No Ko for Lydia on moving day
LYDIA Ko’s title hopes were left hanging by a thread after a third round of missed opportunities on moving day at the New Zealand Women’s Open.
Starting play yesterday eight shots off the lead, tournament host Ko could only manage a twounder par score of 70 at the first LPGA-sanctioned event on Kiwi soil.
It left the event’s top-ranked player in a tie for 11th at eightunder at the Windross Farm course near Auckland, still trailing leader Belen Mozo by seven.
Spanish sensation Mozo was the runaway front-runner by five shots after Friday but had seen that buffer reduced to just one.
Mozo picked up only one shot to reach 15-under, Canadian star Brooke Henderson clipping at her heels after getting to 14-under with an impressive five-under display.
American major winner Brittany Lincicome, who shot a sizzling six-under 66, and China’s Jing Yan, playing in the same group as Henderson, held joint third at 11-under.
Despite having so much ground to make up, Ko indicated she would not be thinking too much about whether or not she was in contention.
‘‘I don’t even know what the leader is shooting at the moment,’’ the 20-year-old said after a round that included three birdies and one bogey.
‘‘I know there is quite a bit of difference between the leader and I . . . I just have to play my own game tomorrow.
‘‘I heard it could be pretty different conditions. I just have to stay patient and on a course like this it’s so open and when the wind starts picking up it’s not going to be easy. I’ve just got to focus on me.’’
With such a sizeable deficit to Mozo, Ko needed a positive start and that is exactly what she got, draining a 15-foot birdie putt at the par four first hole to the delight of another strong gallery.
Unfortunately for the Kiwi fans, though, it wasn’t necessarily a sign of what was to come.
Ko was unable to join the collection of players birdying the par-five second, while she had to make a nervy five-footer for par at three after her tee shot into a steady westerly breeze was well GETTY IMAGES short and left.
Four more pars followed as the 14-time LPGA tournament winner was either unable to get makeable birdie putts to drop, or really finetune her radar on her approaches.
Frustration levels then likely took a mild spike at the par-four eighth when she was short with her second, chipped to eight feet and missed the putt, taking her back to six-under as the contenders immediately ahead of her began to make a few moves.
If Ko was rattled in the HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES
‘ I just have to play my own game tomorrow.’ LYDIA KO
slightest, though, she wasn’t showing it and in a flash she had that shot back, sticking her approach at the ninth to six feet and making no mistake with the birdie try to make the turn in oneunder 35.
But, as was the case over her opening two rounds, the favourite simply wasn’t able to find the rhythm she desperately needed to make a run and more pars were the only thing flowing as a classy chip at 12 decided not to drop.
At the par-five 14th there was finally a rare show of emotion, Ko slapping her wedge into the turf in disappointment as a chip came up short. Another failed conversion with the flat-stick, perhaps her best birdie chance of the day, followed at 15.
Seven-under looked to be her finishing number when pars came at 16 and 17 before she was able to finish strong by sinking a birdie putt of around 10 feet at the last.
It was a positive way to walk off 18 but she has an uphill task to lift the silverware.
‘‘The front nine was pretty calm and then progressively through the back nine it started picking up,’’ Ko said.
‘‘It was pretty tough playing into that, I just tried to grind it out, stay patient. I started with a bang and finished with a bang, I’ll take that.’’
Lydia Ko acknowledges the crowd after finishing her round with a birdie yesterday.
Belen Mozo leads by one shot.