Latest LPGA champion Ko Jin-young attributes playoff win to luck

May 15, 2023

After rallying from a four-stroke deficit to claim her 15th career LPGA title in a playoff, South Korean star Ko Jin-young attributed her win to luck.

Ko defeated Minjee Lee of Australia on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff to win the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton, New Jersey, on Sunday (local time).

Ko started the final round four strokes behind Lee, the overnight leader, but drained a difficult, downhill putt for a birdie on the 72nd hole to set up the playoff.

The two players went back to the 18th hole for the playoff. Lee three-putted for a bogey, and Ko made par to win for the second time in 2023.

“I think I was just a bit luckier than Minjee,” Ko said afterward. “I think both of us, and many other players, did the best we could. We were able to finish the tournament successfully.”

Ko became the first three-time winner of the Founders Cup, which began in 2011. Ko has also won on three different courses, the Upper Montclair Country Club being the latest one.

“It’s a huge honor. It’s difficult enough to win the same tournament twice, and I was lucky enough to win this for a third time today,” Ko said. “It means that much more to me that I’ve won three times on three courses.”

Ko trailed Lee by two strokes when the Australian star had three holes to play. But then Lee bogeyed the 16th hole to give Ko some hope, and Ko capitalized on it by draining the birdie putt on the 18th for her bogey-free final round of 67.

“I felt great with my putter all day, and I figured I could make that putt as long as I got the correct speed,” Ko said. “I’d birdied the 18th hole over the first three days here, so I was confident.”

Ko’s struggles in the second half of last season are now a distant memory. While dealing with a nagging wrist injury then, Ko fell from No. 1 in the world rankings and missed three cuts in a four-tournament stretch at one point.

Ko started the 2023 season with a bang, winning the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore for the second straight year. She recorded four top-10s in her first five tournaments of this year and then became the second two-time winner this year, after Lilia Vu of the United States.

“My goal is to keep my swing steady throughout the season. I had some serious issues with it last year,” Ko said. “I will try to perform even better than now for the rest of this season.”