Golf: Lydia Ko reveals the ‘scam call’ that sparked her record-breaking final round at the ANA Inspiration

She may have come within a whisker of a first major triumph in five years but Lydia Ko does not consider herself “back”.

The 23-year-old Kiwi golf ace on Monday finished runner-up at the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, after a record-breaking final round saw her light up the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California,

It is the same tournament Ko won in April 2016, the last of her two major successes.

The former world No 1 carded a 10-under 62, including eight birdies and an eagle, to end the tournament on 16-under – two strokes behind Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, who she trailed by eight shots at the start of the day.

Her seven-under 29 front nine set the ANA nine-hole scoring record, and tied the lowest nine-hole score at any major championship.

Ko then hit two further birdies to begin her back nine before recording another on the 15th hole to tie the ANA Inspiration’s 18-hole record and be one shot shy of the record for the lowest round in any women’s major.

“Coming out today I didn’t want to play conservatively; I wanted to be aggressive but as smart as I could. Sometimes, when you’re so far behind you just need to make as many birdies as you can. It wasn’t a bad position to be in,” Ko said after her breathtaking round – described by Denmark’s Thomas Bjørn as potentially “the all-time best final round of a major”.

“I was thinking in my head, wondering if everyone on the broadcast would be saying, ‘Lydia Ko’s back’ and honestly, I hope that’s not the sense – that I am back where I was or where I could be.

“I have had so many ups and downs since I was No 1 that I just want to be the best version of myself right now,” Ko said.

Patience has been one of the keys to her return to form – that has seen a string of recent strong finishes, Ko said.

“I have been struggling taking advantage when I’ve had [an opportunity] for birdie and I felt like I did that really well today. I stayed patient and, no matter what the situation was, I stayed focused on the shot in front of me and hitting every shot with conviction,” she said.

“That’s really all you can do and if things fall your way and you have a great round, that’s great but it’s important that I stay patient.”

Ko, who last won a tournament when she claimed the LPGA Mediheal Championship three years ago, credited a last-minute “pep talk” from coach Sean Foley for her barnstorming round.

Ko hired Foley – a former coach of Tiger Woods – in July last year and has since risen to 22nd, from 55th, in the world rankings.

“I was warming up before the round when my phone rang. I thought it was highly likely a scam call … but it was Sean, on his way to the Masters [starting at Augusta National later this week],” Ko said.

“He told me no lead is ever too far away and told me to go out there and play my own game, that I play with 100 per cent conviction. Sean is like that. He’d often give me a word slap, like a wakeup and we all need that sometimes. Sometimes I get in the way of myself … it’s me against the golf course and he reminds me that ‘me’ is the hardest part to get over.”

Ko came close to breaking her tournament drought at the Gainbridge LPGA at Orlando last month, finishing tied second with American Lexi Thompson, three shots adrift of Nelly Korda following a final-round flurry of birdies.

“Yes, golf is a job but it’s also a hobby and something I love doing. What happens on the course shouldn’t affect how I feel off it,” Ko said.

“Sometimes I know sometimes it’s not all going to click – like the first coupe of rounds here. All I can do is keep working hard. Everything happens for a reason and I just have to be even more patient and take it one shot at a time. Sometimes, when you’re getting closer [to winning], you lose patience.”

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