Lydia Ko involves Baltursol in acquainted waters — trying to find a spark

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Lydia Ko ended 2022 on high of the golf world. Now, she enters the KPMG Girls’s PGA Championship trying to find that very same spark.

Jack Hirsh

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Lydia Ko belted a ball off Balusrol’s 18th tee and instantly grimaced. She took one hand off the membership and watched because the ball spun up into the breeze and sailed huge proper of the green into the deep bluegrass tough. She hung her head and requested her caddie for one more ball. It was solely a follow spherical, however her physique language already confirmed indicators of misery.

This hasn’t been the yr Ko hoped for — removed from it — particularly after a return to prominence in 2022. Final yr, we acquired a glimpse of the Ko of previous. Assured. Free-spirited. Completely happy. Three wins and a return to world No. 1 (together with an engagement) will do this for a golfer.

However simply six months into 2023, that confidence has all however evaporated. She’s but to register a win on the LPGA Tour this yr (though she has received on the LET again in January) and has only one high 10, with missed cuts in two of her final 4 begins. Golf is a psychological recreation, and on Wednesday on the KPMG Girls’s PGA, it was apparent that Ko is just not her regular self.

“If solely I knew, then I might do it,” Ko mentioned of what’s modified between this yr and final. “It’s a head-scratcher.”

The candidness from such a extremely regarded participant is refreshing, nevertheless it hardly conjures up confidence. To be competitve at such a excessive stage over the course of a profession, there’s a sure stage of bravado that’s required.

“I’m not like probably the most assured, like cocky, like ‘Oh, yeah, I’m the best participant,’” Ko admitted. “I generally want I used to be extra like that.”

Wyndham Clark, the newly minted U.S. Open champion, is a good instance of this phenomenon. The 29-year-old professional spoke at size final week in Los Angeles about his mindset for fulfillment competing among the many world’s biggest gamers. The mantra was easy: Be cocky. It’s a mindset that Ko needs she embodied.

“I noticed a number of the interviews from the fellows final week, and I used to be like, ‘Rattling, I want I had that mentality,’” Ko mentioned. “I believe that’s such an incredible place to be at whenever you’re on the golf course.”


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That mentality was absent Wednesday at Baltusrol. There have been no cocky struts down the fairways nor walked-in putts on the greens. Ko may nonetheless be the No. 3-ranked performed on this planet, however her recreation is trending in the other way.

The basic adage says that when issues ain’t broke, don’t repair it. However Ko opted to disregard this knowledge after her banner 2022 season. She cut up together with her swing coach and fired her caddie. Regardless of probably the most fruitful season in six years, Ko made wholesale adjustments.

These changes aren’t stunning if you consider Ko the particular person in the identical vein as Ko the golfer. The 2-time main winner is just not pushed by trophies and legacy the identical approach a few of her friends are.

“I believe particularly ever since assembly my husband, I really feel like golf, sure, it’s work, and after I do it wish to put in my one hundred pc,” Ko mentioned earlier this yr. “Whereas I’m taking part in I wish to play the perfect golf I can. However I’ve been in a position to embrace it and take within the good and dangerous and identical to make every little thing and the outcomes be like a bonus moderately than me attempting to drive one thing out of it. I really feel very grateful in regards to the issues which have occurred in my life on and off the golf course, and that’s only a good place to have the ability to compete as nicely.”

Ko, 26, could be getting into one other chapter in her profession, and, relying the way you interpret her actions, what could nicely might be the ultimate one. The 19-time LPGA Tour winner has lengthy mentioned she has intentions to retire by the age of 30, however with the Corridor of Fame on the horizon, may that curtain name come sooner? Who is aware of.

Ko isn’t one to volunteer that info simply. Her Corridor-of-Fame aspirations are tantalizingly shut, however to get there, she wants to search out the shape that propelled her to the highest of the sport final season.

On Wednesday, that kind was MIA. However golf is a humorous recreation, and all it takes is a small spark to kind a full-formed wild fireplace.

“Golf is about momentum,” Ko mentioned. “It doesn’t take a lot. Golf is a kind of bizarre sports activities you could possibly miss seven cuts in a row after which win the following week.”

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com the place he spends his days running a blog, producing and modifying. Previous to becoming a member of the workforce at GOLF, he attended the College of Texas adopted by stops with the Texas Golf Affiliation, Crew USA, the Inexperienced Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all issues instruction and covers beginner and ladies’s golf. He could be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.

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