Golf: Lydia Ko denied second straight LPGA title victory in dramatic finish at Drive On Championship

Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko has fallen agonisingly short of continuing her flawless start to 2024, beaten in the second playoff hole at the LPGA Drive On Championship in Florida.

After a superb eagle on the 17th hole gave her a one-shot lead over Nelly Korda, Ko seemed well poised to claim the tournament title at Bradenton, but the American's brilliant approach shot on the final hole forced a playoff, with both players tied at 11-under overall.

Ko skied her second shot on the first playoff hole, but recovered with an expert chip to extend the contest. 

The second saw the roles reversed, as Ko put her approach on the edge of the 18th green and Korda sent her ball to the side of the hospitality standings, but Ko left her long-range putt short and the world No.4 held her nerve to claim the spoils.

The result denies Ko the point she needs to earn a place in the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Lydia Ko reacts after Nelly Korda sinks the winning putt.
Lydia Ko reacts after Nelly Korda sinks the winning putt. Photo credit: Getty Images

Nevertheless, it's an immensely encouraging outcome for the world No.9, continuing her remarkable resurgence, after a difficult 2023. Last week's win at the Tournament of Champions on her home course at Orlando's Lake Nona was her first on the LPGA Tour in almost 14 months.

"I hit a good stroke on it, it just broke a little bit more than I thought," said Ko of her final putt. "I obviously misjudged the slope on the green, but I played really solid today.

"I had a few three-putts and, at the end, I think it's what cost me the tournament, but to be able to eagle the 17th and even have a chance of winning, when I thought I was quite a ways behind...  it was nice to be in contention again two weeks in a row."

Korda, a Bradenton native, nabbed her ninth career LPGA victory, despite squandering a four-shot lead to start the day.

"Even when I was down, they were so, so positive and keeping me in it," Korda said. "It was just such a grind out there, so back and forth... I can't even believe it right now."

Korda and Ko took much different paths to finish 72 holes in 11-under 273. Ko posted a two-under 69 and Korda signed for a two-over 73.

Korda went one-over on the front nine and her hopes took a blow with a bogey-double bogey-bogey stretch at from the 14th to 16th holes.

Ko - who began the day four shots behind Korda - then made a remarkable eagle at the par-five 17th hole to grab sole possession of the lead. Her second shot narrowly avoided water, bounced up onto the green and rolled to within a foot of the hole.

Shortly after Ko's tap-in eagle, Korda made her eagle putt at No.17 from nearly off the green.

Ko parred No.18, meaning Korda needed birdie to tie and she dialed up an approach shot that nestled within inches of the pin, necessitating the playoff.

"I honestly thought that the tournament was over, going into 17," said Korda. "I just kinda gave myself a chance.

"I knew that if I got that eagle in, I'd have to birdie the last hole. I always seem to make it very dramatic and interesting.

"There's no better feeling to do it in front of a home crowd."

American Megan Khang finished alone in third place at eight-under.