Lydia Ko regains form, ties Lexi Thompson for Indy lead

Lydia Ko delivered a clear message to her LPGA Tour rivals Friday.

She’s having fun again – and she’s ready to start winning again.

The 20-year-old New Zealander shot an 8-under 64 and grabbed a share of the lead with Lexi Thompson at 15-under 129 with a round left in the Indy Women in Tech Championship. If Ko puts together one more solid round Saturday, she could finally pick up her first win since July 2016.

“I know I’ve still got a whole, full 18 holes tomorrow to go, but I think really the key was that I’ve just kind of enjoyed being in this position and being able to hit some good shots and give myself some good looks at birdie,” Ko said. “When you start doing that, it builds your confidence and you’re not dwelling on, ‘Hey, am I going to hit a good shot or a bad shot.’ I think that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve kind of gotten into the last few months.”

After a summer full of frustration, the 14-time tour winner has shifted gears at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s golf course.

Ko started the season with four top-10 finishes in seven events, but hasn’t finished higher than 10th since. She even missed the cuts in two of her last three tournaments.

Somehow, amid the intermittent sounds of chirping birds, jet engines, sirens and car horns while playing in the shadows of the racetrack’s grandstands, Ko found some serenity.

While playing partners Anna Nordqvist and Stacy Lewis, the winner last week in Portland, Oregon, struggled, Ko took advantage of the wide fairways and receptive greens and started playing like the world’s No. 1 player- a title she held for more than 80 consecutive weeks.

Now No. 8 in the world, Ko started on the back nine and opened with consecutive birdies to tie Thompson at 9 under. Ko finally broke the tie with a birdie at No. 15, then took charge with five straight birdies on the front side to reach 16 under. The only glitch came on No. 8 when Ko missed the green to the left and slid her par putt to the right for a bogey.

“It was a little disappointing to finish off with a bogey on my 17th hole, but I felt like I played the toughest hole out there,” she said while Thompson prepared to tee off nearby. “Sometimes you have those mistakes but you need to move on from that. To me, it’s just nice to play some solid golf and put myself in a good position.”

Ko also understood her score might not hold up for the outright lead.

Thompson made sure of it, following her opening 63 with a 66.

The 22-year-old Florida player closed out the front nine with three birdies on the final four holes then adding birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 to tie Ko. But Thompson’s birdie putt at No. 16 missed just to the left of the hole and she wound up scrambling for par on the final two holes when her approaches went through the greens.

“Actually, I didn’t hit one bad golf shot today,” Thompson said. “I feel great about it, I’ll never complain about a 6-under round.”

The final threesome Saturday might not need to do much scoreboard watching.

Candie Kung made nine birdies and shot a 64 to reach 14 under.

“Luckily, I was able to hit some really close ones and have some 3-footers and 5-footers for birdies and I pretty much made all of them except the last one,” Kung said.

Ashleigh Buhai was fourth at 11 under after a 66, and Cristie Kerr (67) and Amy Olson (68) were 10 under.

Kerr has more than golf on her mind.

“We live in Scottsdale, Arizona, right now, but my whole family is there (in Florida) and tons of friends and I’m just really, really worried for everybody,” Kerr said as her home state braces for Hurricane Irma.

Sandra Gal was tied with Kung at 14 under, then bogeyed the par-3 15th and hit two drives into the water on the par-4 16th en route to a 10. She finished with a 73 to drop eight strokes behind the leaders.

Amateur Erica Shepherd was 5 under after a 68.

Lewis made the cut on the number at 2 under with rounds of 72 and 70.

Nordqvist failed to advance, shooting 74-71 to finish at 1 over.

Courtesy AP NEWS

Dottie Pepper Urges Lydia Ko To Take Ownership Of Her Life

PACIFIC PALISADES, CA – FEBRUARY 21: Dottie Pepper, commentator for CBS Sports, walks the 7th fairway during the final round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club on February 21, 2016 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Former LPGA star and current CBS broadcaster Dottie Pepper has some advice for young World No. 1 Lydia Ko: you, and only you, are responsible for everything that’s going on in your life.

Writing in her year-end round-up for ESPN, Pepper criticized the 19-year-old’s helicopter-parents and former coach, David Leadbetter. But ultimately, she had some stern words for the LPGA phenom.

“Take ownership of everything in your life and do your preparation in the quiet of your home, not in the public eye,” Pepper wrote.

Ko has cleaned house this off season, starting with her caddie Jason Hamilton, followed closely in succession by coaches Sean Hogan and David Leadbetter. She’s also looking at an equipment switch — it would appear Ko is preparing for a completely new start in 2017.

“I’m not going to judge the personalities involved, but I will always be critical of over-involved parents/spouses as well as students and teachers who don’t arrive at tournaments with their preparation complete,” Pepper writes. “Tournament time is when you put your work on auto pilot and play golf, not try to reinvent the wheel with a teacher stuck to you like cellophane.”

Will Ko employ a new entourage or heed Pepper’s advice? The 2017 LPGA season kicks off at the end of January in the Bahamas, likely our first indication of what the young New Zealander plans to do.

Courtesy of Golfwire.

 

David Leadbetter On Split With Lydia Ko: ‘It Was A Bit Of A Shock’

In a surprising move on Tuesday, World No. 1 Lydia Ko fired her coach of three years, David Leadbetter. Leadbetter says the decision may have been influenced by Ko’s parents and their unrealistic expectations for the teenage prodigy.

In interviews on PGA Tour Radio and with Golf Digest, Leadbetter mentioned the interference of Ko’s parents in her career. “It was a bit of a shock. But there are other forces involved. The parents are involved,” he said of the split on Sirius XM on Friday. Leadbetter praised Ko as a role model and a “delight” to work with, but attributed her faltering performance in the last part of her season to parental pressure and too many commitments: “With all these outside pressures and people in her team, I’ll call it that, expecting that she should win every week…She’s not a machine.”

Leadbetter’s comments about Ko’s parents to Golf Digest were even more damning. “They tell her when to go to bed, what to eat, what to wear, when to practice and what to practice,” he said. “And they expect her to win every tournament. They are good people, who love their daughter and want the very best for her…But they are naive about golf. And at some point, they’ve got to let the bird fly from the nest. I would often think, ‘It’s not easy coaching three people.’” Leadbetter said that Ko’s father had taken to correcting and criticizing Ko’s swing, overwhelming his daughter with extraneous and, Leadbetter says, unhelpful information.

The coach dates Ko’s wobbling this fall to the Olympics, where she had her heart set on taking home a gold medal (a goal that was strongly encouraged by her father, according to Leadbetter). She walked away with a silver, and was “mentally and physically shattered” after the struggle to win was over. “There was so much pressure on her,” he said on the Radio.

For all she has accomplished in her short career, Ko is only 19-years-old. Leadbetter hopes his former student will find a way to navigate her own path. He said he was hopeful she would heed his final advice to her: “Take control of your life. Take control of your golf game. Make more of your own decisions.”

Courtesy of golfwire

 

 

Lydia Ko Is the Greatest Young Golfer in the History of the Game

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With five wins on the year, including her first career major, Lydia Ko is the favorite to capture her second consecutive CME Globe as the top LPGA golfer of the year. At just 18 years old, Ko is now the single most accomplished young golfer — male or female — in history.

Since winning her first title at age 15 years, 4 months, the Korean-born New Zealander has won 10 times on the LPGA Tour, twice on the Ladies European Tour, and once on the Korean LPGA Tour. That total of 13 major tour victories laps the field of her closest 18-and-under male or female contenders. Her consistency at such a young age has been downright remarkable: through her first 65 career starts, Ko has missed a grand total of one cut.

Ko has also set the mark for youngest to reach world No. 1 (17 years, 9 months) and youngest to win a major championship (18 years, 4-months). She’s also poised to eclipse $5 million in career earnings on the LPGA Tour at this weekend’s CME Group Tour Championship and could enter the top 50 all-time in career LPGA earnings. With her next birthday still more than four months away, Ko’s list of 18-and-under accolades is likely to keep right on growing.

Women golfers have historically been more successful at a younger age than men, so it’s not surprising that Ko’s accomplishments dwarf those of the four young phenoms to hit the major men’s tours in the last two decades. Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth never won a single PGA Tour or European Tour event before their 19th birthday. Ko has 13 titles to date.

  • At 18, Tiger Woods was wrapping-up a decorated high school career, winning the 1994 U.S. Amateur, and beginning his NCAA career at Stanford. He entered seven PGA Tour events prior to his 19th birthday, but didn’t make the cut in any of them and didn’t record his first PGA Tour top-10 until age 20 years, 8 months. He won his first pro tournament two months later.
  • Sergio Garcia had a strong amateur career by age 18 — with victories at the British Amateur and on the lower-tier European Challenge Tour — but he didn’t turn pro until 19. His first victory came on the European Tour at age 19 years, 6-months.
  • Rory McIlroy was the only member of this group to go pro at 18, but he too failed to make much of a splash, capturing two top-10s by 18 years, 5-months, but only making 12 of 26 cuts prior to his 19th birthday. It took Rory until age 19 years, 8-months, to win his first European Tour title.
  • Jordan Spieth was just 16 years old when he made his first PGA Tour cut in his first career start and he made five of eight cuts prior to turning 19. But other than a starring role as a freshman on the University of Texas’s national championship team, Spieth didn’t accomplish much prior to his 19th birthday. Comparing Ko’s early success to some of her peers in women’s golf still shows her dramatically ahead of the pack.
  • Ko broke Morgan Pressel’s record for youngest to win a major (Pressel was 18 years, 10 months). But that major title was Pressel’s only victory on the LPGA Tour at 18 or younger.
  • As a 17-year-old amateur, Paula Creamer finished second at the LPGA Classic, and after securing her Tour card for 2005, Creamer added two Tour victories, with the first coming at age 18 years, 9 months.
  • Both Jessica Korda (2012) and Minjee Lee (2015) won their first LPGA title at 18 years, 11 months.

Not even phenom Lexi Thompson achieved half of what Ko has done at such a young age. While Thompson won her first Tour title in 2011 at 16 years, 7 months, and added another on the Ladies European Tour later that season, she didn’t notch another win for nearly two more years before claiming two titles in the closing stretch of the 2013 season. Before Ko, those four wins at age 18 or younger was the best performance by anyone in men’s or women’s professional golf. For further context, even after Tiger Woods started racking up titles in bunches after turning pro, it took him until August 1999 (23 years, 8 months) to win his 13th title. Ko has already equalled that mark, five years earlier than Woods.

Right now, the only other 18 or under golfer who owns an LPGA win is Brooke Henderson. She bested the field by 8 strokes at the Portland Classic this past summer, and despite missing out on the end of the LPGA Tour season due to wonky rules, she will have eight months left to notch a few more titles before turning 19 next September. Henderson would have ranked 11th on the LPGA Tour in scoring average — if she had played enough events — so it’s definitely realistic to expect her to match the 18 and under exploits of Creamer (2 wins) or Thompson (3). But matching Ko’s record is simply beyond reach.

courtesy of Jake Nichols (golf.com)

 

 

 

Lydia Ko Takes 4-Shot Lead at LPGA Taiwan Championship

GettyImage1Lydia Ko took a four-stroke lead Saturday in the LPGA Taiwan Championship, putting the 18-year-old New Zealander in position to regain the top spot in the world ranking.

Ko had four birdies in a five-hole stretch and closed with another birdie for a 5-under 67 in windy conditions at rain-soaked Miramar.

She would jump from second to first in the world with a victory or second-place finish Sunday and also could take the top spot under other scenarios depending on where top-ranked Inbee Park finishes in the Korea LPGA’s KB Financial Star Championship. Park, the winner last year at Miramar, was tied for fourth Saturday in the South Korean event.

Ko had a 13-under 203 total. South Korea’s Eun-Hee Ji, a stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, was second after a 72.

courtesy of AP News

Trump lands, Kim leads at Women’s British Open

Suzann Pettersen of Norway tees off from the 17th on the 1st first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Suzann Pettersen of Norway tees off from the 17th on the 1st first day of the Women’s British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Donald Trump’s show-stealing arrival at the Women’s British Open on Thursday upstaged another strong start to a major by South Korea’s Hyo-Joo Kim.

Kim was midway through compiling a 7-under 65 in the first round when Trump, the American presidential candidate, landed in a private helicopter to begin a two-day visit at the tournament at his Turnberry resort in western Scotland.

The on-course action was initially a sideshow for Trump, who seized the attention by inviting the media to his hotel near the course to continue his presidential campaign. The Republican celebrity billionaire eventually watched some golf, although the leaderboard was virtually locked in by then.

The fourth-ranked Kim, who shot a first-round 61 in winning the Evian Championship on her major championship debut last year, was leading by one stroke from Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Cristie Kerr of the United States.

Ko, whose 66 was her lowest score in a major, is looking to become the youngest winner of a major. She’ll be 18 years, three months, nine days on Sunday, seven months younger than Morgan Pressel when the American won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2007.

Top-ranked Inbee Park began her quest to complete a sweep of the majors by shooting 69 in what she described as “perfect conditions for golf,” with three of her five birdies coming in her last five holes.

Defending champion Mo Martin shot 70, and Michelle Wie, wearing a brace on her left ankle because of a bone spur, had a 76.

Australia’s Karrie Webb, the last champion at Turnberry in 2002, shot 80 and was joint 141st in the 144-woman field.

Trump’s grand arrival at 10:30 a.m. certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the early starters on the Ailsa Course. Ko, who went out in the second group after waking up at 3:30 a.m., was on the 16th hole when the real-estate mogul’s helicopter twice circled the Ayrshire links.

“I was like, `Man, that’s a really nice helicopter,'” Ko said. “I would love one.”

The world No. 2 already was 6 under par by then, with a run of four straight birdies from No. 2 giving her momentum. On No. 5, she gripped a 5-wood from 179 yards to inside 2 feet.

Ko is trying not to think about the history she could create this weekend.

“My goal is to have one major in my career,” Ko said, “but it doesn’t need to be now.”

Ko held the clubhouse lead for barely an hour before being overtaken by Kim, who rolled in five birdies and an eagle putt from 10 inches at the par-5 14th in her first round in a British Open.

This is only her fifth major championship – and she already has a victory as well as ninth and 11th-place finishes.

“I kept playing good today,” said Kim, who donned earmuffs to combat the early morning chill. She was one of three players in the field to be bogey-free in her first round.

The Trump circus is scheduled to leave Turnberry on Friday, allowing the players to take center stage at the fourth major of the year.

courtesy of STEVE DOUGLAS (golfdigest.com)