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Lydia Ko eases to 18th professional title

NZN 27/06/2016

Lydia Ko faded in the late afternoon sun but still had too much heat for her rivals as she powered to professional title No.18 at the NW Arkansas Championship.

World No.1 Ko dominated the third and final day of the 54-hole LPGA tournament in Rogers to finish three strokes clear of the field.

Four birdies in the first five holes ensured she left playing partner Morgan Pressel of the United States in her wake after they began in a share of the lead on 14-under.

The Kiwi 19-year-old quickly opened up a four-shot lead and was rarely threatened as she closed with a 68 to finish on a tournament-record 17-under - three shots away from her best final score at any event.

Pressel finished level with Candie Kung of Taiwan in second place on 14-under.

Victory was set up by Ko's course record-equalling 62 in her second round at the gentle Pinnacle Country Club.

She wasn't as precise on Sunday, mixing six birdies - all in the first 10 holes - with three bogeys.

"I definitely felt a little tired going into the back nine, I think the sun got to me," Ko said.

"But I kept hydrated. I love coming here. The sun is what it is to play here."

Ko was far enough clear that dropping two shots over last six holes didn't matter.

In a rare lapse, her second shot found the water on the par-five 18th hole.

She says she was over-aggressive with a six-iron, which she pulled instead of drawing.

"It's not the greatest ending to finish with a six but I guess it covers up for how well I played earlier today.

"I hit the ball really well on the front nine. That really helped."

It continues another exceptional season for Ko, who has notched three LPGA titles in 2016 to lift her career Tour tally to 13.

She has also finished runner-up three times this season and has yet to finish worse than 23rd.

Earlier in the month, Ko became the youngest and fastest women's player to surpass $US6 million ($NZ8.5 million) in career earnings.

It was another near miss for Pressel, 28, who closed with a roller-coaster 71.

The former major champion hasn't won a title since 2008. She has secured seven runners-up finishes, one of which was a play-off loss to Ko last year in San Francisco.

Ko will skip next week's Portland Classic to focus on her preparation for the US Women's Open in San Martin, California starting on July 7.

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