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Jan 21, 2024 4:36 pm

Lydia Ko back in winner’s circle at Tournament of Champions

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is a winner once again, opening the 2024 LPGA season by claiming the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions title on Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

Ko was a 36-hole co-leader and finished the third round with a two-stroke lead. Her 2-under-par 70 in Sunday’s final round was enough to finish at 14-under 274 for the week at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.

Alexa Pano (70) started and finished the day two shots behind Ko and placed second at 12 under. Canada’s Brooke Henderson, the defending champion, placed third at 10 under after a 68.

The event was exclusive to players who have won on the LPGA Tour in the past two seasons. Ko was in the field on the strength of three victories in 2022, but she did not win an official event stateside in 2023.

Now the 26-year-old has her 20th career LPGA title. She is the seventh to reach the mark before turning 27.

“I think the finish that I had last year, not only winning Grant Thornton (a mixed-team exhibition) but I played really well in Korea and in Malaysia,” said Ko, who takes up residence in Orlando. “Maybe if I had found the keys that I found then a little earlier, maybe I could have had a better season.

“I think if you keep going down a spiral of thinking like ‘What if,’ it’s endless. I worked hard in the two weeks leading up to this event. To win at home has been nice.”

Ko’s lead was not seriously threatened after she birdied Nos. 6, 9 and 10 to move to 15 under before her first bogey at the par-5 11th. Pano struggled out of the gate, with two bogeys and two birdies over her first 15 holes.

By the time Pano birdied Nos. 16 and 17, it was too little, too late. Ko birdied No. 15 before a closing bogey.

Henderson had her best round of the week, with all four of her birdies coming in a five-hole stretch at Nos. 7-11 while she stayed bogey-free.

“The game plan was to try and climb the leaderboard as much as possible, stick to the game plan,” Henderson said. “To shoot minus-4 in these conditions, I’m really happy with. It was very cold and very windy.”

Cheyenne Knight (69), Ally Ewing (72) and Japan’s Ayaka Furue (71) tied for fourth at 8 under. Rose Zhang started her first full season on tour with a T7 finish with England’s Charley Hull, as both players shot 71 and finished 7 under.

–Field Level Media

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