That pair certainly had their chances and threatened on occasions but few were anticipating the solid fight that came from 23 year old Japanese golfer, Haru Nomura, who had yet to win on the LPGA Tour prior to this week despite playing that Tour since 2011.
The predicted warm temperatures, reaching into the mid-thirties, arrived, but the expected strong breezes did not and although there was enough of a breeze to still impact decision making, scoring conditions made the quality West Course layout at the Grange Golf Club play as well as it could.
It was, still, a great test, however, allowing for some very impressive good final rounds but requiring quality some shot-making to better par.
Nomura, who played in the final group with fellow leader Danielle Kang, made a solid if unspectacular start to her final round but things began moving forward with birdies at the 5th, 6th and 9th holes to reach the turn at 12 under and at that point she had the lead by one over Ko and by two over Webb and American Danielle Kang.
Nomura moved two ahead when she birdied the par five 10th but Ko drew level when she birdied the par three 12th and par five 13th.
Nomura was equal to the challenge, however, and birdied the par five 13th herself after pitching close and was ahead again by one over Ko and by now there were three shots back to Karrie Webb and Danielle Kang and so the closing few holes appeared to be a head to head battle between Nomura and Ko.
Nomura appeared to seal the event with a thirty-foot birdie putt from behind the hole at the 15th raising her putter in acknowledgement and perhaps confirming her own belief that this title could be hers. She was now two ahead of Ko with another two back to her next closer chaser in Kang who had birdied the 14th to move clear of Webb into outright third.
Ko however was not finished yet. After her approach at the 16th had finished twenty feet from the hole she showed why she now owns so many titles so early in her career by holing that putt and moved within one of Nomura.
Nomura had been swinging the club beautifully all week however and it would again come to her aid when she hit her approach close at the 16th just a few minutes after Ko had walked clear of the green and when she made that she was two ahead with two to play.
The bridge by then was perhaps 'a little too far' and Nomura, as if to add salt to the wound, holed a 35 foot putt at the 17th and the gap was three.
That was the way it would remain with Ko finishing three shots adrift after her only bogey of the day at the last was matched by that od the winner with Karrie Webb finishing alone in 3rd position four shots behind with Danielle Kang, Charley Hull, Beth Allen, Min Seo Kwak and Ha Na Jang another shot back sharing 4th.
Ko valiant attempt to retain title
Haru Nomura would become a surprise winner of the event and had won for the first time outside of Japan and for the first time on the LPGA Tour.
Still only 23 and possessing a swing to die for, it appears it is the belief she has lacked that has kept her back. Today, Haru Nomura gained some of that belief and it may well be that those who witnessed her strong victory over two of the game’s greats (Ko and Webb) amongst her nearest challengers have seen the arrival of a champion.
She had led the two earlier events on the LPGA Tour in 2016 at various stages of those events. Now she leads when it counts most - at the finish.
"I tried hard in those tournaments, but the third round was just tough," said Nomura. "But what I realised for this week is that I need to believe in my own golf and this week, that’s why I won. If I believed in my golf earlier, then I might have won those previous tournaments as well.
She now has that belief in fact when asked if she felt she belonged with the Ko's of this world she responded; "I don’t want to lose … I think I’m better! (laughter) Maybe!"
There was perhaps some tongue in cheek with what she said but it may be that she genuinely believes that she has now arrived at a level many felt she would get to earlier.
Perhaps Ko also summed it up well. "My goal was to shoot 67 today and I shot 67 and I fell a couple of shots behind and you know I felt like I played really solidly," said the New Zealander. "Obviously it’s not the best finish, you know, finishing with a bogey but other than that, you know I played really well but Haru played even better and the roars I could hear she seemed like she was holing a lot of putts. So when another player does it, it’s really out of my hands."
West Australian Hannah Green finished as the leading amateur when she tied for 20th after her final round of 69.
Hannah Green finished as leading amateur
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