on the 12th. They stayed close the rest of the way.
“We both did a pretty good job of getting the ball in play off the tee,” Conners said. “There’s a few shots we’d both like to have back throughout the day. But we fought hard and gave ourselves a lot of chances.”
They failed to birdie the 17th when Henderson pulled her second shot well left of the green into a waste area, and Conners came up short of the green and couldn’t get up-and-down.
Ludvig Aberg, the sensational rookie to won on the PGA Tour and European tour and played in the Ryder Cup since turning pro in June, teamed with fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom to post a 60 in the final round. They also briefly had the lead, but ran out of holes and finished third, two shots behind.
Tony Finau and Nelly Korda didn’t make birdie until the sixth hole. They closed with two birdies for a 67 and tied for fourth with Denny McCarthy and Megan Khang (65).