Ly­dia Ko’s un­der-par streak ends at 29 with 1-over 73

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN NI­CHOL­SON

Mission Hills’ rough ac­tu­ally saved Ly­dia Ko some early strokes Fri­day in the ANA In­spi­ra­tion. The thick tan­gled mess of Ber­muda, rye and poa an­nua grasses struck back on the back nine to end her bid to break the LPGA Tour record for con­sec­u­tive rounds un­der par.

The 17-year-old New Zealan­der hooked her drive on the par-5 sec­ond hole and got a break when the rough stopped the ball from go­ing out of bounds. On the par-4 sixth, the rough stopped her drive — again far­ther left than she wanted — from go­ing into the wa­ter. She made a birdie there.

The driv­ing prob­lems soon caught up to her in a streak-end­ing 1-over 73 in the sec­ond round of the first ma­jor cham­pi­onship of the year.

The top-ranked Ko missed eight of the 14 fair­ways, four to the left and four to the right.

She nearly got away with an­other birdie af­ter hit­ting into the left rough on the par-4 13th, but her 15-foot putt cir­cled the cup and came back at her.

Need­ing a birdie on the par-5 18th to ex­tend the streak to 30, Ko hit her sec­ond shot 190 yards into the wa­ter af­ter catch­ing a flyer out of the right rough on her layup at­tempt.

“I just hit a three-quar­ter 6-iron,” Ko said. “I would have never guessed that I was go­ing to hit a 6-iron 190, not even if I was Lexi (Thomp­son). Ob­vi­ously, that was the wrong club at the end of the day, but I thought even if it flew out of there, it would have at least stopped.”

Af­ter a penalty drop, her fourth shot rolled 15 feet past and she missed the par putt.

On Thurs­day, Ko shot a 71 to tie the record set by An­nika Soren­stam in 2004. Soren­stam is work­ing the tour­na­ment as an an­a­lyst for Golf Chan­nel.

“I ap­plaud Ly­dia and her play over the last few months,” Soren­stam said. “I’m im­pressed with the com­po­sure she shows at such a young age.”

Ko’s world­wide streak, count­ing her victory in the Ladies Euro­pean Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open, ended at 32.

Ko was tied for 30th at even par, seven strokes be­hind sec­ond-round leader Sei Young Kim. Be­fore Ko started her af­ter­noon round, Kim ea­gled the 18th for a 65 to get to 7-un­der 137. The long-hit­ting South Korean player hit a hy­brid to 6 feet to set up the ea­gle.

Af­ter the horse­shoe on 13, Ko’s 13-foot birdie try on the par-3 14th went by the left edge and she bo­geyed the par-4 15th to drop to even par.

On 15, she drove into the right rough and tried to play a draw around a large tree. She didn’t make clean con­tact and the ball came up short, hit­ting high in the right green­side bunker and tum­bling to the bot­tom. Her blast was too hard and low and went through the green, leav­ing a 15-footer from the fringe that she couldn’t hole.

She missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th and a 10-footer on the par-3 17th. Af­ter Thomp­son holed a 13-foot par putt on 17 from the same line, Ko missed to the left.

On the front nine, Ko re­bounded from bo­geys on Nos. 3 and 5 with birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, then bo­geyed No. 8 and birdied the par-5 ninth to make the turn at even par. She got to 1 un­der on the par-5 11th with what turned out to be her last birdie of the day.

Ko started the un­der-par streak in the first round of her victory last year in the sea­son-end­ing event. She also won in Australia in Fe­bru­ary — the week be­fore her New Zealand victory.

The teen made her 49th straight cut on the LPGA Tour, a ca­reer­long streak that started with 15 events as an am­a­teur. She also has 10 straight top-10 fin­ishes.

First-round leader Mor­gan Pres­sel was sec­ond at 5 un­der af­ter a 72.

Thomp­son, the de­fend­ing cham­pion, was tied for sixth at 3 un­der. She shot a 69, also bo­gey­ing the 18 af­ter fol­low­ing Ko into the wa­ter.

AP

Lexi Thomp­son hits out of the bunker on the sec­ond hole dur­ing the sec­ond round of the LPGA Tour ANA In­spi­ra­tion golf tour­na­ment at Mission Hills Coun­try Club in Ran­cho Mi­rage, Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day, April 3.

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