Golf: Lydia Ko dominates Saudi Ladies Invitational

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New Zealander Lydia Ko is the Saudi Ladies International champion. Photo / LET

Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko scored her 22nd professional victory in a dominant fashion, winning the Saudi Ladies Invitational by five strokes.

Leading the $ 1.4 million event by four strokes before the final round, Ko was never troubled, awarding a final round to seven Under-65s to finish at a whopping Under-23.

Young Thai star Atthaya Thitikul finished second, in turn five strokes ahead of Carlota Ciganda and Alice Hewson in third, but couldn’t match Ko’s smashing play this weekend, with the course record of Ko 63 at the third turn creating the buffer which was simply extended by its closure 65.

Ko played his last 33 holes in an incredible 17-under, carding a staggering 15 birdies and an eagle in flawless bogey-less golf.

This eagle came in ninth par-five today, accompanying three birdies from the top nine that immediately took the pressure off, before she made it home, with two quick birdies on the last nine followed by five pars to wrap up a crushing victory.

“When I was there I was just trying to play the best golf possible,” Ko said. “I knew a lot of the big names were playing well and it’s a golf course where there are quite a few birdies, so I just tried to get my share of it, have fun and enjoy the experience at Royal Greens.

“It helps to get into the final round and you have a four-stroke cushion because maybe we could shoot the same score, but I still have those shots from the last three days. I birdie in the first one. hole and then I had two really good putts for par on two and three and I think that gave me some momentum and I just tried not to look back and keep moving forward. have won. “

While the 63-woman field for the event was lacking by most of the big names in women’s golf, Ko scored her class on the procedures, earning a big payday and adding a second title in 2021, having previously won a race without. three-year victory. with a victory in April at the Lotte Championship.

The triumph is Ko’s first standalone victory on the European Tour, with his previous five wins on the circuit in co-sanctioned events, the previous one being the 2016 New Zealand Open.

With its first hosting last year, the Saudi Ladies International became the first international women’s sporting event to be held in Saudi Arabia and broadcast on national television, at a time when the Kingdom had fewer than 20 female golfers.

The tournament inspired 1,200 women and girls to register to learn golf over its four days.

Ko was hopeful that this week’s event would attract more Saudi women to the game.

She added: “I hope that with the tournament which has been taking place here for the past few years, more and more women have the courage to take up golf and want to come and play at this event in the future. It was really cool to meet a few of the Ladies First Club members the last few days and for them I would just tell them to keep working hard and show the power of women. “

Meanwhile, on the men’s side, Kiwi Daniel Hillier failed to win his European Tour card.

Needing to finish in the top 20 of the second tier one-year Challenge Tour leaderboard to earn his card for next season, Hillier came terribly close, finishing the season in 23rd place.

The 23-year-old couldn’t find his best form in the Challenge Tour grand final in Spain, with rounds of 69, 75, 72 and 74 just good enough for the 36th out of 45 golfers, at six, and moving him from 18th in the standings at the start of the week, to 23rd at the end.

Needing a solid final round to enter the top 20, Hillier managed two bogies out of the top nine, and while two birdies tied him for 13th, he bogeyed for 17th, and for the third time this week, landed a double bogey on the 18 by five – six wasted shots, which would have meant the difference between playing with the big guns and going back to the lower level.

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