ROGERS – It’s lucky number 13 for Lydia Ko.
Sunday, the world No.1 captured her 13th career win on the LPGA Tour at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Ko carded a final round three-under par, 68 to win at 17-under par for the Championship, setting a new low Tournament scoring record in Arkansas which was previously set at 15-under par. Ko’s victory on Sunday marks the third of the year for the 19-year-old who also won the Kia Classic and ANA Inspiration in back-to-back weeks earlier this year. In the span of just six months Ko has won three times on Tour, which is the fastest she’s reached three wins in a season, taking until August and November to pick up her third victory in 2015 and 2014.
"Yesterday I had a hot back nine and today I had a hot front nine," Ko told the media. "But, you know, I think as soon as I ‑‑ after a few holes, to the back nine, I think the sun kind of got to me a little bit. I could definitely feel the heat. I was kind of grinding out there and I think ‑‑ I hit the ball really well on the front nine but I didn't hit it that well on the back, and that kind of happened for my second shot on the last hole. Not the most fanciest way to finish off a championship, but I'm just going to think of it as me bogeying another hole."
Ko entered the final round in a share of the lead with Morgan Pressel at 14-under par and two-strokes ahead of the field. Ko got off to a quick start, making birdie on four of her first five holes to pull ahead of Pressel who struggled with a right miss throughout the round. But the world No.34 hung in with Ko, bouncing back with birdies at the seventh and eighth holes to remain within two-strokes of the lead but after making four consecutive bogeys on the back-nine, Pressel fell five back of Ko and was unable to recover. She finished 14-under par in a share of second for her second top-10 finish of 2016. With Pressel's emotional attachment to this event, where she participates each year in the week's Pantene Beautiful Lengths event which helps create wigs for those battling breast cancer, which she lost her mother to, the loss on Sunday was tough to bear.
"I had high hopes certainly, and I felt like I played pretty well for nine holes, hung in there, but then I just couldn't keep it going and couldn't get lucky as I had been getting lucky. It just wasn't my day," Pressel told the media as tears streamed down her face. "You know, I know I'm heading in the right direction, I know it's in there. Just got to pull it out a little more often. I really just loved playing here this week in front of my friends and my husband and his crew. I don't know what else to say, sorry. It's upsetting to not finish the way that I wanted to."
Candie Kung picked up her best finish of the season on Sunday as well, carding a final round two-under par, 69 to finish in a share of runner-up with Pressel. Kung moved to the top of the leaderboard in round one and remained in the mix throughout the week, talking about her focus on keeping things simple and really not trying to think about much of anything during her time on the course, staying relaxed with fishing trips after each round. But the heat began to take its toll on Kung come Sunday.
"I kept myself in there. I was really tired out there. It was really hot. It finally got to me today. I think that's how I started the day, how I started. Because it was just a mental mistake on the second hole. I made that for bogey. But luckily I'm making the birdies coming in," Kung told the media.
Angela Stanford, Moriya Jutanugarn and Sandra Gal finished the Championship in a share of fourth at 13-under par, four back of Ko. This week, Gal picked up her first top-10 finish of the season and first top-3 since the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, posting a final round two-under par, 69. The German came to the 18th hole in solo second but found the water with her second shot at the par 5 and made bogey to drop a shot and fall back into a share of third.
"I hit it kind of left yesterday, too, and avoided the water, and today I had the same club and I just aimed right and I pulled it. I can't tell you anything about it. It's just a bad swing in the wrong moment, you know, but I'm not going to let it ruin my weekend," Gal told the media. "I still played really well. So many good weeks to look forward to from now on."
Gal makes her next start at the U.S. Women's Open.