Her last name is spelled K-O, which suffices as well to describe Jin Young Ko’s victory in the Cambia Portland Classic today, a third-round knockout that was a reminder of how she once spent two years at No.1 in the Rolex Ranking.
Ko, 26, began the third and final round of the rain-shortened tournament leading by one, then methodically expanded it into a four-stroke victory, the ninth of her short LPGA career, solidifying her hold on No.2 in the Rolex Ranking behind Nelly Korda.
A South Korean Olympian who finished ninth in the Tokyo Games, Ko took a break from tournament golf after the Olympics, precluding her from playing in the Women’s British Open. In her return to the LPGA in Portland, she completed 54 holes in 11-under par 205 that included a bogey-free 69 in the final round. Australia’s Su Oh and South Korean Jeongeun Lee tied for second, with Oh matching Ko’s closing 69 in a round that included four birdies after her lone bogey of the day on the first hole.
“It was really a difficult decision not to play in the British Open because I really love to play in the British,” Ko said moments after enduring the winner’s traditional champagne shower on the 18th green. “But I spent great time in Korea. My swing and putting and everything was good today.
The only threat at Oregon Golf Club was the weather, which benevolently allowed the tournament to conclude on Sunday after a washout on Saturday. Ko hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation and took 30 putts.
Ko had put a new putter into play for this tournament and it secured her place atop the leaderboard in the first two rounds in which she needed only 48 putts.
“I change putters often,” she said on Friday. “Like even [when] my putting feels good I change putters. So, well, I’m doing great right now, so I want to keep this putter for whole life.”
She was laughing at that last part, a nod to her penchant for falling in and out of love with putters whether they misbehave or not. Generally they don’t. The winner of the Volunteers of America Classic in July, Ko has been a fixture in the top 10 of the Rolex Ranking since joining the LPGA in 2018.
Ko earned $US262,000 for the victory, pushing her season earnings past $US1 million.
Equalling the best round of the day was Jennifer Kupcho, whose four-under 68 included her playing the last five holes in six-under par with four birdies and an eagle.
“Honestly, I played those holes great the past couple of days,” she said. “I birdied 15 through 18 yesterday, so when I got to 14, I was like, OK, here’s the stretch of holes I like, so I took it deep today.”
The tournament, incidentally, was scheduled to be played for a ninth straight year at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, but was relocated as a result of safety concerns from a homeless encampment adjacent to the course.
PHOTO: Steve Dykes