Lydia Ko started the new season as she finished in 2022 with a victory, winning the biggest prize outside the Majors on the LET
Lydia Ko fired a final round of 68 to triumph and record a one-shot victory at the 2023 Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund.
The New Zealander headed into the final day in second place, just one shot off the lead, having shot rounds of 64, 69 and 66 on the first three days.
It was a good start for the world number one with a birdie on the first, before a dropped shot on the second but she soon picked up another birdie on the sixth.
Three more birdies on her back nine was enough for Ko to seal victory with a total of 21-under-par.
“I'm two for two on this golf course,” said Ko. “Clearly something is going for me! This is a golf course where, in the last few days and when I played in 2021, there were a few players that went from the back that would shoot low scores, so I just wanted to focus on my game.
Watch final round highlights from the Aramco Saudi Ladies International
It was an excellent start to the 2023 season for Ko who won $750,000 of the $5 million prize fund which was an equal prize fund to the men's equivalent event. She will now head to Thailand to play on the LPGA Tour.
But it wasn’t until her birdie on 17 that the two-time Major champion went into the outright lead, and she held on to win the Aramco Saudi Ladies International at Royal Greens for the second time.
“I’ve just been very grateful. A lot of great things happening, especially in the last few months again and again. You don't know if this is real or not, but I've been trying to enjoy being out on the golf course!
“I'm playing with the world's best. The field this week was really good, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. The first one of the year is really hard because you don't have anything to base yourself off. You don't know if you're going to play well or badly. The start definitely helped, I stayed really patient and I was not as nervous as I thought I would be.”
Aditi Ashok came so close
Aditi Ashok’s excellent 2023 continued as she also carded a round of 68 to finish in outright second place on 20-under-par.
The Indian star made a bogey on the fifth hole, but soon rolled in three consecutive birdies on holes seven through nine before adding two more on 15 and 16.
“It’s been great. I think 20-under-par on this golf course with the wind that we had on some of those days is a pretty good score,” said the four-time LET winner.
“I knew I needed to make a few birdies. I knew where I stood after nine when I saw the leaderboard. I didn't do much until 14. Yesterday I birdied three of the last four, so I tried to think that it was possible today too. I ended up making birdie on two of the last four, which was good.”
Three players finished in a share of third place with Belgium’s Manon De Roey alongside American duo Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu on 19-under-par.
It was an exceptional final day for De Roey, who carded a bogey-free 63 and joined four other players in shooting that score around Royal Greens.
“Today, I was very solid throughout my whole game actually. I think I only had one bad shot,” said De Roey, who finished fourth on the 2022 Race to Costa del Sol.
“Very happy to finish with a birdie and to have a good start to the LET season to build some confidence for the rest of the year.”
Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen finished in outright sixth place on 17-under-par with defending champion Georgia Hall one shot behind in seventh.
Japan’s Nasa Hataoka was in eighth place on 15-under-par while Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu and Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela rounded out the top 10 on 14-under-par.
In the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol, Ashok extended her advantage at the top of the standings adding 480 points to have a total of 1,210 points from the first three events.
Sweden’s Maja Stark sits in second place with 500 points, Belgium’s De Roey is third with 428.13 points with England’s Alice Hewson in fourth (387 points) and Sweden’s Linn Grant in fifth (320 points).
The LET has a week off before heading to South Africa for Joburg Ladies Open in conjunction with the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Hayley Davis wins the Cape Town Ladies Open
Report from the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
England's Hayley Davis was so focused on her own game on Friday that she wasn’t aware she was standing over the winning putt on the final hole at Atlantic Beach Links as she won the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Cape Town Ladies Open on Friday.
In the end, even though she missed her par putt on the 18th, she in fact had four putts for the win, and her closing one-over-par 73 was enough to give her a three-stroke margin over runner-up Kiera Floyd of South Africa and a fourth professional victory.
“I decided not to look at any leaderboards, not for any reason other than I was trying to do the best I could out there. It didn’t really matter because you had to completely focus on every shot, so I didn’t actually know what the situation was,” said Davis, who won on a 12-over-par tournament total.
“There was no shot I would have played differently or anything like that if I’d known the situation. I felt I’d rather not know and just do what I can, shoot a number and see if it’s good enough.”
That was because the wind had made playing conditions as difficult as they could possibly be over all three rounds. In the end, her 73 was the best round of the week, matched only by Verena Gimmy of Germany, who finished in a share of fifth on 17-over-par.
“It was a challenge out there, but for the conditions of the course, it was quite good out there,” said Davis who won twice on the Rose Ladies Series in 2022.
“I just kept saying to myself that it was the same for everybody and I’ve just got to make the best of it. Today I played really well. The last couple of days got me a bit more used to it. I hit better lines off the tees today and I knew where not to go, and where to putt from, and things like that.”
Floyd managed three birdies in her round, in only her second tournament as a professional, but double-bogeys on four and 14 sank her chances of pulling off the victory.
The 18-year-old finished a shot clear of Mireia Prat of Spain in third, and another shot ahead of Lauren Taylor of England in fourth. Gimmy of Germany shared fifth with Dorthea Forbrigd of Norway and France’s Pasqualle Coffa.
The next-best of the South African finishers who made the cut was Brittney-Fay Berger in a share of 19th on 24-over-par.
England’s Lily May Humphreys finished eighth to maintain her position at the top of the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Order of Merit. Forbrigd moved to third in the standings, American Hannah Arnold to 10th and Floyd broke into the top 20, courtesy of her runner-up finish.
Next is the Jabra Ladies Classic at Glendower Golf Club which was won last year by 2022 Race to Costa del Sol champion Linn Grant.
Rahm on top of the world
It’s only mid-February but Jon Rahm made it three wins on the PGA Tour in 2023 as he claimed a dramatic victory at the Genesis Invitational.
Taking a three-shot lead into the final round, he was favourite to win but some impressive play from Max Homa meant that the Spaniard was behind with six holes to play. It was birdies at the par-3 14th and 16th that sealed Rahm’s victory, he holed from 45 feet at the 14th and was only inches away from a hole-in-one at the 16th where a second birdie moved him to 17-under-par.
Two more pars were enough to take a two-shot victory and secure his 10th PGA Tour title and his fifth win in his last nine starts across the PGA and DP World Tours. The win also means that the 28-year-old moves back into World Number 1 spot for the fifth time in his career.
"I've never had three PGA Tour wins in a season and to do it this early on is incredible, and to do it at this golf course. Talk about the history of Riviera as a golf course, the history of Tiger Woods as a player, those two combined in this tournament, it's a pretty big deal.
"As a historian of the game, to be able to win a tournament hosted by Tiger and the one hosted by Jack as well, it's pretty incredible.
"I've won five out of my last nine starts, I haven't finished worse than top seven and I've won three tournaments already. I don't need a ranking to tell me, to validate anything, right? I'm having the best season of my life and hopefully I can keep it going."
It's now time for the Florida swing on the PGA Tour, next is The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens.
Olesen wins Thailand Classic
Thorbjorn Olesen secured a seventh DP World Tour title winning by four shots at the Thailand Classic in Bangkok.
Olesen never relinquished the two-shot lead that he started the day with and with three birdies on the front nine followed by three on the back nine, he was just too good to catch.
The 33-year-old shot 66 and finished on 24-under-par, four shots clear of Germany's Yannick Paul, with Joost Luiten and Alexander Knappe in a tie for third at 18-under-par at the Amata Spring Country Club on Sunday.
"I had some good chances to make birdies but I didn't capitalise on them. Then it was a bonus to make birdies on two tough holes. It made me feel a little more comfortable. I felt steady and felt in control," said Olesen.
“It's very special. Obviously, the one at the  British Masters was incredible with my family and a long time since I had won the last time. But equally this one with all the hard work and sacrifice, yes it's really nice.”
The DP World Tour now moves to India and the Hero Indian Open at DLF G&CC in New Delhi.
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