Coinciding with a reasonably average finish to her LPGA season, Lydia Ko has given her caddy and coach the flick to round off 2016. Both decisions were met with a bit of drama as people wondered why such a seemingly lovely Ko would do what is on the surface - especially for us kiwis - the act of a prima donna.
Of course, this is professional sport and anything is possible. Many professional golfers roll through caddies and coaches like they do clubs from their sponsors and in the pursuit of excellence, you can't blame anyone for looking to tinker the voices around them, bringing in a fresh perspective to take them further. One look at Ko's results paint a pretty obvious tale, a tale of Ko needing change.
Noise about the influence of Ko's whanau and general distractions around her are nice for headlines, however it's impossible to ignore how far Ko fell off the wagon this year. As I updated Ko's 2016 campaign this year, I found myself in awe of how Ko would still manage to stay near the top of the leaderboard when she wasn't winning tournaments or finishing in the top-three; in her first 15 tournaments, Ko drifted outside the top-10 just four times.
Near the end of July, Ko headed over to the British Open where her almighty slump started. Ko played nine tournaments including the British Open which saw her finish in the top-10 just three times, but most notably, Ko finished outside the top-20 five times; if Ko wasn't playing well, she sucked.
Given how Ko had dominated the previous season and how well she had started this season - which includes how Ko was able to stay competitive when she wasn't at her best - something was clearly up. We don't know what was up, Ko obviously knows best and if she felt like the combination with her caddy and coach David Leadbetter wasn't quite getting her firing on all cylinders, or even worse, this combination was frustrating her in some way as there was no solution to her strange slump.
One of the most interesting things I've heard in the wash up from the decision to split with Leadbetter, was how busy Ko was and it possibly being a distraction. Ko is extremely marketable and this would create a mountain of opportunities away from the golf course, however Ko was far from the most active golfer on tour. Ko played in 24 tournaments this year, which had her ranked 56th and that folks, means that 55 golfers played more tournaments than Ko.
If 55 golfers are playing more tournaments, then Ko obviously isn't all that busy on the golf course. Ko played 94 rounds this year which had her ranked 30th, which is more a sign of how good Ko was this year as the difference in rounds comes with Ko making the cut more often than not, almost guaranteeing that she played all four rounds available.
That allows for some nice context and reason why we shouldn't really care about what Ko does because 55 golfers played more tournaments and Ko still finished 2nd in the Race To CME Globe rankings and 2nd in prize money.
Consider this second-year syndrome for Ko as she comes to grips with everything that being Lydia Ko involves and the collateral damage have been her caddy and coach. This sets up even more intrigue around Ko's 2017 LPGA Tour as she not only needs to get herself back to her lofty standards, around the same time that she moves into her 20's and starts to figure this big, bad world out as an adult.
Ko is 19-years-old, so it's common sense that her parents are going to play a major role in her career at this point. Everything is ahead of Ko, not only her golf career but also her growth as a human and there are bound to be more growing pains as we follow the young phenom.