Lydia Ko, No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, withstood a challenge from second-ranked Inbee Park and won the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., on Sunday, her first LPGA victory of the year.
Ko, 18, birdied three of her first five holes to open a six-shot lead that dwindled to one by the time she reached the driveable par-4 16th hole. She closed with three straight birdies to shoot a four-under par 68 and win by four strokes over Park.
It was Ko’s 11th LPGA victory and a timely one, with the first major championship of the LPGA season on deck, the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“I started off really well and then I kind of peaked at the leaderboard and saw Inbee was making a lot of birdies,” Ko said. “And I knew that I needed to focus, and fortunately I made some birdies down the stretch.”
Ko did win earlier this year, on the Ladies European Tour, the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open. In four previous starts on the LPGA in 2016, she had finished second twice and tied for third once.