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Ko falls short in major title defence

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/04/2017

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Lydia Ko found her birdie touch too late as her title defence fell seven shots short at the first women's golf major of the year in California.

World No.1 Ko finished nearly two hours before the controversial ending to the ANA Inspiration, when Korean world No.3 So Yeon Ryu beat American Lexi Thompson in a one-hole play-off.

The New Zealand 19-year-old finished in 11th place on seven-under after completing a scorecard which read 70, 70, 71 and 70.

She was a model of consistency but simply failed to shoot enough birdies, enjoying her best period of the week in the final five holes when she picked up three shots.

Ko marked down one bogey on each of her four rounds, finishing second-equal for least bogeys over the week at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

The Auckland teen is still to win since last July, placing her world No.1 ranking under further scrutiny.

She would have lost top spot if second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn had won this week. However, the Thai finished eighth, two strokes ahead of Ko.

The final day was dominated by officials handing Thompson a retrospective four-shot penalty, informing her of it after she had played the 12th hole and held a two-shot lead.

She copped a two-stroke penalty for playing her putt from an incorrect marker on the 17th green, a mistake picked up by a television viewer.

Filling out her third round card incorrectly also earned her a two stroke penalty.

A visibly emotional Thompson played out her round impressively to finish level with Ryu on 14-under. The American could have won it on the 18th green but missed a mid-length putt for eagle.

Ryu birdied the first play-off hole to clinch her second major title.

She admitted the victory felt empty following the misfortune to strike Thompson.

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