Home' Australian Golf Digest : July 2017 Contents 54 australiangolfdigest.com.au | july 2017
the top-end talent on the LPGA Tour has
never been deeper than it is right now. And
Lydia Ko would be aware of the increased
threat of competition.
Ariya Jutanugarn, the reigning LPGA
Player of the Year, won five times last year.
The 21-year-old Thai has displayed an
amazing capacity to overpower golf courses
without using a driver in a manner similar
to England’s Laura Davies.
American prodigy Lexi Thompson
is another dynamic athlete who oozes
power. The 22-year-old already has eight
LPGA titles. At 183cm, with an 18cm height
advantage over Ko, Thompson possesses
long levers to pound the ball huge distances.
On 2016 driving statistics, Ko averaged
246.7 yards off the tee and conceded 30.7
yards per drive to Thompson (277.4 yards).
Ko has added half a yard this year and so
she’s still at a significant disadvantage to
the likes of Thompson on approach shots
into the green. On a par 4, it’s easier to set
up a birdie opportunity with a wedge in a
player’s hands rather than a 6 or 7-iron.
Every year a couple of enormously
talented golfers emerge from Korea. It’s no
longer a surprise to see an unknown KLPGA
player in contention – and winning – at the
Major championships. They add to a large
contingent of Koreans on the LPGA Tour led
by Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and In Gee Chun.
The 19-year-old Canadian Brooke
Henderson is another player expected to
challenge for top spot over the next decade.
And those in the know at Golf Australia
believe Minjee Lee and Su Oh, both 11
months older than Ko, will rival the Kiwi
once their games mature. Like Henderson,
they too reached No.1 on the women’s World
Amateur Golf Ranking.
And on any given week, one of the
best LPGA players is likely to have an
outstanding week with the putter.
Ko and her camp would realise she must
elevate her game to another level if she
wants to have sustained success during her
prime years from 20 to 30. As the old adage
goes: if you’re standing still then you’re
And what of the allegation that Ko’s
parents and sister have too much say on
Lydia? Media matriarch Kathie Shearer has
observed Ko at close quarters during her
frequent visits to the media centre. She says
it can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
“I think it’s wonderful. You’re never alone,
you’ve always got somebody to speak to.
And they’re always on your side.”
Shearer is adamant that Ko the player
has a strong voice and is calling the shots.
However, she says the family would have a
“I just think Lydia’s circle has become
bigger and bigger ... I love all of that, but I
think she would try to please them.”
Lessons from Annika
Annika Sorenstam faced a challenge to
her authority as the world’s best player not
dissimilar to what Ko faces. Sorenstam had
won 23 LPGA tournaments by the age of 30.
But along came Karrie Webb and supplanted
her as the queen of women’s golf when the
Australian won 13 LPGA titles between 1999
Webb’s sublime play established a new
benchmark and challenged the Swede to
respond. Sorenstam lifted, raising the bar
to another level as she won a phenomenal
43 LPGA events over the next five seasons
As good as she’s been, Ko is still a long way
from replicating the sustained dominance
that Sorenstam had when she was an
intimidating presence in women’s golf. If
Ko had just kept on doing what she did as
a teenager, then it’s unlikely she would be
able to reach those dizzying heights that
Perth-based Kiwi Michael Long has
observed Ko from afar. As such, he
is a little detached from the patriotic
fervour back at home that surrounds the
“It is a hard game. You are the boss. You
are your marketing manager. You are
your captain. You are the product. You are
everything,” Long says.
“It’s not easy with the Internet and with
[modern] media. Sometimes you try to make
a few changes and everyone’s got a say. And
it’s so hard to blank everything out and just
get on and do what you’re doing.
“If there’s anything I would say to Lydia,
it’s ‘Keep on believing. Keep on doing what
you’re doing.’ She’s done it and she knows
how to do it.
“OK, she may be having a few issues at the
moment. But she’ll work it out. You don’t get
to No.1 by accident.”
With all the scrutiny she has faced over
the past year, Lydia Ko would be under
no illusion about this point: the price of
potential is the burden of expectation.
The easiest way to stop the constant
scrutiny and speculation is for her to win.
And win often. Easier said than done.
WHAT FRANK NOBILO THINKS OF LYDIA KO
“[Lydia is] New Zealand’s greatest golfer, already. Sir Bob Charles had longevity, sure.
But she’s done things that nobody else has done. You could argue against it, but she
has a chance to rival Annika [Sorenstam] for her records on the course. From a New
Zealand standpoint, male or female, there’s no question [she’s the greatest].”
“Good access to Lydia will go a long way. Every time she goes back to New Zealand and
kids see the best in the world play golf, that, in my opinion, is going to help the game
of golf grow there.”
“A lot of New Zealanders are going latch on to her success and create more
developmental programs to try to grow the game of golf. But I guess they may not
know how she got that good in the first place.”
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31/05/2017 3:03 pm
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