Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko has kicked off her 2023 in ideal fashion, winning the Saudi Ladies International for the second time.
The World No.1 trailed American Lilia Vu by a single shot heading into the final round but fired a four-under par 68 to clinch the title, finishing on 21-under overall for the tournament.
Ko was tied with Vu and India’s Aditi Ashok, until a birdie at the 17th hole edged her clear of her rivals – one of five during her round.
Ashok finished second with her score of 68, while Vu carded a one-under 71, leaving her tied for third with Belgium’s Manon de Roey and American Lexi Thompson.
The win is Ko’s 26th of her career and seventh on the Ladies European Tour, pocketing her a winner’s cheque of NZ$1.2 million.
“I’m two for two on this golf course,” Ko she told the Ladies European Tour website after her win. “Clearly something is going for me.
“This is a golf course where, in the last few days and when I played in 2021, there were a few players that went from the back that would shoot low scores, so I just wanted to focus on my game.
“I don’t think I was setting myself up for a lot of birdie opportunities on the front nine, but I knew that every hole could be a birdie opportunity, so it was that mindset and I wanted to be aggressive.
“The 18th hole was a lot uglier than I would have liked to picture, but in the end it’s definitely nice to get the win this week.”
Ko began her day with a birdie but stumbled with a bogey on the second. She recovered with a birdie at the second, then added three more on the back nine, before the decisive putt came at the 17th.
“With this pin position I knew it would be tricky, but I just wanted to hit a couple of good shots,” she explained.
“I had a really good second shot to set myself up for a wedge coming in. It was a little bit more stressful than I would’ve liked, but it doesn’t matter how you get it done.
“I’ve just been very grateful. A lot of great things happening, especially in the last few months again and again. You don’t know if this is real or not, but I’ve been trying to enjoy being out on the golf course.
“I’m playing with the world’s best. The field this week was really good, so I knew it was going to be a challenge.
“The first one of the year is really hard because you don’t have anything to base yourself off. You don’t know if you’re going to play well or badly. The start definitely helped, I stayed really patient and I was not as nervous as I thought I would be.”
Ko now heads to Thailand to play on the LPGA Tour.