Photograph courtesy of Golf Australia
For five hours, there was a logjam. Then along came Jin Young Ko.
Ko, a 22-year-old superstar out of the golfing factory of South Korea, ranked 20th in the world and a winner of no less than 10 KLPGA tournaments, bolted through the back nine to card a seven-under-par 65 to lead the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open by two shots at Kooyonga.
It was an emphatic performance. Having joined the lead with a birdie at the 16th, she hit it close and birdied again to lead outright at the 17th, then repeated the performance at the 18th to go ahead by two shots. She had nine birdies for the day, two bogeys and shredded the more difficult back nine in 31 shots, with five birdies in the last six holes.
Another day, another incredible Korean player… it is a story often told but not always comprehended.
Ko has secured LPGA Tour membership by winning the Hana Bank tournament in Korea last year, a co-sanctioned event. She deserves to be on the big stage, too, and she had Dean Herden, veteran Australian looper, on her bag today.
She said she was nervous today, but it hardly showed. “First time in Australia and Adelaide too, but I hear it’s famous in wine here, so (at the) finish the tournament, I will drink wine!’’ she said.
Her closest pursuer is another Korean, 2013 Australian Open champion Jiyai Shin, who backed up her win in Canberra last week with a 67. Ten players carded four-under 68, including major champions Lydia Ko, Mo Martin and Sun Young Yoo.
Perth’s up-and-comer Hannah Green is on the next line at three-under after he 69, closing with a birdie to be the leading Australian.
Veteran Karrie Webb had a good day, shooting 70 despite a cruel break at the 11th where her near-perfect iron approach hit the flag and spun off the green.
Top-ranked Minjee Lee had an even-par 72.
Of the chasing pack probably the most interesting story was Lydia Ko, the New Zealander who said she hoped her four-under 68 would “quiten everything else that’s going on’’.
The reference came after criticism of the changes of coach and caddie that emerged in Adelaide, just as they did last year. Jonny Scott, a Glaswegian, is her 11th caddie. Ted Oh, her new instructor, is her fourth coach.
Ko, who is winless since 2016, said she felt the criticism was “a little bit’’ unfair. “I would say at the end of the day I’m trying to make the decisions where I think it’s the best for me in my career,’’ she said.
The Kiwi scrambled brilliantly, making a trio of up-and-downs from greenside traps and having just 25 putts, the day’s equal low
The ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open is underway. Head to www.golf.org.au/womensausopen for live scores news, video and more.