World No. 1 Lydia Ko regained the Aramco Saudi Ladies International crown in sensational style at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Sunday.
The New Zealander came into this week just outside Jeddah, aiming to reclaim the title she won in 2021, and she was made to work all the way by a star-studded field.
Ko signed for a final-round 68 for a total of 21-under, one more than in-form India star Aditi Ashok.
𝑻𝑯𝑬 𝑳𝒀𝑫𝑰𝑨 𝑲𝑶 𝑺𝑯𝑶𝑾 🙌
The world number one wins @AramcoLadiesInt for a second time 🏆#RaiseOurGame | #AramcoSaudiLadiesIntl pic.twitter.com/WfJc5Ot2LS
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) February 19, 2023
In a topsy-turvy finish that saw the lead change hands a number of times, Ko eventually prevailed as valiant Lilia Vu faltered at the last and had to settle for a share of third alongside Belgium’s Manon De Roey and Lexi Thompson on 19-under.
Along with the giant trophy, Ko also takes home a record $750,000 from the $5 million prize fund.
A delighted Ko said: “I’m two for two on this golf course, so clearly something is going for me. This is a golf course where, in the last few days 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.
“I don’t think I was setting myself up for a lot of birdie opportunities on the front nine, but I knew that every hole could be a birdie opportunity, so it was that kind of mindset and I wanted to be aggressive.
“Then 18 was lots uglier than I would have liked, but in the end it’s definitely nice to get the win this week.
“Yeah, it was a little bit more stressful than I would’ve liked, but it doesn’t matter how you get it done. Like they say, there is no victors on scorecards.
“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. And the first one of the year, it’s really hard because you don’t have anything to base yourself off. You don’t know if you’re going to play well or bad.
“But the start definitely helped, and I think I stayed really patient and I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, which is definitely good.”
For Ashok it means a 1-2-3 start to the season following her win in Kenya and third-place finish in Morocco ahead of the Saudi International.
“It’s been a great,” she said of her second-place finish. “I think 20-under on this golf course with the wind that we had on some of those days, I think it’s a pretty good score.”
For Thompson, it was too little, too late as she was trying to play catch-up after an opening 72, but a Saturday 63 and Sunday 66 vaulted up to a share of third.
“I overall played very solid after a rough first day in the wind,” she said. “It was a bit of a struggle first day, but just tried to stay positive.
“And honestly, my second day felt like the best day I swung it, so just really tried to build off that going into the weekend.
“I’ll continue to build off this result too. I’ll go home for a few weeks now and practise even harder knowing, kind of putting my work to the test this week and playing well. But there are a few things that I need to improve on and really build off.”