16 Feb 2018

Media Release:

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 18thto 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 closing six holes.

Another day, another incredible Korean player… it is a story often told. but not always comprehended.

Ko 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, who helped calm her nerves as a “rookie” on the game’s global tour.

“A little bit nervous last night and then this morning, too, but I did practice on the range and then chipping and putting, that really was so good,” she said.

“It’s gone, my nerves, and then I keep in mind (to) enter the group and then enjoy the first round, because I’m a rookie. That’s it, yeah.”

Her closest pursuer is another Korean, 2013 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 up-and-comer Hannah Green is on the next line at three-under after a 69. Playing on the LPGA Tour for her first season, she made birdie at the last to be leading Australian.

“There’s lots of golf to be played, so I’m happy where I’m sitting,’’ said 21-year-old Green.

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.

“But I pitched it probably five or six metres further than I wanted to, so it might have been a little bit lucky to have not gone over the back if it had missed the pin. Who knows?” mused Webb, playing her first solo event since September.

“But I’m glad I got it up and down, that was the main thing.

“I felt really comfortable out there and, if anything, I haven’t felt adrenaline for a while so the ball was travelling a lot further than I was anticipating, right through to the end of the day.

“So I just have to think about that a bit more tomorrow, but it was also because I was hitting it so well and swinging so confidently, which was nice.”

Top-ranked Aussie Minjee Lee had an even-par 72.

Of the chasing pack, possibly the most interesting story was Lydia Ko, the New Zealander who said she hoped her four-under 68 would “quieten 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 as a professional. Ted Oh, her new instructor, is her fourth coach.

Ko, winless on the LPGA Tour 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.

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Photo: Golf Australia

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