World No.1 Lydia Ko​’s hot streak continues after capturing a win in her first start of 2023. The newlywed took home her second Aramco Saudi Ladies International title with a final-round 68 and a one-shot victory over Ladies European Tour stalwart Aditi Ashok​ ​at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. It’s the 26th victory of the 26-year-old Kiwi’s career and the third in her past four starts.

“I think I’ve just been very grateful,” Ko said, “A lot of great things happening, especially in the past few months again and again. You don’t know if this is real or not, but I’ve been trying to enjoy being out on the golf course.”

The 2021 champion broke out of the leaderboard gridlock on the 17th hole. ​T​ied at 20-under with Ashok and 54-hole leader Lilia Vu, Ko knocked a gap wedge to inside 15 feet​ and converted the putt for her first lead of the day.

Ko felt in total control heading to the 461-metre par 5 18th. Instead, closing out the win began with a snap hook. Ko - Champion of the 2023 Aramco Saudi Ladies International_2.jpg

“​Eighteen ​was a lot uglier than I would have liked to picture it up,” Ko said in her post-round interview.

The out-of-character miss kept the door open for Vu. The American, who finished a strokeplay career-best T-3 at the 2022 BMW Ladies Championship, won ​by Ko ​last October, crushed her drive to set up a chance to get to the green in two from inside 180 metres.

Instead, the 25-year-old missed left of the green and found the water. The 39th-ranked player in the Women’s Rolex World Ranking settled for a bogey and a T-3 finish at 19-under par, two behind Ko.

Ashok’s been a dominant force on the top of LET leaderboards in the early part of th​e ​year. In her first two starts of 2023, she won the Kenya Open and finished in third at the Lalla Meryem Cup. She watched the final grouping of Ko, Vu, and Emily Petersen as the clubhouse leader on the 18th green after posting 20-under for the week. The Indian star, who’s won four times on the LET, birdied the 15th and 16th holes on Sunday. It gave her a chance to match Ko with an uphill look for birdie on the final hole. The putt trickled just right of the cup, settling for a runner-up finish.

“Obviously these three weeks​, ​I played really good on different golf courses, different weather, so I know my game is good​,” Ashok said​.​​

Lexi Thompson almost slam-dunked her way into a playoff on the 18th. ​With wedge in hand​ from the fairway​, she landed on the ledge just in front of the flag. Her ball grazed over the left edge of the cup. ​It was an opportunity for her second win ​in​ the last five month​s following her win in the Aramco Team Series-New York event last October. Her 63-66 weekend to earn a T-3 finish is a solid start to a year ​for a player still searching for her first LPGA victory since the 2019 Shoprite LPGA Classic.

“This is definitely a good confidence booster​ ​to start off the season that way. I’ll continue to build off it,​”​ Thompson said, ​

Ko took home $US750,000 of the $US5​ million purse at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International. It’s a larger purse than all of the LPGA Tour’s and LET’s non-Majors.

“I think this is the direction we’re trending in,” Ko said, “not only at this event, but all the events. To have partners that support and believe in women’s golf and the talent that’s out here, it is just great to be a part of that and this history.

“Hopefully this is a continuous movement on the LET and the LPGA, and for other tours as well.”