(Reuters) - Birdie opportunities littered the four-hole playoff to decide the aptly named Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio, on Sunday before world number one Lydia Ko finally cashed one in to beat Ariya Jutanugarn and Lee Mi-rim at Highlands Meadows.
Ko, one of the game’s best putters, poured in a seven-footer nearly identical to one she missed on the third extra trip to the par-five 18th, to win her fourth title of the year and 14th of the precocious 19-year-old’s career.
All three players had mouthwatering chances to claim victory but grazed edges, misread lines or mis-hit their potential playoff-ending putts.
“The longer we were out here I think physically and mentally we were all getting a little tired,” Ko said.
“But I said ‘hey, the ball is big enough to fit in the hole’,” joked the Korean-born New Zealander. “Like the last putt. I said, ‘hey, deja vu. I just had it not long ago’.”
Instead of an agonizing miss, Ko rolled this attempt into the heart of the cup to end the tournament’s longest playoff.
Ko, who stumbled on the back-nine after leading by as many as four strokes, shot a final-round two-under-par 69 and was joined at 14-under 270 by Thai Jutanugarn (68) and South Korean Lee (65), with her compatriot Kim Hyo-joo (73) one shot back.
“I think we all deserve to be holding the trophy, but I think I‘m very fortunate to be the real one holding it,” said Ko.
Ko, who saw the recent U.S. Women’s Open slip away when she shot a final-round 75 as Brittany Lang went on to a playoff win over Anna Nordqvist, said she told herself to remain confident, “hopefully not like what happened a few weeks ago.”
It paid off in the playoff, but the methodical Ko felt she was running out of time as the trio played 18 over and over.
“In my yardage book I just kept writing round four, and five, six, seven. I almost ran out of pages.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Andrew Both