Jin Young Ko says victory over Nelly Korda in Singapore was the highlight of her career; Danielle Kang buys a beer to thank the HSBC grounds crew and volunteers
Jin Young Ko grabbed her towel walking up to the 18th green to wipe her eyes. The emotion of the past year was written on her face. After a wrist injury ruined her 2022 season, Ko defended her title at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, calling it the most important victory of her career.
When it was over, she doubled over the last green as the tears flowed.
“It’s going to be a big turning point in my life,” said Ko, who closed with a 69 to beat Nelly Korda by two shots and win for the first time in 12 months.
Ko has now won at least one title in each of the last six seasons. The 27-year-old has 14 career LPGA titles, including two majors. The $270,000 winner’s check moves her to 22nd on the LPGA career money list, passing Yani Tseng and Ariya Jutanugarn with $10,680,535.
Sentosa Golf Club received a month’s worth of rain in one week as LPGA players endured several rain delays, the latest of which occurred on Sunday when the group was last on the 16th hole.
“I really didn’t know if we were going to finish the last hole,” said Korda, who birdied 18 to jump into second solo. Danielle Kang, Allisen Corpuz and Ayaka Furue finished in a share of third place.
The rivalry between Ko and Korda is what many fans expected to play out all last season before health issues set them back.
“It’s always difficult to play with Nelly, especially on Sunday,” said Ko. “We’ve been playing together yesterday, and today was the second time. We had a lot of times to play in 2021. She’ll be hitting longer than last year, I think. So I’m not watching her ball. I haven’t watched her ball or her play. It’s hard but I like competing with Nelly.”
Nelly Korda of the United States tees off on the fifteenth hole during Day Four of the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on March 05, 2023 in Singapore. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
This marked the 15th edition of the HSBC, known as the “Major Asia”. All but two players who won in Singapore are major champions. Ko now joins Inbee Park, who is out on maternity leave, as the only two-time champions.
Ko pushed back her winter training in December to stabilize her wrist and went to Europe to see the Northern Lights in Finland and tour the Louvre in Paris.
“I think it will bring me good luck because it’s really hard to see the Northern Lights when you go to Finland or Iceland,” Ko said, “but I’ll just take one day that I saw the Northern Lights, and so he was lucky.”
Ko then spent a month in Vietnam working with her former swing coach, Si Woo Lee, and said she took a lot of confidence from their time together. She also started meditating during the off season and she felt that it helped to bring more balance to her life.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the course,” she said of the long, challenging week, “and I just want to hear the birds singing, and I just want to feel the wind and air.”
For a player who likely wondered if her body would allow her to return to the form that saw her dominate the LPGA, finding joy in the little things is key.
For Corpuz, it marked the 24-year-old’s third career top-five finish as she moves one step closer to her No. 1 goal of making the Solheim Cup team.
“Very happy with how I played,” said Corpuz, who birdied the last hole, “especially being with Jin Young and Nelly. It’s so good to see them play well and a ‘ feel like I’m almost keeping up with them.”
Kang left Singapore proud of her efforts, noting that she continues to test balls and pieces and that she likes the progress made.
But before Kang went out, she brought out a beer for those who made the week possible.
“Usually what we do in America is, my caddy and I, we go buy cases of beer, and I have him help me out and load them up and bring them to the team land and things,” she said. “This week, I thought the volunteers did an amazing job, so we will add the volunteers this time as well.
“In Singapore, it’s expensive but it’s okay. They worked really hard to keep the golf course at the highest level of championship and without them we wouldn’t be able to play or finish 72 holes, so I just wanted to say thank you and a beer be upon us.”
Photos: Jin Young Ko through the years
The story first appeared on GolfWeek