EDMONTON - Lydia Ko put on a dominant performance Sunday, shooting a final round 6-under 64 to win by five strokes and successfully defend her CN Canadian Women's Open title in Edmonton.
Three birdies over her first four holes put her in the lead. Two more birdies over a three hole stretch to close out the front nine put her in control, leaving everyone else to fight for second place at Royal Mayfair Golf and Country Club.
A year after becoming the youngest ever player to win an LPGA event, the South Korean-born New Zealander is the first to successfully defend an LPGA title since Yani Tseng did it in 2010 and 2011. Ko is also the first player since Pat Bradley in 1986 to win back-to-back Canadian crowns.
"I'm pretty surprised," said Ko, who became the first winner since 2003 to post all four rounds in the 60s. "My goal today was to shoot 5 under and just play my own game. If somebody else shot better, then I can't do anything about it."
Ko's win also leaves her one victory shy of three-time tournament winners Meg Mallon and Bradley, who needed four and six years, respectively, to accomplish that feat.
"I never really thought about making history and all that," added Ko. "It's awesome to be a part of history. There are so many big names, so it's such an honor."
Karine Icher, feeding off the emotion of last week's European Solheim Cup win, may have finished as the runner-up at 10-under par but she'll walk away with the biggest cheque of the weekend. Just as Inbee Park did a year ago, Icher will cash the $300,000 first place prize due to Ko's amateur status which prevents her accepting any prize money at professional events.
"She's amazing," said Icher following her career best showing. "I mean, 16 years old and to win twice, she has no fear, I guess."
In the last two trips to Canada, Ko has left a total of $600,000 in prize money on the table. That would put her in the top five in career money won at Canadian LPGA events alone. In 14 career LPGA tournament, it's estimated Ko has relinquished almost $1-million in prize money.
"I know I'm not going to get the money, so I don't really care. ...I don't care. I can say that a couple times more, if you want."
Brittany Lincicome finished in a tie for third at 9-under par after being distracted and missing a birdie putt on the final hole which would have given her a share of the first place prize.
"I missed a lot of short putts today, especially for pars," said the 2011 champion. "Three to five footers for pars, which those obviously hurt."
Suzann Pettersen, the 2009 champion who played in the final group with Ko, fought to make it a race for most of the day but a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 14th dropped her five back at that point, effectively sealing the win for Ko. She ended up dropping four strokes over her final five holes to finish in a tie for seventh at 7-under par.
Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C. carded a final round 73 to finish as the top Canadian in a tie for 62nd while Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont., finished 72nd after shooting 76.
Ko's latest win reinforced the notion that she is the best non-pro in women's golf and will no doubt increase calls and questions for her to turn pro, something she clearly indicated earlier in the week is not in her immediate future.
"I've always said I'm thinking about it," she told CBC in a post-round interview. "Nothing has changed within the last 72 hours. I think this win will make us think what is a good option."
MIRACLE MATCH: In one of its final acts as title sponsor of the Canadian Women's Open, CN announced it had raised $2.7-million for the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation through it's Miracle Match program.
The eclipsed the previous high of $2.1-million raised when the tournament was held just outside Montreal in 2011.
The program, created back in 2006 when CN became involved with women's golf, raised funds for children's hospitals across the country by matching dollar-for-dollar money raised through various initiatives connected with the Open.
With this year's results, CN has helped to raise almost $11 million for children's health.
"Mission accomplished," said Claude Mongeau, CN president and chief executive officer.
While CN is stepping back from its title sponsorship of the Canadian Women's Open, the Miracle Match will live on. Details are expected to be released at a later date.
CN adds it will continue sponsorship of the Future Links national junior golf program and increasing its support of grassroots junior golf across Canada.