Lydia Ko couldn't help but notice the 27 roses, bottles of champagne and large ice bucket sat off the 18th green Sunday afternoon at Bradenton Country Club. After all, she hit an approach shot up against one of the bouquets.
As Ko battled the hometown favorite, Nelly Korda, in a playoff, she wasn't just vying for the LPGA Drive On Championship trophy; a win by Ko would clinch her spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately for Ko, she would three-putt the second playoff hole – a hole after she got up and down from the flowers and bubbly – and fall to Korda.
Her 27th point would have to wait.
"To be honest, obviously I three-putted the second playoff hole, but other than that I don't feel like I lost the tournament," said Ko, who nearly holed out for albatross to set up a tap-in eagle on the par-5 17th hole and led by three shots before Korda finished eagle-birdie to force overtime.
"You know, I made a great eagle on 17, great par on 18, and then Nelly just went eagle as well and then birdied the last. So, it's kind of like what can you do? We played our hearts out until the very end and we put ourself into the playoff. You know, I tried my best out there."
Ko began the final day four shots back of Korda, but with Korda playing her first 16 holes in 5 over, Ko took advantage. She was tied for the lead with Korda and Megan Khang at 9 under before she hit a 3-hybrid from 218 yards out to about a foot on the penultimate hole. Korda and Khang then each bogeyed No. 16 to drop three shots behind.
At that point, Ko seemed just moments from her 21st career LPGA victory, which would've tied Inbee Park for the most among active players. With a win, the 26-year-old Ko also would've supplanted Park as the youngest Hall of Famer under the current 27-point criteria.
But Korda had other plans, nearly jarring her approach on No. 18 in regulation and sinking the winning par on the third trip around the last after Ko three-putted from about 35 feet, leaving her first putt 8 feet short.
"I don't know, like I think every situation a very different," said Ko, who after the worst year of her career (just two top-10s and No. 100 in points) won last week's Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions and was trying to become the LPGA's first back-to-back winner to start a season since 2010. That TOC victory moved Ko to 26 points – 18 for her wins as a pro, four for her two major titles, and two each for her pair of Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy honors.
"I think I was a lot calmer last week than I thought I was going to be. I was a lot calmer I think today than I thought I was going to be. So it's just I think depends on the situation. Always nice to be able to come down the last with a few-shot lead or cushion. It's always nice. It's not a game about just me. There are 143 other players playing.
"All I can do is play the best golf I can and keep giving myself opportunities and hopefully it will happen."