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Do or die as Ko defends LPGA No.1 ranking

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/03/2017

Lydia Ko © Getty Images Lydia Ko Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko will head into Friday's Kia Classic in California with her world No.1 ranking hanging by a thread.

The 19-year-old bounced back from a mediocre start to her LPGA campaign with three straight top-10 berths over the past month, including equal-eighth in last week's Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix.

Ko went bogey-free across all four rounds in Arizona and secured a final round four-under 68, but still fell six shots short of victory.

The North Harbour-based Ko's 74-week stint as LPGA world No.1 is now also on the line, with Thai counterpart Ariya Jutanugarn snapping at her heels.

Jutanugarn is almost certain to leapfrog Ko as the world's premier female golfer if she betters the Korean-born Kiwi this weekend.

She is less than 10 points behind Ko, while South Korean golfer Chun In-gee has jumped a spot to sit in third but remains well off the pace.

On the bright side, Ko appears near her best again after switching up her swinging coach in the off-season and an abysmal 46th-place finish in the Australian Open.

"I was stroking it well, so I just trusted my read and put a good stroke on it," Ko said after her showing in Phoenix.

She's also about to tee off on a happy hunting ground, having won last year's Kia Classic, held in the Californian town of Carlsbad.

Ko snared her first win of the 2016 LPGA season at the Classic before winning the ANA Inspiration major the following week in Rancho Mirage.

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