Ko wins Lotte Championship with tournament-record 28-under

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Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, drives off the 14th tee during the final round of the Lotte Championship golf tournament, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Kapolei, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

KAPOLEI, Hawaii – Lydia Ko is golfing like she is a kid again. In other words, she’s tough to beat.

No one came close at this week’s Lotte Championship. Ko torched Kapolei Golf Club and tournament records in the process. A final-round 65 Saturday left her at 28-under 260 and seven shots ahead of everybody.

It brought back vivid memories of the teenager from New Zealand who became the youngest golfer — female or male — to rise to No. 1 the world in 2015. She is the LPGA’s youngest-ever winner, major winner, Rookie and Player of the Year.

Ko, who turns 24 next Saturday, won 14 times in her first 81 starts, including twice as an amateur in 2012 and ’13. But she had only won once since — three years ago — until Saturday.

“When it doesn’t happen you do doubt,” Ko said. “If I said I didn’t doubt myself at all it would be a lie. I wondered if I’d ever be back in the winners circle, but obviously I’m grateful for all that’s happened in my career so far.

“It’s been a fun week in Hawaii and to be back in this position is obviously super cool.”

Ko came up three strokes shy of the LPGA record of 31 under. That was set by Sei Young Kim, who finished tied with Inbee Park, 22-year-old Nelly Korda and Irish rookie Leona Maguire at 267.

Park and Kim, both from South Korea, are ranked 2-3 in the world and Korda is fourth. Kim beat Park in a Lotte playoff six years ago, while Maguire was in the midst of a brilliant college career at Duke.