Ko played the weekend bogey-free to finish with at -22 and earn a one-stroke victory over Jessica Korda, Nelly Korda, Carlota Ciganda and Yu Liu.
The win is Ko’s third career LPGA victory and second since becoming an LPGA Member in 2018. She is a 10-time winner on the KLPGA, but Sunday’s victory was her first ever in the U.S. The 23-year-old said she felt relieved to finally break through for that first win in the United States.
“Last year I think too much, so I lose a little bit confidence,” Ko said. “But my friends told me, You can do it. Also my manager and my parents, my caddie, all people say, You can. So I got lots of confidence for this year. Really good for third win in the States, so I'm really happy.”
The win at Wildfire Golf Club was extra special for Ko with LPGA Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge cheering her on from their usual perch on the 18th green.
“I want to say thank you to the Founders,” she said. “I wouldn't have won if there was no Founders here, because if they weren't here, we don't have a chance to win on this Wildfire Golf Course. I really want to appreciate the Founders and all the girls out here today and for the weekend.”
KORDA SISTERS TIE FOR SECOND
Among Sunday’s hot rounds at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, none were hotter than those from the Korda sisters. Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda posted rounds of -6 and -8, respectively, and came just short of a victory, both finishing at 21-under 267.
Jessica, who has not competed since the 2018 CME Group Tour Championship, cared more about the opportunity to play again rather than the result.
“I'm always just so grateful to be out here, and obviously playing pain-free it shows,” said Jessica. “I'm so grateful and thankful to be back that whatever I did this week I'm just going to be happy with.”
Nelly was excited to see her sister out on the course again this week. “Obviously at the end of the day we're trying to beat each other, but I'm proud of the way she played this week her first week back, and I'm sure she is as well,” said the younger Korda.
Nelly, who was playing two groups behind Jessica on Sunday, said she was doing her best to keep up with Jessica’s pace. “I have a friend out here and right as I got on the tee on 10 she was like, ‘Oh, my God! Jess made an eagle,’” said Nelly. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Where did she make the eagle?’ I was trying to watch and I saw her at 21 and I'm like, ‘Oh, damn. Need to catch up a little.’”
Competing against Nelly, who already has a win under her belt at the 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, made Jessica a proud sibling. “It's been so great watching her. Just not being able to play, to be out here, just seeing how she carries herself and how she represents herself has been fantastic,” said Jessica. “She's one up on me this year so I got to put my butt in gear.”
LIU, CIGANDA COME UP JUST SHORT
Playing in the day’s final group, Yu Liu and Carlota Ciganda came up a heartbreaking one stroke behind Jin Young Ko at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Both players were looking for breakthrough wins – Liu for her first career LPGA Tour win and Ciganda for her first victory since she visited the winner’s circle twice in 2016.
Liu started the final round with the lead for the first time in her young LPGA career. The second-year player played steady golf for 17 holes, making three birdies and, more importantly, keeping the mistakes at a minimum. Unfortunately, her one big mistake came at No. 18. Stepping to the tee in a tie for the lead, she left her approach just short of the green. After sending her chip past the hole, her comebacker for par just brushed the right lip, the ensuing bogey dropping her just short of that maiden win.
“On the last shot I didn't know what to expect because I don't know exactly where I stood, if I needed to make birdies or just save par and get to a playoff,” said Liu, who had fellow Chinese player Shanshan Feng waiting greenside for support. “So I wasn't as focused as I would've liked. I think that's why I made bogey.”
Starting the day one stroke off Liu’s lead, Ciganda opened hot, carding birdies at four of the opening seven holes and pulling one stroke clear of Liu. But bogeys at holes 8 and 11 derailed her round, and a birdie at No. 14 was just not enough for the Spaniard to catch the surging Ko.
“The bogey on 11 killed me a little bit, but I tried my best,” said Ciganda. “I played aggressive, which is my nature, and made a bogey there. Then hit good shots. Just wasn't as control with my putting on the last few holes, so I didn't make any putts at the end.”
Rolex Rankings No. 9 Jin Young Ko (65-72-64-65)
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE
With her win, Ko earns 500 points and is projected to move from seventh to second in the Race to the CME Globe with 1,032 points
CME GROUP CARES CHALLENGE – SCORE 1 FOR ST. JUDE
The CME Group Cares Challenge is a season-long charitable giving program that turns aces into donations. CME Group will donate $20,000 for each hole-in-one made on the LPGA Tour in 2019, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $500,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Xiyu Lin recorded the fifth ace of the 2019 LPGA Tour season on Thursday at the par-3 17th hole at The Wildfire Golf Club, from 142 yards with a 9-iron. It raises the total to $100,000 donated thus far in 2019.
LEADERS TOP 10 COMPETITION
The LEADERS Top 10 competition awards a $100,000 bonus to the LPGA player with the most top-10 finishes through the completion of the event held immediately prior to the CME Group Tour Championship. In the event of a tie in total top-10 finishes, the award will go to the player with the most official wins, followed by most second-place finishes, third-place finishes, etc., until the tie is broken.
Nelly Korda’s runner-up finish at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup is her fifth top-10 finish of the season as she leads the competition through the first six events of the year.