What Lydia Ko accomplished at the ANA Inspiration had even Annika Sorenstam impressed.
With her victory, Ko became just the third player to win the week before heading to Palm Springs, having captured the Kia Classic before winning the season’s first major.
The only other players to accomplish the feat?
Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam.
“Winning tournaments can be stressful and tiring,” Sorenstam told LPGA.com via email. “There are numerous obligations during and following a winning week, so many players have a hard time to keep the high level of golf one more week. The adrenaline and excitement is at its highest after a victory so you need to learn how to reserve your energy and pace yourself.”
Ko did a great job of doing just that, putting herself within one-stroke of the lead entering the final round. Despite trailing Ariya Jutanugarn throughout much of Sunday’s final round, Ko made a critical par save at the par 3, 17th hole, which would prove to be the difference maker when Jutanugarn made bogey on her final three holes. Needing at least a birdie at the 72nd hole, a par 5 that begs players to go for the green in two with the allure of making eagle, Ko opted to lay up.
“The key to be being successful, you have to know your strengths,” Sorenstam said. “She had a plan going into the week and she kept grinding. To lay up on the 18th hole was a smart move as she played to her strengths. You have to know when to play aggressively and when to play conservative. I think she made a conservative choice but made an aggressive shot.”
Ko went on to birdie the 72nd hole to card a bogey-free, 3-under par, 69 to finish at 12-under par for the championship, clinching a narrow one-stroke lead that earned her the first major title of 2016.
“She was patient and she never gave up. Of course she made some great putts at the most crucial times. She let her opponents make the mistakes and she capitalized with a great shot into the last.”
The win marked the second consecutive major title for Ko, who also won the 2015 Evian Championship and earned the 18-year old the title of youngest two-time major champion.
“She has gotten off to a wonderful start to the year. Her confidence seems high, so there will be more wins for Lydia this season. I will keep a close eye on the upcoming majors and the Rolex Annika Major Award standings.”
Ko leads the Rolex Annika Major Award standings, a season-long race that recognizes one of the season’s major champions who displayed the most outstanding performance throughout the year.