Ko one off the pace at LPGA Tour finale

Lydia Ko

Former World No 1 Lydia Ko finds herself right in the hunt after the opening round of the LPGA Tour season finale in Florida.

While Peiyun Chien and Sarah Jane Smith lead the way after opening six-under-par 66s at Tiburón Golf Club on Thursday, Ko lies just one shot back after a well-played 67.

The New Zealander finds herself in a five-way tie for third alongside Spain’s Azahara Munoz, France’s Karine Icher, Norwegian​ Suzann Pettersen and South Korean Sung Hyun Park.

The past year has not been a successful one for Ko, who has yet to win a tournament since splitting from her swing coach in December 2016, but she has given herself a great chance of finishing the season on a high.

Ko mixed four birdies and an eagle with just a solitary bogey. She saved the best for last, playing her first 12 holes in one under before charging home with birdies at 13 and 14 followed by a superb eagle at the 17th. She was then able to avoid a disappointing finish by holing out from the bunker on the last to save par.

At 12th in the CME rankings, Ko is not in line for the season-ending Race to the CME Globe on the LPGA Tour this year, however.

The five players who control their own destinies and will win the $1 million prize if they win the tournament are Lexi Thompson (5,000 points), Sung Hyun Park (4,500), World No. 1 Shanshan Feng (4,500), So Yeon Ryu (4,250) and Brooke Henderson (4,000).

Of the five, it’s Park who seized the initiative after the opening round, lying just one shot off the lead after her 67.

None of the other four are out of the running yet, though. Feng and Henderson lie four shots back after a pair of 70s, Lexi Thompson five back after a 71, and Ryu six shots adrift after a level-par 72.