Lydia Ko leads at Lake Merced, seeks first win since 2016
DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) — Days after turning 21, Lydia Ko is surrounding herself with family and friends and soaking up good vibes on a golf course she loves as she seeks to end a victory drought.
The former No. 1 shot a 5-under 67 at Lake Merced on Saturday for a one-shot lead over Jessica Korda at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
Ko has two previous victories at Lake Merced among her 14 LPGA Tour wins, but she hasn’t won since July 2016 and has changed instructors twice since then, along with switching caddies and equipment.
“I love San Francisco and I’m a member here, so sometimes I get some friendly member bounces. But it brings back a lot of good memories for me,” Ko said. “Coming into the week I knew that no matter how I was going to play, I knew I was going to have a great time. The members here and all the fans have been super supportive.”
The New Zealander, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday, hit 14 greens in regulation to match the low round of the day in cool and breezy conditions. Her three-day total of 11-under 205 was enough to overtake Korda, who shot 71. Minjee Lee (68) was three shots back.
Ko has been trying to contain her emotions, but she knows they might come pouring out if she were to prevail.
“I guess if it happens, I’m sure I’ll be super excited. Who knows, it might be tomorrow, it might be the next week, might be in the year, who knows. I know that no matter what number win it is, it’s always exciting to be the one holding the trophy,” she said. “I think it would be emotional and exciting for not only me, but for my whole family.”
Ko followed up her lone bogey by holing a bunker shot for birdie on the par-4 11th. She got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie on the par-5 15th and made a 12-footer with about 3 feet of break that fell in the side of the hole on No. 16.
“You go, hey, holing a bunker shot once in a year, that might come, that might not. For me to have a couple chip-ins today and yesterday is really good,” Ko said.
Korda was 1 over through 12 holes before she rallied with birdies on 13 and 15.
“Today was definitely tough. The wind was picking up in the afternoon,” Korda said. “I’m not sure what golf course Lydia was playing, but she played great.”
Ko won the Swinging Skirts LPGA at Lake Merced in 2014 and 2015. Lee also has a title there, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
“It’s challenging every aspect of my game and I’m sure it does all the other girls out here,” Lee said. “I mean, it’s cold, I think it’s just playing tough. It’s a great challenge.”
Mariajo Uribe (68), Ryann O’Toole (69), last week’s winner Moriya Jutanugarn (71) and Charley Hull (73) were five shots back.
Monday qualifier Annie Park, the 2013 NCAA individual champion at USC who has struggled with back problems, shot 75 playing in the final group with Korda and was six behind.
“I was a little rusty,” Park said. “I haven’t been in the final group for a long time.”