Top-ranked Ko eyes $1.5mn prize at LPGA finale despite injury

Miami (AFP) –


World number one Ko Jin-young is hoping a nagging ankle injury will not prevent her from finishing her historic season on a high note at the LPGA Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, this week.

"Still worried a little bit," admitted the South Korean star, who pulled out of the third round of the Taiwan Swinging Skirts tournament three weeks ago after hurting her left ankle late in the first round.

Since then, Ko said she has focused on recovery, and she will be hoping for a fitting end to a season in which her four wins include two major titles at the ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship.

She has already clinched Player of the Year honors, and her 12 top-10 finishes are the most for the season.

The 24-year-old can also lock up the Vare Trophy for low scoring average at this week's tournament at Tiburon Golf Club, where a $1.5 million winner's prize -- the richest ever in women's golf -- is on offer.

Ko, whose season included a remarkable stretch of 114 holes without a bogey -- a streak that bettered Tiger Woods' record of 110 -- has sharpened her short game this season and shaved almost one stroke off her scoring average.

American Lexi Thompson, who will be defending the title she won last year, said Ko -- long known as a solid ball-striker -- now has virtually no weaknesses.

"Just consistent off the tee, very straight," Thompson said. "And her short game is unbelievable.

"Not like she really needs to chip much," Thompson added."But she's just overall such a solid player. It's very impressive to watch."

Ko will play the first two rounds alongside seventh-ranked Brooke Henderson of Canada and fifth-ranked Minjee Lee of Australia.

World number six Lee Jeong-eun, winner of the US Women's Open and this season's Rookie of the Year, will play with fellow South Korean Park Sung-hyun and third-ranked American Nelly Korda.

Korda, runner-up to Thompson in last year's Tour Championship, is coming off a successful title defense in Taiwan and relishing a return to Florida.

"I grew up in Florida so Bermuda grass, I like it," she said. "Having my whole family out here, too, is really nice and just feels really homey."