Ko Jin-young defends LPGA title in Singapore

March 6, 2023

Former world No. 1 Ko Jin-young defended her LPGA title in Singapore on Sunday, picking up her 14th career win and first in 12 months.

Ko captured her second straight HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong Course in Singapore, shooting a three-under 69 in the final round to finish at 17-under 271 overall. Ko held off Nelly Korda of the United States by two shots.

Ko, who grabbed US$270,000 for her effort, hadn’t won on the LPGA Tour since the 2022 HSBC. She struggled through a nagging wrist injury in the latter part of the 2022 season and fell from No. 1 to No. 5 in the world rankings in the process.

Ko showed signs of life last week in Thailand, where she recorded her first top-10 finish in seven months and then found the winner’s circle this weekend.

Ko is also the first South Korean winner in LPGA since Chun In-gee at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June last year.

Ko held a two-stroke lead heading into the final round and picked up three birdies on the front nine to open up a three-shot lead.

The lead was shaved to one after Ko had her only bogey of the day at the 11th and Danielle Kang birdied the 13th to move to 15-under.

Ko responded with a birdie of her own at the 13th, and Kang played herself out of contention with a bogey at the 16th.

The play was put on hold for about an hour because of a sudden downpour, but it did not dampen Ko’s final stretch, as she closed out with five consecutive pars. Overcome by emotion, Ko began dabbing her eyes walking up to the 18th green and shed tears of joy after clinching her long-awaited victory.

“It’s an honor to be able to defend this title,” Ko said in a television interview afterward. “I practiced extremely hard for this title defense, and I am happy that my hard work paid off.”

Ko played in the final group with Korda, with whom she’d often traded the No. 1 ranking in recent years. Korda is currently No. 2, and Ko is now playing catchup.

“She is a better player than I am, and I tried to learn from her today,” Ko said of the American star. “I enjoy competing against great players, and we’ve been in the same group many times in the past.”

Korda’s birdie on the closing hole was not enough, as Ko extended South Korea’s winning streak at the HSBC event to four.

Park Sung-hyun won the 2019 tournament. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19, and Kim Hyo-joo won it in 2021. Ko is the first player to win back-to-back HSBC titles.