Choi wins Coates title, Ko to No. 1 despite loss

Ocala, FL ( – Na Yeon Choi rallied to win the season-opening
Coates Golf Championship on Saturday, but that didn’t stop Lydia Ko from
becoming the No. 1 player in the world.

Choi carded a 4-under 68 to end the championship at 16-under-par 272, winning
for the eighth time on the LPGA Tour and first time since 2012.

“I think I was so nervous out there,” said Choi. “I’ve been waiting for this
moment for so long. I played the front nine so well, but I think I was a
little nervous. I’m very honored to win for the first time in a long time.”

Ko made a costly double-bogey on the 17th hole to fall out of the lead. She
scrambled for par at the last and closed with a 1-under 71, tied for second
place at minus-15 with Jessica Korda (66) and Ha Na Jang (70).

Despite the loss, the 17-year-old Ko will top the women’s world rankings on
Monday, making her the youngest golfer, male or female, to become the No. 1
player in the world.

“Obviously, it was a tough finish, but I played some really solid golf and
there is a lot to take from this week,” Ko said. “It’s just a huge honor to be
world No. 1.”

Amy Yang also posted a 71 in the final round at Golden Ocala Golf and
Equestrian Club. She ended alone in fifth at 10-under-par 278. Alison Walshe
(66) took sixth at 9-under 279, while Brittany Lang (70) ended alone in
seventh at minus-8.

Stacy Lewis, who also could have taken over the No. 1 ranking with a win this
week, stumbled to a 3-over 75 to end at 7-under 281, tied with Sun Young Yoo
(69) and So Yeon Ryu (72) in eighth place.

Ko opened the round with a pair of birdies to push four strokes clear of the
field, and it looked as though she would cruise to the title. She rolled in a
birdie try from the fringe on No. 5 to stay two clear of Choi, who had caught
fire, pouring in three straight birdies from the third to jump to minus-15.

Choi inched closer to Ko with another birdie at No. 7 and Ko stumbled to a
bogey at the eighth to slip into a share of the lead at 16-under.

However, Choi bogeyed the ninth to give Ko the lead again and Ko ran off six
straight pars from the ninth to stay at minus-16.

Choi birdied the 12th to join Ko in the lead. At the 14th, Choi stuffed her
approach to a foot and kicked it in for birdie and a 1-shot advantage.

A two-shot swing at the 15th gave Ko the lead again. She poured in a long
birdie putt from well over 50 feet before Choi missed a 6-footer for birdie.
Choi also missed her par putt from about four feet, and just like that, she
was one back.

The 17th proved to be the difference. Choi was in the left trees, but had a
shot. She missed the green to the right with her second. Ko was in the right
fairway bunker and had to fade her ball around some trees.

Ko’s second hit a tree and ricocheted into the woods. She pitched her third
back to the fairway, then saw her fourth spin off the green and into the
rough. She got up and down for double-bogey, which dropped her one back as
Choi saved her par from off the green.

Both players made par at the last as Choi walked off with the title.

“I was really nervous, especially on 17. I had a little spike mark in my line.
I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just trusted my line and it went in,”
said Choi.

Jang, who played with Choi and Ko in the final round, bogeyed the first, but
jumped within one of the lead with four birdies in a 5-hole span from the
third. Like Ko, Jang bogeyed the eighth to stay one back.

After eight straight pars from the ninth, Jang bogeyed No. 17, but she came
right back with a birdie at the last to share second in her first official
tour start.

Korda had five birdies in the first 11 holes to move to 14-under. She parred
six in a row from the 12th, then reached the green at the par-5 18th in two
shots. Korda’s eagle effort at the last rolled over the left edge and she
tapped in for birdie, settling for a tie for second.

NOTES: Choi earned $225,000 for the win. Her last victory came at the 2012 CME
Group Titleholders … Ko is four years younger than Tiger Woods was when he
ascended to the top spot in the men’s world rankings … The tour heads to the
Bahamas next week, where Korda will defend her title at the Pure Silk-Bahamas
LPGA Classic.