The finish of the 15th HSBC Women’s World Championship was like the best of pantomimes as Jin Young Ko, who was bedevilled by a wrist injury for most of last year, became the first player ever to win the event in back-to-back years. Even her final tally of seventeen under par — it saw her winning by two from Nelly Korda — was a repeat of her ’22 performance.
By way of an extra flourish, the show had included a fine dose of suspense when a storm arrived as Ko, Korda and Allisen Corpuz arrived on the 16th green. Even before they had finished putting, the green was awash, with the flagpole beginning to drown as those still on the course belted for the clubhouse.
Yet in what was a modern miracle wrought courtesy of the club’s sub-air system, the water disappeared an hour later. Ko, in her leading role, was not remotely thrown by that break. Thanks to her three shot lead, she was able to ignore her rivals as she had three closing pars for a victory which meant still more than last year’s because of those injury problems.
Though the rain had returned for Ko’s walk to the home green, there was no disguising the fact that she was dabbing at tears – a rare sight in that Koreans are encouraged from childhood to keep their emotions in check. No-one, though, would have understood those tears more than Korda for she, like Ko, had been out of the game for much of ’22. Korda who, after making a birdie at the last to finish in second place on her own, gave her friend the most meaningful of hugs and how the audience roared their approval at such a delightful finale.
Because Ko had wanted her golf to show above her emotions, she had tried “to listen to the birds and feel the wind and rain” on her face. “But,” she admitted at her press conference, “it was really hard to keep my poker face.”
There is no denying that she is the smartest of tacticians on the golf course, yet how she handled her wrist problems was arguably the best move of the lot. Where, when the first of the Koreans started to play on the LPGA Tour, they would keep practising by way of trying to dispense with injuries, Ko did not touch her clubs for weeks on end. She went to Europe and saw the Northern Lights on her travels and then, at Christmas, she went to Paris.
Her wrist was “nearly OK” at the start of this year and, following on from winter training, wrist and her confidence were back to where they were when she was the World No. 1.
Typically, she has always accepted that she is not up there with the LPGA’s best in terms of length. ”I’ve played a lot with Nelly,” she explained by way of an example, “She hits it even farther than last year, I think, so I don’t look at her ball. It’s hard. And then I think, Nelly is a good player, so I just want to learn something from her.”
Korda, on the subject of her own golf, felt that she had not battled as much as she would like to have done. However, what with that last hole birdie, she was loving the feeling of “being in contention and feeling the emotions. Hopefully I can build off all of that in the next few events.”
Meanwhile congratulations for all of those who finished on 14 under. Corpuz was one of them, Kang, who did a wonderful job in keeping her cool all week, another. And then there was Ayaka Furue, the pint-sized Japanese player who holed across the 18th green only seconds before the deluge. You doubt whether anyone else would have attempted that putt but Furue has always performed well in water.
In her childhood, it was a toss up as to whether she would concentrate on golf or swimming.