How Lydia Ko revived her career and returned to LPGA glory

NAPLES, Fla. — On a cold, windy, overcast Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship, Lydia Ko resembled the palm trees dotting Tiburon Golf Club—bending in the 20 mph gusts, precarious to the naked eye, but in fact rooted firmly to the earth and well prepared to outlast the conditions.



Tied with Leona Maguire headed into the final round of the 2022 LPGA Tour season (and five shots clear of third place), Ko was a picture of composure, shooting her second-straight 70 to secure the record $2 million first prize, her 19th career LPGA title and her second career Rolex Player of the Year honor.


A narrative emerged ahead of the concluding round that Maguire, who won for the first time on the LPGA Tour in February, would be tough to beat due to her competitive nature. It was on display most vividly during the Solheim Cup 14 months ago, when she won 4½ points in her debut to spearhead Europe’s upset road victory at Inverness Club.




Plus there was her native Irish familiarity with windy conditions. Ignored in all this was Ko’s pedigree, which includes two major wins and a sufficiently windy New Zealand heritage of her own.

Through nine holes, the two continued to dare the field to catch them. But on the back nine, as Anna Nordqvist in particular surged up the leaderboard, it was Ko who remained a step ahead of her competition.



While Maguire scrambled admirably despite looking nervy at times, Ko, a nine-year LPGA veteran despite being just 25, was more composed down the stretch, a picture of serenity and mental resilience in the face of blustery weather and the nerves that attend a massive payday.

As a slight rain fell, a critical moment arrived on the 14th hole, a relatively straightforward par 5 that had played easy even in the tough conditions. With her second shot, Maguire made arguably her worst swing of the day, sending the ball low and left, where it disappeared into the high grass bordering the water, not to be found. Ko, in one of her few final-round missteps, followed by hitting her own second shot right, where it rolled into the same grass. Crucially, Ko found her ball and took a penalty drop nearer the hole. Both made bogey—Ko dropped to 15 under, Maguire to 14 under. But Nordqvist, who had just reached 13 under, made a bogey of her own on 16, largely due to her lack of confidence in making a pitch from near the green, choosing instead to putt around a bunker and leave a lengthy par attempt.


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