Leona Maguire [file photo]. Brian Dempsey

South Korea's Ko defends title in Singapore as Maguire finishes in tie for 20th

Ko became the first player to successfully defend her HSBC Women’s World Championship title.

SOUTH KOREA’S KO Jin-young became the first player to successfully defend her HSBC Women’s World Championship title when she closed with a three-under-par 69 in Singapore on Sunday.

Victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, with a 17-under-par total of 271, was especially sweet for the world number five because it also marked her return to the winner’s circle for the first time since her win at the same venue last year.

Leona Maguire finished in a tie for 20th on seven-under for the tournament after carding a one-under 71 which included birdies on the fifth and 16th holes. She also picked up a bogey on the 11th.

“It was a great honour to defend my title,” Ko said.

“This week has just been too long for me. I didn’t want to lose to the other players, especially today. So I tried really hard to keep a poker face throughout the day and when I finally won, I just couldn’t control my emotions anymore.”

A wrist injury had threatened to stall the 27-year-old’s career since her 2022 victory and, despite admitting she has not fully recovered, Ko continued to prove she has enough class to lift her 14th LPGA Tour title in Singapore.

“This is indeed a very special week for me. It’s my 14th LPGA win but also the most important one. I was injured last year and I fought really hard to make my comeback, both physically and mentally. So, it means a lot,” she said.

Ko made a promising start with an opening birdie before adding two more on the fifth and eighth holes. The only blemish on Ko’s card came on 11 but she quickly regained her advantage with another birdie on the 13th.

Heavy rain disrupted play in the afternoon, as it had done the previous two afternoons, but it did little to stop Ko from marching towards another grandstand finish when play resumed about an hour later.

She parred her last three holes to claim a two-shot victory over world number two Nelly Korda, who also posted a three-under 69 to finish in outright second place.

Japan’s Ayaka Furue signed off with her week’s best score of 67 to share third place with Americans Allisen Corpuz and Danielle Kang on 274.

Korda, who started the final round two shots behind Ko in second place, fired three successive birdies starting from the third hole to pile the pressure on the leader.

However, the American stumbled with bogeys on six and 13. Another two birdies on 14 and 18 were not enough for Korda to capture her ninth LPGA title.

“I’m obviously a little disappointed with today. I didn’t play well and couldn’t really put up a battle as much as I wanted to,” Korda said.

“I made silly mistakes here and there. I’m going to take a couple of days off before going to work on my swing.”

– © AFP 2023

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