Kiwi golf star Lydia Ko is back in the winner's circle, nearly two years after her last victory on the LPGA tour.

The sports world was left hailing the potential re-birth of a golf superstar after her surprise first-hole-playoff win over Australian Minjee Lee in San Francisco.

Ko was tearful in victory after an eagle on the playoff hole after almost holing an albatross from more than 200 yards out:

"I was trying to hit a good shot again and I didn't know how close it was going to be. But just to have a two and a half footer to possibly win the event is a pretty good feelingbut nerve-racking too ... a lot of emotions."

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The 21-year-old New Zealander won the Mediheal Championship for the third time, restoring hope she can begin a climb back to the top of world golf.

Ko and Lee finished at 12-under, sending them to a sudden death playoff. But Ko's controversial new swing produced a sensational playoff result from the fairway.

Lee out-drove Ko by 20 metres but Ko produced an extraordinary approach to within a metre of the flag, while the Australian fluffed hers.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the Mediheal Championship. Photo / Getty Images.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the Mediheal Championship. Photo / Getty Images.

A leaner Ko has faced continuous scrutiny over changes of coaches and caddies as she plummeted from being the world number one to 18th.

The Aucklander had gone 43 LPGA tournaments without a win but a long chip in on the 13th hole set her up for 15th tournament victory today. She had started the final round with a one shot lead and prevailed in a battle with American Jessica Korda and Lee.


Ko's last win was in Ohio, in July 2016, and there was little to suggest in recent weeks that she was about to hit winning form.

After her third round Ko — a member of the Lake Merced club — said that a bit of luck and "members bounces" were helping her cause.

The pressure to find a victory hardly showed during the final holes today - Ko skipped around in joy after the 15th hole with putter in hand.

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Ko has won two majors and was world No. 1 for two years in one of the LPGA's longest reigns. The extraordinary success she achieved so quickly tended to magnify her problems, but until today there were no real signs that she had turned a corner.

Lee holed a bunker shot on the par three 17th for a birdie to keep the pressure on, joining Ko at 11 under. Korda's putting faltered though.

A horrible short putt on the 17th was birdie chance lost for Ko. Lee birdied the 18th, leaving Ko one behind. Ko was millimetres away from chipping in on the 18th, completing a simple par putt to force the playoff.

Ko and her fans will hope that the victory was down to a lot more than an affinity with the Lake Merced course.

Money maker:

* Ko won $320,000 taking her well over the $12.5m mark in career earnings. This leaves her at 18th in LPGA history, from 125 starts, with plenty more to come. Annika Sorenstam of Sweden is the leader, with nearly $32m won in 303 starts.

* Ko has 15 tournament wins and is now tied at 36th in LPGA All-Time list with Yani Tseng, Sally Little and Suzann Pettersen.