THE COLONY, Texas – Jin Young Ko closed with seven straight presses for a 2-under-69 and a 1-win Sunday in the Volunteers of America Classic, her first start since hitting the no. Lost 1 world rankings.
Ko shrugged as she made her par-hole from just outside 3 feet on the last hole at Old American Golf Club, blocking Matilda Castren of Finland, who also shot 69.
The South Korean star won for the first time this year, and the timing could not have been better. She held the No. 1 spot for almost two years until Nelly Korda ousted her last week by winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Ko has failed to finish in the top 10 in four of her previous five appearances on the LPGA Tour. But not far from her American home in Dallas, she thrived. She finished at 16 under 268 for her eighth LPGA victory. She stays at number 2.
“I thought I had a lot of pressure with the No. 1 position,” Ko said. ‘But I made it this week. I’m very happy. ‘
After a 1-hold lead, Ko opened with three birdies in four holes to increase her lead. Castren, who won her first LPGA tournament on Lake Merced three weeks ago, kept her in her sights with a few birdies before making the turn.
Castren was in danger of falling 3 strokes behind on the 13th par-5 when she was in trouble off the tee and had 20 feet left for track figure, with Ko about 12 feet for a birdie chance. Castren holds her par hole, Ko misses and the lead remains one.
The reels were turned on in the next hole when Ko missed her tee shot to the right and could not reach the green, throwing it to 6 feet. Castren had a wedge in the green, but she could not convert for birdie, and Ko hit par.
The tournament swung on the 15th hole when Castren missed a 3-foot set shot that cracked hard to the left and fell 2 shots behind. She came up and down from just under the par-5 17th for birdie, and stayed in the game when Ko missed her birdie set of 6 feet.
Castren has a 25-foot birdie from the back of the 18th green that missed on the right.
Gaby Lopez of Mexico finished with a 65, making her only bow on the final hole. She finishes alone in third place, 2 strokes behind.
Esther Henseleit of Germany had a better chance of winning. She made birdies on the 11th and 12th holes in a row to get within 2 strokes. But on the 14th, her ride went under a tree and she had to take a penalty kick. Then she sticks out a 4-foot putt and makes her second double bow of the round and drops 4 shots behind.
Henseleit finished with a 72 and tied with Ana Belac (68) and Emma Talley, who shot a 63 for her career-low round on the LPGA Tour.
Ko had a lot of support at Old American, with a large contingent of Koreans in the gallery. Ko is among several South Koreans based in the Dallas area.
Ko and Korda will be sailing on big stages next month or so. The next major is the Evian Championship, followed by the Tokyo Olympics and the British Women’s Open.