LPGA Tour Event
ISPS Handa Australian Open
Feb. 19-22, 2015
Royal Melbourne Golf Club – Composite Course
No. 1 – Ranked Lydia Ko Admits To More Media Attention
Lydia Ko admits there’s “more media attention, more congratulations on social media,” that has come with being the youngest player to No. 1 by nearly four years. But on the course, everything’s the same for the 17-year-old prodigy.
“I’ve only been No. 1 the last two weeks so nothing’s really changed. I try to keep to the same mindset playing in the Bahamas and I finished with a top 10 so that was really good,” Ko said. “I just have to take every tournament and concentrate on that because the rankings come afterwards.”
After climbing to the top of the golfing mountain at such a young age, the question was asked Wednesday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open: Where do you go from here, Lydia?
“I personally think this is the start,” she said. “Golf is a sport that you can play for many years, and that’s my plan. This is only the start of my second year on Tour. I’ve been enjoying that and I’m really looking forwarad to what’s coming up next.”
Ko just has one discernible goal in mind, though, for the foreseeable future in a career with a ceiling that seems infinite.
“To me my top goal in every season is to have fun and enjoy it because I’ve had points where I’ve stressed out and my self expectation has gotten on top. So I try to block it all out,” Ko said. “When I’m having fun, that’s when I play the best so it all matches up.”
It’d be hard not to have fun with the way Ko’s rookie season went – three wins including the biggest payday in women’s golf history. On the season, she finished in the top-10 in 15 of 26 starts but sees definitive areas for improvement in 2015.
“There’s a lot of things that I need to get better at. Normally the thing that I say is the best part of my game is my iron shots and then I looked at my stats from last year and I thought I could increase my greens in regulation so that’s what I worked on all offseason,” Ko said. “And always putting.”
Ko’s already seen improvements in both. Her 74 percent of greens in regulation a year ago – the seventh best mark on Tour – is up to 76 percent, and her putts per round of 29.6 (29th on Tour) a year ago is down to a 27.25. it’s admittedly a small sample with only two events in play, but all the numbers are better for Ko so far in 2015. She’s five yards longer off the tee and has top-10s in each of her first two starts.
Win For A Legend At A Legendary Venue?
Karrie Webb has five wins in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, but none have come at Royal Melbourne – the most famous course in the country and ranked No. 9 among Golf Digest’s 100 greatest golf courses in the world. This will be only be the second time this event’s been hosted at Royal Melbourne and Webb wants to repeat.
“It’d really be a feather in my cap. I’ve won at a lot of great golf courses when I’ve won the Australian Open and to add Royal Melbourne to that list would be an honor and really special,” Webb said.
The Royal Melbourne she’s returned to find this time is 200 yards longer than the last time they played it and the fairway grass isn’t running out as much as it did back then. 3-under-par won here in 2012 so Webb’s curious to see what the scores will be if the wind turns up, which it hasn’t so far, like it did in 2012. The greens are a little more receptive and Webb knows the course better, though, and feels more comfortable with it being the second event of the season for her rather than the first like in 2012.
Ultimately, this may be the last time this event’s played at Royal Melbourne that Webb has a sharp enough game to win it. She makes no bones about the fact that she’s holding on to the 2016 Olympics for the privilege to potentially be on the Australian team but may not play a full schedule once the Olympics are over.
“I think just making the Olympic team is why I’m still playing a full schedule and why I’m working really hard,” Webb said. “I’m not taking anything for granted that it’s given that I’m on the team for next year, so like I said I need to stay fit and healthy. And as far as the Olympic Gold goes, that would be absolutely unbelievable.”
Until then, Webb will get to feel the support of her country in advance and knows that could come in handy come Sunday.
“What I think is really worth a shot or two to me is when I play in Australia and I have that crowd support. It gives me a boost myself, but I think it also helps me (in relation) to all the others in the field,” Webb said. “If there are other Aussies up there, they’ll get cheered for as well, but anyone else who’s not from Australia, they know who everyone is supporting.”
Laughter The Best Recipe For Ko
During her Rolex Rookie of the Year speech in late November, Lydia Ko jokingly thanked each of her caddies for the year. It was eight in all. Ko’s now eight or nine weeks in with her current looper, Jason Hamilton, and thinks she might have found what she was looking for in the Melbourne native.
“It’s been good. I had like eight caddies last year and it was kind of a good experience for me, so I could kind of see what kind of caddie would suit me. Do I like this type of personality or is the skill what I need?” Ko said. “So I tried to find a balance, so it’s been working well the last couple of weeks so we’ll see how it goes.”
Throughout 2014 when asked about her caddie-shuffling situation, Ko said she would eventually settle on one caddie but liked the pressure it put on her to learn on her own while she was young and learning on Tour.
“My caddie, I like to get him involved. I do aimpoint (the green-reading system) with my putting but also separately I ask him for his opinion on reading. He gets my yardages, helps me with club selection, he lines me up so there’s not a lot he doesn’t do,” Ko said. “Personality-wise, obviously you can get mad when you make a silly mistake, but I like Jason how he makes dumb jokes, I guess sarcastic sentences.”
“It makes me go ‘What the hell is he talking about?’ But it makes me get over what just happened. In a way, I think bad jokes is my criteria.” While Hamilton keeps her loose laughing on the course, Ko wouldn’t suggest a career switch.
“He would really not have a good career in being a comedian,” Ko said laughing.
Retiring at 30?
Prodigies the level of Lydia Ko typically don’t need school, but don’t count Lydia Ko among them at this point. Ko will enter Korea University starting in March, balancing professional golf and a college course load in psychology that will mostly be done online at this point. Ko realizes she may not finish in the normal time for a graduate but wants to have her degree when professional golf is over, which may come sooner than her fans expect if her plans go according to plan.
“I think you never know what is going to happen. I always say my plan is to retire when I’m 30, so I’m not going to just go to the beach and hang out for the rest of my life after that,” Ko said. “There’s always a second career that comes along with it and I’m trying to build up towards it.”
Number To Know
3 – Three-under-par topped the leaderboard after 72 holes here in 2012.
5 – Karrie Webb has won this tournament five times.
9- Golf Digest has Royal Melbourne ranked as the ninth greatest course in the world and Golf Magazine has it ranked as the 13th best course in the world.
27.25- How many putts Lydia Ko’s averaged per round through two tournaments.
43- The number of LPGA starts Lydia Ko has without ever missing a cut.
73- The Royal Melbourne Golf Club – Composite Course will play to a par 73 this week with the back-nine coming in at par 38.
Quote Of The Day
“Well, it definitely makes you feel old when your rookie year was before they were born. But I have fun with it. When we’re competing against one another, I don’t really see age as a problem or a difference.”
– Karrie Webb on Lydia Ko, Su Oh, and Minjee Lee who are all 18 or younger.