Ko cracks prestigious list after Pelican finish

Lydia Ko's share of second place at the Pelican moved her into the top 10 LPGA all-time...
Lydia Ko's share of second place at the Pelican moved her into the top 10 LPGA all-time prizemoney winners. Photo: Getty Images

The Lydia Ko comeback story continues to grow, with another great performance in the United States.

Ko remains on track to secure one of the LPGA's most prized trophies, and broke into another prestigious category after the latest tournament in Florida.

The New Zealand superstar lost out in a four-way playoff at the Pelican Women's Championship on Sunday.

But the lean years, it seems, are well behind the 2021 Olympic bronze medallist who broke a three-year win drought in April this year and has risen to fifth in the world rankings.

The Pelican was won by American Nelly Korda - the world No 2  - who rebounded from a triple bogey on the par-4  17th. She prevailed in the playoff over Lexi Thompson, Ko and Sei Young Kim.

Korda birdied No 18 for a final-round 69 to finish at 17-under 263.

Thompson bogeyed her final two holes, shot 69 and headed to a playoff with Korda, Ko (66) and South Korea's Sei Young Kim (67). All four set a new 72-hole scoring record for the tournament at Pelican Golf Club.

Ko went bogey-free for her final two rounds, making four birdies Sunday to ultimately give herself a chance in the playoff.

"I played really solid this week," Ko said. "I think my ball striking overall was really good. I felt like I left a lot of putts out there, but this is a really tricky golf course, especially on the greens."

It was the Kiwi's 10th top-10 finish of a season she is describing as her most consistent.

Ko's share of second place moved her into the top 10 LPGA all-time prizemoney winners, edging her past current American player Paula Creamer.

That's a stunning achievement for a 24-year-old, and Ko is also primed to win the LPGA's Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average this season.

Ko has been helped in her bid to win that trophy for the first time. The three leaders - Korda, Jin Young Ko and Inbee Park - will not meet the 70-round threshold in an interrupted season.

Ko - who won her previous tournament in Saudi Arabia - changed her plans once she realised the Vare Trophy was within her grasp. She will meet the 70 round criteria in the final tournament of the season, the CME Group Tour Championship.

Co-leaders Korda and Thompson experienced horrors on the final two holes of the Pelican, squandering the two shot leads they held over Ko who had finished at 17-under.

It was Korda who held her nerve, while Thompson's well known putting issues came back to haunt her.

Ko's rise into the top-10 money list has been phenomenal.

The 51-year-old Swede Annika Sorenstam, who made a minor LPGA return this year after retiring in 2008, is the all-time money leader with earnings over NZ$30m from 304 tournaments. Ko's career earnings have topped NZ$17m from just 198 events.

Ko lies just behind Korean Se Ri Pak, who played 365 tournaments until retiring in 2016.

The best earning rate in the top 10 was achieved by Mexican Lorena Ochoa, who made more than US$21m from 175 events before prematurely retiring in her late 20s.

Top 10 LPGA money earners

Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Karrie Webb (Australia), Cristie Kerr (United States), Inbee Park (South Korea), Lorena Ochoa (Mexico), Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Juli Inkster (US), Stacy Lewis (US), Se Ri Pak (South Korea), Lydia Ko (NZ).

Steven Alker has been a revelation on the PGA Champions Tour since turning 50 in July and has now...
Steven Alker has been a revelation on the PGA Champions Tour since turning 50 in July and has now won over $1.6 million. Photo: Getty Images

Another brilliant finish for Alker 

Ko's performance was part of another wonderful day for a resurgent New Zealand golf, with Steven Alker's amazing seniors form continuing in the US.

Alker finished second to Phil Mickelson in the final champions tour event of the year, for a bumper $355,000 pay day.

Fresh from his maiden win on the seniors tour, Alker had another brilliant finish at the year-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Arizona, close to his home.

Alker, a journeyman on the Korn Ferry Tour for many years, has been a revelation on the PGA Champions Tour since turning 50 in late July and has now won over $1.6 million.

The final tournament was won by the legendary Mickelson, whose incredible surge took him to a fourth title in six senior starts which matches the record set by Jack Nicklaus.

Mickelson shot a final round 65, including a 31 on the back nine, leaving Alker requiring an eagle on the final hole to match him at 19 under.

Alker had already missed the fairway, and decided to lay up because his lie was so bad. He was four-under for his final round, finishing a shot behind Mickelson while keeping some great golfers like Darren Clarke, David Tom and Jim Furyk at bay.

- NZ Herald and Reuters 

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