Ly­dia finds her Ko-jo

Sunday News - - GOLF - CLAY WILSON

YOU get the feel­ing, even in the most chal­leng­ing year of her ca­reer, Ly­dia Ko al­ways knew things would come right.

Kiwi golf star Ko heads into this week’s New Zealand Women’s Open with form, in the shape of two top-three fin­ishes, on her side.

For the of­fi­cial host of the coun­try’s first LPGA Tour­sanc­tioned event, be­ing played at the Win­dross Farm course near Auck­land, they are the kind of re­sults we have be­come used to see­ing.

They also ar­guably make Ko the favourite to claim the $265,000 win­ner’s cheque. Seven other ma­jor cham­pi­onship win­ners, in­clud­ing names like US star Paula Creamer and young guns Brooke Hen­der­son (Canada) and Danielle Kang (USA), may also have their say.

For much of 2017, it hasn’t been easy to pic­ture Ko in that po­si­tion as she has gone through the most sig­nif­i­cant form slump of her al­most four years on the Tour af­ter mak­ing a host of changes.

Hav­ing ap­peared to have come out the other side of the down turn, this week’s 20-year-old tour­na­ment host said she sim­ply had to grit her teeth and trust the wheel would even­tu­ally turn.

‘‘I re­ally feel like all changes were good changes and there are no re­grets,’’ Ko said.

‘‘Some­times you might not see re­sults right away but you have to keep with it and find what’s best for you. It felt like there were a lot of pos­i­tives but I was just not able to ex­e­cute it when I was play­ing.

‘‘Ev­ery year, no mat­ter if you’re the player of the year or not, there’s al­ways as­pects where you feel like ‘oh man, how come this is not as good’, but be­cause I haven’t won for the last year or so it feels like a longer pe­riod.

‘‘With ev­ery­thing, there’s al­ways go­ing to be ups and downs. You just have to be pa­tient and pa­tience is the hard­est thing.’’

De­spite rack­ing up three wins last year, in­clud­ing her sec­ond ma­jor tri­umph, and win­ning sil­ver at the Rio Olympic Games, Ko changed her coach, clubs and brought on­board an­other new cad­die be­fore the start of this sea­son.

The 14-time LPGA win­ner started the year steadily, with three top 10s in her first four events.

While Ko then missed just the sec­ond cut of her ca­reer, nor­mal ser­vice quickly re­sumed with a solid 11th at the year’s first ma­jor and four more top tens.

But it had be­come clear her game wasn’t flow­ing and af­ter fail­ing to break the top 15 at four straight events, she re­ally hit the skids with two more missed cuts in the space of three events.

Sat atop the world rank­ings for an im­pres­sive 85 weeks, she slipped seven spots to eighth in the space of less than three months.

There is a rea­son Ko is renowned for her com­po­sure, though, and just in time for the his­toric New Zealand event, the cool-headed Kiwi looks to have fi­nally turned a cor­ner af­ter all the ad­just­ments.

‘‘I try to not re­ally read any­thing about me, that way I don’t get caught up with ev­ery­thing,’’ she said.

‘‘You can’t make ev­ery­body happy, that’s the bot­tom line. I just try to fo­cus on what is go­ing USA TO­DAY on in front of me and not so much of the big­ger pic­ture.

‘‘All my team have been su­per sup­port­ive, do­ing their best to make it the best for me on course and my fam­ily have been re­ally pos­i­tive.

‘‘Even if I got a lit­tle down they’d say, ‘it’s OK, what can we work on to im­prove your game and move for­ward’. That way you’re al­ways look­ing for­ward and em­brac­ing the mo­ment so you can be bet­ter in the fu­ture.’’

US golfer Danielle Kang is one of the young guns who will be com­pet­ing at the New Zealand Women’s Open.

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