The victories keep coming for Jin Young Ko.
After starting the day four strokes back of 54-hole leader Hee Jeong Lim, Ko rallied with an 8-under 64, leading to a final playoff against the four-time KLPGA winner. With a birdie on the 73rd hole, Ko earned her second-consecutive victory, and the 200th win by a Korean-born player on the LPGA Tour.
Ko said she came into Sunday wanting to play with no regrets. “I thought, going into the fourth round, that if I give it my best shot, that I would have a shot at winning.” She got off to a hot start with six birdies in her opening nine holes, making the turn in 30 and tying Lim at -20. On No. 11, her ball landed over the green on the second shot, leading to a missed opportunity for a birdie on the par 5. But Ko rebounded with a clutch 13-foot birdie on the next hole that brought her back into focus.
“With the 12th hole, the tee shot and the putting all went as I would have liked, and that was I think why I birdied that hole. And I knew a birdie putt was really important,” said Ko. “I felt that I did not know how the game was going to change if I did not succeed, so I knew it was going to be very important to get that shot.”
Ko ultimately finished tied with Lim at -22, leading to extra holes. Lim teed off first, but Ko ultimately had the upper hand when her approach to the green landed just a few feet from the pin. One tap, and the 26-year-old walked away from LPGA International Busan with her 11th career win, her fourth come-from-behind victory and tied for fourth-most in wins by a Korean player in LPGA Tour history.
“I wasn’t that nervous going into the playoff. I think I was feeding off the confidence I had during the round,” said Ko. “When I was heading to the tee ground, I turned to Dave and I told him that this was my first playoff ever, and he smiled, and he said, ‘Welcome.’ And that helped me ease those nerves.”
Not only does Ko clinch the Leaders Top 10 competition with her fourth win of the season, but she also is projected to return to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, surpassing American Nelly Korda. Ko was No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings from July 20, 2019, to June 27, 2021, a streak of 100 consecutive weeks; she was also World No. 1 for 12 weeks in early 2019.
“I wasn’t too conscious, actually, of the ranking. I always feel if your game is in good form and you keep at it, you can reach that ranking,” said Ko. “I felt if I kept at it and worked hard this year I might have a chance within this year. So I did return to that spot earlier than I expected. I’m going to do my best so that I can maintain that position.”
Lim’s runner-up finish is her third of the 2021 season on the KLPGA. Finishing five strokes behind Ko and Lim at -17 sat a duo of major champions in Lydia Ko and A Lim Kim along with KLPGA stalwarts Da Yeon Lee an Na Rin An. Ko and Kim, along with the event winner, tied the 18-hole scoring record with 64s all around on the final day.
“My iron shots and shots into the greens were really solid. I started off well birdieing the first three holes and tried to feed off that momentum for the rest of the day,” said Ko, who notched her ninth top-10 result of 2021. “But seems like there were a lot of low scores, so I feel like it’s not as low as I did shoot. But to be able to finish on a high note after having a rough start on the first day, I’m proud of the way that I fought back the last three days.”
In Gee Chun and Hae Ran Ryu tied for seventh at -16, while Alison Lee finished in solo ninth thanks to a 4-under 68 to end the week at -15. Ji Hyun Oh and Danielle Kang rounded out the crowd tied for 10th and above at -14. Defending champion Ha Na Jang carded her lowest round of this year’s event, a 66, to jump from T30 to a T14 finish.