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Gutsy Ko wins second major at ANA Inspiration

Ko after her obligatory jump into Poppie's Pond (Photo: Getty Images )
New Zealander Lydia Ko has won her second major championship and her 12th LPGA Tour title with a narrow but gritty win over Korean In Gee Chun and England’s Charley Hull at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage in California.

Ko made a tricky downhill left to right nine foot par save at the 17th hole then from 85 yards or so at the par five 18th she pitched within two feet and holed to lead by one as she walked from the course.

Behind Ko, on the golf course, the brilliant Thai golfer, Ariya Jutanugarn had established a two shot lead over Ko when she walked from her 15th hole and appeared on track for not only her first major championship but her first LPGA Tour title.

Jutanugarn, though, would fall victim to bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes and by the time she got to the tee at the last, Ko was about to go past her with a birdie at the last.

Now it was Jutaugarn who was doing the chasing as she now needed a birdie at the reachable par five last if she was to force a playoff with Ko.

Jutanugarn would pull her tee shot into the water at the worst possible moment and from then it was a case of trying to save par and hold a share of second place. She was unable to do either and the title went to Ko who

In seven starts in 2016 Ko has won on three occasions, been runner-up twice and third once.  Her earnings in the US this year are now beyond US$1 million and career earnings are US$5,900,000.

Her decision to lay up at the par five 72nd hole was one that proved a championship winning one. “I left my drive out a little bit on the right side, but fortunately I was still on the fairway. If I was in the rough, I definitely would have laid up. That would have been really my only smart option.

“But I think I had 202 to the front of the green, and I tried to set up with my 3-wood, and I said, hey, Jason (caddie Jason Hamilton), what do I normally carry with my 3-wood, and he said, 210 if you're on the tee, maybe 206, 205 when you're on a flat lie. Having that downhill lie, I knew if I mis-hit it, it was going to go straight in the water. He said, hey, we can still make birdie going the conventional way, and I decided to hit an 8-iron out and hit a sand wedge."

Ko was asked about her domination of the game and just what makes her arguably the game’s most dominant player and in her typically humble ways explained her thoughts and in doing so what makes her so successful.

“I mean, I don't feel like I am the most dominant player. I mean, there are so many great players. You can see it by this week. Ariya, Charley, In Gee, there are so many top names that are playing great week in, week out.“It's just great that obviously I won last week at the Kia Classic, and to win here at the ANA Championship, but it's -- I don't know. I just try and enjoy it. That's the most important thing for me is to just enjoy it and have fun and embrace everything, embrace the fans, embrace the moment. I said if I do get nervous, it's because I'm excited to be there.

“I don't know; I don't feel like I am special, that I'm better than anybody else. But to me, I'm just trying to enjoy playing on the Tour that I've always dreamt of playing amongst these amazing girls, and just to be able to travel to these amazing places, I think that's what I'm fortunate about, and I don't feel special in other ways.”

20 year old Jutanugarn, a former US Junior Girls Champion, was disappointed but philosophical about her late demise. “Actually it's pretty good, just only the last three holes,” she said.

“I really get nervous, especially being my first time leading. Next time it's going to be so much fun to be there, but I got a lot of experience from this week.”

Chun, the winner of last year’s US Women’s Open, served further notice that she is about to join the elite of the game and Hull keeps getting better and appears on track for a very successful LPGA Tour career.“I think it's great,” said Hull referring to her best LPGA Tour finish. “I can't wait for my next tournament. I'm going to take three weeks off, but I'm buzzed for the rest of the season. I put some good work in over Christmas, so I feel like so far this year, I've had quite a few top 10s and been quite competitive.”

Minjee Lee finished as the leading Australian when she was 26th and Karrie Webb 56th.

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