(CNN) – It was no surprise that Lydia Ko burst into tears after her dramatic victory this Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in California.
The former world No. 1 hadn’t won a title since July 2016, but the New Zealander hit what she considers the best shot of her career to clinch victory.
Since her last Tour triumph, the two-major winner has changed her swing, caddy, coach and team, and also fell from the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time since her brilliant professional debut in 2013.
But just five days after his 21st birthday, Ko was smiled by fortune again at Lake Merced Golf Club, where he had scored back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015.
With Ko and Minjee Lee tied at 12 under par after 72 holes, the tournament went into a tiebreaker.
On the first extra hole, hole 18, par 5, Ko responded to the pressure with a sensational approach shot that was just inches from an albatross (two shots on a par five). He dropped a three-foot putt for an eagle and clinched a memorable victory.
“I knew I had to hit really well to get over the tree and onto the green, especially with Minjee 20 yards ahead of me and it looked like he was going to hit with an iron stick,” said Ko, a native of Seoul, Korea. South, but living in New Zealand since she was a baby.
“If the ball had gone to the left of where it fell, it could have landed in the bunker, which is the worst place to hit it in that position … Everything that could have happened worked out for me.”
Ko, a silver medalist at the Rio 2016 Olympics, reached the final round with a one-stroke lead, but sank with three bogeys in the first six holes.
In a final round in which there were four lead changes, Ko rallied over the final nine holes, with three birdies and one bogey, to force a tiebreaker.
“It’s crazy because in a moment I was three over,” Ko said. “I said, ‘hey, you have to focus, you never know what could happen,’ and I was able to develop my game in the last nine.
“When that putt fell, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Many emotions, my entire team and my family have worked hard to get to this moment «.
In 2015, at just 17 years old, Ko became the youngest number one in the world, but as of Sunday she had not won a tournament in 43 competitions contested, since the Marathon Classic in July 2016.
His victory at Lake Merced was the 15th of his Tour career.
«I do not think I have cried in the other 14 [victorias]”Ko added.” It was exciting. The whole team is part of that and they worked as hard as I did. That is why it is so important. It’s great that my family and friends are here.