Lydia Ko has taken a lot of heat over the past year.
And why not? She basically fired everyone but her parents.
She switched equipment companies, fired her caddie and fired David Ledbetter as well.
Then came the no wins — 43 events was a huge slump for the player who had 14 victories by age 20.
That came to a spectacular end Sunday in a chilly playoff between Ko and childhood rival Minjee Lee — the Aussie vs. the Kiwi.
With Jessica Korda out of the picture late in the day, Lee, playing ahead of Ko, holed a spectacular bunker shot for birdie at the par three 17th then got up-and-down from just off the green at the par five 18th to post 12-under par. Ko was behind her, sitting at 11-under.
After par at the 17th, Ko almost ended things at 18 when her eagled chip nearly went in.
The ensuing playoff didn’t last long. After watching Lee outdrive her by 15 yards on the first playoff hole, the 18th again, Ko hit a second shot that the folks around Lake Merced Country Club and San Francisco will be talking about for a while.
From 239-yards out, Ko launched a three-wood that landed just short of the green, took two hops then nearly rolled in the hole for double-eagle. Her ball stopped just outside two feet.
Lee’s second was well short, she chipped to 10 feet and was lucky to make the birdie putt. Ko’s was just a formality and her 15th LPGA win was in the books just five days after her 21st birthday.
Then Ko showed something she hadn’t in the 14 previous wins — emotion.
She cried for this one.
When the winning putt dropped, she looked skyward, brushed tears from her eyes and was swallowed up in a hug from her current caddie, Johnny Scott, a burly Scotsman who, along with new swing coach Ted Oh, is part of what seems to be a finally stabilized Ko team.
“It’s crazy because I was three over for the day at one stage today and I said, ‘hey, you know, you’ve just got to focus and you never know what’s going to happen,’” Ko said.
“I was able to kind of put my game together on the back nine.” This may be the beginning of her putting her winning ways back together.
But the shot they’ll remember was the spectacular three-wood second in the playoff.
“I hit some really good 3-woods today and I said, ‘hey, you’ve got to maybe try and copy the one on the other par 5,’” Ko said. “I was able to hit a good shot again and I didn’t really know how close it was going to be. But just to have a two-and-a-half foot putt to possibly win the event is a pretty good feeling, but also nerve wracking, too.”