Lydia Ko wins LPGA Taiwan to regain No. 1 spot in world

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) Lydia Ko ran away with the LPGA Taiwan Championship on Sunday to regain the No. 1 spot in the world ranking.

The 18-year-old New Zealander holed a 30-yard pitch for eagle on the par-5 12th and finished with a 7-under 65 in sunny, breezy conditions at Miramar for a nine-stroke victory.

Ko took the top spot in the world from South Korea’s Inbee Park with her fifth LPGA Tour victory of the season and the 10th of her career. Park skipped her title defense at Miramar to play in a Korea LPGA event, where she tied for second Sunday.

Ko took the top spot from Park with a second-place tie in January in the season-opening event in Florida, and Park moved back in front with her major victory in the Women’s PGA Championship in June in New York.

At 18 years, 6 months, 1 day, Ko is the youngest player to win 10 events on any major tour. Horton Smith set the PGA Tour mark of 21 years, 7 months in 1929, and Nancy Lopez set the previous LPGA Tour record in 1979 at 22 years, 2 months, 5 days. Ko won her first LPGA Tour title as an amateur in the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open at a record 15 years, 4 months, 2 days.

Ko broke ties with Park for the tour victory lead and the No. 1 spot in the player of the year points race, and earned $300,000 to increase her tour-leading total to $2,716,753.

Ko finished at 20-under 268 after opening with rounds of 69, 67 and 67 to take a four-stroke lead into the final day. South Koreans So Yeon Ryu and Eun-Hee Ji tied for second.

Ko birdied four of the six holes, bogeyed the par-3 seventh, and opened a seven-shot lead with the eagle on 12. She added birdies on the par-3 14th and par-5 18th, chipping to a foot on the last.

The South Korean-born teen has three victories in her last five starts. She won in Canada and France – where she became the youngest major champion – in consecutive starts, tied for second two weeks ago in Malaysia and tied for fourth last week in South Korea.

In addition to her 10 LPGA Tour titles, Ko has four other worldwide victories, including a 2013 KLPGA tournament at Miramar and a Ladies European Tour event this year in New Zealand.

Ryu shot a 68, and Ji had a 70. England’s Charley Hull was fourth at 10 under after a 70.

The tournament was the third in the five-event Asian Swing. The Blue Bay LPGA is next week in China, followed by the Japan Classic.