Jin Young Ko outlasts Minjee Lee in playoff for 15th LPGA title and third Founders Cup victory

Jin Young Ko battled through fatigue at the Cognizant Founders Cup to outlast Minjee Lee in a sudden-death playoff for her 15th LPGA title. Ko birdied the 18th hole all four rounds, with that last birdie in regulation pushing her to a 5-under 67 and a 13-under total at Upper Montclair Country Club. Ko’s 67 was the lowest round of the day by two shots.

Lee, who won this event in 2022, held a two-shot lead with three to play but couldn’t hold on for the outright victory, carding a 71 to finish knotted with Ko at 13 under.

In the playoff, the Aussie appeared to have the advantage until she misjudged her speed significantly on the birdie attempt, which flew past the hole. The ensuing three-putt handed the victory to Ko, who won the Founders Cup for a third time on a third different course. Ko’s caddie, David Brooker, was on the bag for two of Lorena Ochoa’s victories at Upper Montclair at the Sybase Classic.

As the final group came up the 18th fairway at Upper Montclair, a group of junior girls walked hand-in-hand behind the players, wearing vintage-looking attire in honor of the LPGA’s 13 founders. Since former LPGA commissioner Mike Whan started this event in 2011, it’s been a catalyst of growth for LPGA-USGA Girls Golf.

“It’s a great honor,” said Ko of winning what has become one of the LPGA’s premiere events. “I thank all the past founders today, so I really thank to everybody to make that amazing tour.”


She birdies the 18th to tie the lead!!! pic.twitter.com/hOnYNUqoCv

— LPGA (@LPGA) May 14, 2023

Australia’s Lee, who actually played more golf than Ko last week at the Hanwha Lifeplus International Crown, was surprised to learn that she’d only made five LPGA starts this year outside of the Crown.

“It’s still pretty early I guess in my season,” said Lee, “and I have a lot more events coming up. So I feel like I could take a lot of positives into, you know, the next couple majors coming up and obviously Mizuho is my next event.

“I think I’m going to train hard the next two weeks and be ready for Mizuho.”

Ko began Sunday four strokes behind but heard before she started her round that Sungjae Im had come from five back to win on the Korean PGA earlier that day.

“So that was inspir(ing) me,” said Ko, “and if I like play really well, I could chance for win.”

Ko said her swing coach, Si Woo Lee, will come to Texas next Saturday to begin working with her in the lead-up to the next two majors. She’ll skip the LPGA match-play event in Las Vegas as well as the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan. They will mostly focus on her ball striking.

Ko now has 20 of the 27 points needed to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame, which she said has been a goal since around age 10.

“I will do my best in my future, and I will practice hard, harder than this,” she said. “We’ll see.”