Lydia Ko needed both an assist and an 18th-hole birdie and got both to win the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Sunday.
The victory was Ko’s second in a row, the 12th of her LPGA career, and at 18 she became the youngest in LPGA history to win two majors. But she needed all 72 holes to do so.
Ko, No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, made several clutch par putts on the back nine, but still trailed leader Ariya Jutanugarn by two late in the round. Jutanugarn’s bid began to unravel when she bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes to drop to 11-under par and into a tie with Ko.
Meanwhile, England’s Charley Hull, playing ahead of Ko, birdied the 18th to join them at 11 under.
At the par-5 18th, Ko considered going for the green in two, but instead chose to lay up. She then hit her third shot to inside two feet of the hole for an easy birdie to get to 12-under par, making her the leader in the clubhouse.
When Jutanugarn hooked her tee shot into the water at 18, Ko was the winner.
“I’m proud that I was able to make those clutch putts, especially on the back nine,” said Ko, who shot a three-under 69 on Sunday and played the last 41 holes without a bogey. “It’s a pretty amazing feeling. Just to see Poppy’s Pond is pretty surreal.”
Ko made the winner’s traditional leap into Poppy’s Pond adjacent to the 18th green afterward.
“I just wanted to enjoy playing on the tour,” the New Zealand native said. “Just being here and being in this position was a dream come true. For these amazing things to be happening is unbelievable. It also motivates me to work harder and try to put myself in good position and contention whenever I can.”
“To me it’s more special to have just won this event and to win a major. Obviously it makes it extra special that I’m the youngest winner to win two majors, but just to win any event is special, and just to know that the hard work that you’ve put in as a team kind of paid off. All the stats and everything comes at the end. Just to embrace this win, I think that’s the special part, more than the youngest something.”