Ko's putter betrays her in Australia
Jiyai Shin fired a 1-under-par 72 to hold off both 15-year-old phenom Lydia Ko and world No. 1 Yani Tseng to win the Australian Open on Sunday.
Here are Five Things to take away from Sunday's action:
1. Tough chasers
Shin captured an 11th career LPGA Tour victory on Feb. 17 after holding off two top-ranked pursuers. Shin finished two shots ahead of the world No. 1, Tseng, and four shots ahead of the top-ranked amateur in the world, Ko.
Ko, who held a share of the third-round lead with Shin, opened the final round with a double bogey and a bogey, losing four shots to Shin after Shin birdied the par-5 first.
Ko birdied Nos. 4 and 5 while Shin bogeyed the par-4 fifth and the separation was back to one shot. Ko bogeyed No. 10 to drop two shots back, then sank an 18-foot birdie putt to tie things up when Shin found trouble in the greenside bunker for a bogey.
Shin began to pull away after back-to-back birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 while Ko had bogeys on both the 14th and 17th.
For Shin, it was just nice to finally have a win in Australia, where she has a lot of crowd support.
“I have a lot of friends in Australia, and I really enjoy the time watching the kangaroos,” she said with a laugh “So well, I'm really happy to be here.”
2. As for Ko . . .
This would have been the 15-year-old’s second consecutive professional victory after she won last week’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open. The Australian Open also would have been Ko’s second career LPGA victory, after last year’s Canadian Women’s Open. Still, Ko wasn’t disappointed with a third.
“I had a few struggles with my drives, but, I mean, I can’t play good every single round,” she said. “I came fourth? Third? Third in a professional tournament is a pretty good result. I can’t say I’m not fully pleased.”
Ko made early headlines with an opening 10-under 63. The biggest difference between that and her final-round 76 was on the putting green. Ko’s 63 included 21 putts while her 76 included 33 putts.
3. Another youngster
After winning last fall’s LPGA Q-School with Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Moriya Jutanugarn finished her first LPGA start as a professional with a share of fourth. Jutanugarn finished at 13-under 279 with Beatriz Recari.
The finish amounted to a $70,456 payout for Jutanugarn, a Thailand native who, together with her younger sister Ariya, were famous as amateurs for maintaining rigorous travel schedules. That should help with travel expenses.
4. Return to form
Tseng may be the top player in the world, but it doesn’t mean a good crowd following doesn’t still humble her. It did this week in Australia.
“So many players coming out, so many people coming out to watch me play,” she said. “I want to show my best, and I think they give me lots of motivation to play well, too. I want to do the best out here. I mean, I it was great. I feel very warm welcome to first week of the tournament in Australia.”
Tseng made up a lot of ground in the fourth round with her 7-under 66. It was the best round of the day but not quite enough to overtake Shin. Still, Tseng said she wasn’t thinking about outcome during the final round, especially after standing on the second tee after an opening bogey, nine shots back.
“I feel like I just want to go out to have fun,” Tseng said. “I just want to make more birdies as I can. I wasn’t thinking if I want to win. I mean, pretty tough fight, top 10, I’m pretty happy.”
5. Short shots
• Jessica Korda won this event last year for her first career victory. Korda, who mimicked tennis pro father Petr Korda’s famous scissor kick upon winning last year, finished tied for 18th to start her third season on tour.
• Stacy Lewis, 2012 Player of the Year, was tied for 15th at 8-under 284.
• Reigning US Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee, an Australian, played as an amateur this week and finished tied for 55tg at 3-under 289.