Ko misses history as U.S. Women's Open bid unravels
REUTERS - World number one Lydia Ko was seemingly well placed to carve out another slice of golfing history at the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday until she stunningly dropped five shots in seven holes around the turn.
From leading the championship by two strokes with 12 holes to play, the 19-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander found herself trying to play catch-up on a challenging layout with little margin for error at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California.
Ko is renowned for the best wedge game on the LPGA Tour and remarkable composure for one so young but the holes steadily ran out for her as she slipped back into a tie for third after closing with a three-over-par 75.
Had she triumphed on Sunday, Ko would have become the youngest golfer to win three major titles, eclipsing the long-established mark set by Young Tom Morris when he clinched the 1870 British Open aged 19 years and four months.
"Unfortunately, I am not the one holding the trophy, but I feel proud of the way I played," Ko told reporters after finishing at four-under 284, just two shots behind playoff winner Brittany Lang.
"I wasn't in any good position after the first day, and even to be leading after three days, I think, was a good performance," she said, initially referring to her opening 73.
"So I'm proud of the way I played. And this is the best finish I've had at the U.S. Open."
Ko became at 18 the youngest woman to win a major with her six-shot victory in last year's Evian Championship in France.
In April, she became the youngest to have two grand slam trophies in her cabinet when she birdied the par-five 18th to clinch the ANA Inspiration by one stroke in California.
At CordeValle, she was one ahead of the chasing pack after 54 holes and extended that advantage to two before her round unravelled with bogeys at the eighth, 12th and 14th, and a damaging double-bogey at the ninth.
"I played really solid for the first seven holes, couldn't get some putts rolling, but just to be one-under through seven, I was in a good position," said Ko.
"I made kind of a dumb bogey on eight and found some trouble on nine, and that kind of took me off a little bit.
"But I tried to have a positive mindset. There were still nine more holes to go, and you just never know what (might have) happened. I just try to put a smile on my face."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both)