Lydia finds her Ko-jo
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.