Lydia Ko Claims Second Major in a Row with ANA Inspiration Victory

    The women played their first major championship of the season, the ANA Inspiration, in Rancho Mirage, California from March 31-April 3. World number one (Rolex Official Women’s World Golf Rankings) Lydia Ko, the 18-year old sensation from New Zealand, shot a bogey-free 69 on Sunday to hold off South Korean In Gee Chun and England’s Charley Hull by a single stroke. The win was the second consecutive major championship for Ko who won the Evian Championship, the last women’s major on the schedule, last year.

    This tournament, formerly known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Dinah Shore, always holds the women’s first major of the season. The tournament is held at Mission Hills Country Club. The course plays to a par 72 and measures 6,738 yards.

    Japan’s Ai Miyazato and Azahara Munoz shared the first round lead with five under par 67s. American Lexi Thompson, the 2014 ANA Inspiration Champion, held the 36 hole and 54 hole leads after rounds of 69, 68 and 69. Saturday is moving day for tournament golfers and several of the world’s top female players put themselves into title contention. It was a jam-packed leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round. 19 golfers were within five shots of the lead.

    Thompson struggled on the front nine Sunday, going out in three over par 39. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn made a series of early birdies to overtake Thompson. The tournament turned into a contest between Ko, Hull, Jutanugarn and Chun. Jutanugarn had problems dealing with the pressure of the lead in the later stages of the round. She bogeyed 16, 17 and 18, opening the door for Ko.

    After her drive on the par-5 18th, Ko faced a long second shot into the green from a downhill lie. After conferring with her caddie, she opted for an 8-iron lay-up that left her 88 yards to the green for her third. Ko hit a sand wedge a foot from the pin and had a tap-in birdie. All that was left for her to do was take the traditional leap in to Poppie’s Pond next to the 18th green.

    Fans, sportswriters and others are quickly running out of superlatives to describe Ko. The win was her second in a row on tour and the 12th win in her young career. She will not turn 19 years old until April 24. Ko was born in South Korea, but moved to New Zealand to as an infant and became a citizen at age 12.

    Ko continues to break the record book. Last year she became the youngest female or male golfer to ever win a major. Last year she also became the youngest player to win LPGA Player of the Year honors. Her win yesterday made her the youngest player to win two major championship titles. Ko will try to make it three majors in a row this June at the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship.

    Ko is quickly turning into a major rival for South Korea’s Inbee Park, the previous world number one and winner of 7 major championships.