Back in April, I took stock of Lydia Ko's 2016 after she finished tied-6th at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Ko already had two tour wins to her name and at 19-years-old she was already turning her potential into bonafide greatness. Five LPGA tournaments have come and gone since then and this weekend, Ko will chase major tournament glory at the US Women's Open in San Martin, California.
That smells like the perfect time to take another cheeky look at Ko's season on the LPGA Tour, take stock once again before the majors pile up and the Olympics smacks us in the face (when Ko will take the world by storm).
Before I take a look back and take stock, it's important to note something that is set in stone for the US Open as Ko will tee-off in the same group as Canadian Brooke Henderson, another teenager. Ko has captured my sporting heart as a young phenom who just happens to rep Aotearoa, for golf fans around the world though Ko represents a fresh wave in professional women's golf. Ko is the face, she's the leader of an exciting time for women's golf and right there behind her is Henderson and you don't need to look too far around the LPGA Tour to find a pack of young golfers who are pushing women's golf to new heights.
While Ko and Henderson won't ever have a true 'rivalry' as they are lovely characters, far too nice to build hype with silly statements, their sporting rivalry is exciting. They'll be going at each other at the US Open as they are both in contention to dominate here with Henderson 2nd to Ko in the Race To CME Globe Season rankings and Rolex Rankings, so to be able to see them compete in the same group for the opening round will be a moment to saviour. That we are a likely to have many more rounds like this, many more moments to saviour is a sign of the times in women's golf.
But Ko, I love Super Duper Lydia much more than Henderson and this is all about Ko.
Ko actually had a bit of a mid-season slump, which came with a tied-23rd at the LOTTE Championship and tied-6th at the Swinging Skirts (final two tournaments of the last time I took stock). Ko then finished tied-18th at the Kingsmill Championship and tied-16th at the Volvik Championship, resulting in four tournaments that saw Ko finished T23, T6, T18 and T16; a fairly strange feeling for Ko.
The thing with Ko is that her bad performances aren't too far behind her best performances and this is a trend in not only overall tournament results, but also in a few stats. It's shock and horror if Ko drops outside the top-10 which made that slump, a slump but Ko was back on the wagon soon enough. Early in June, Ko finished 2nd at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and then finished tied-4th at the Meijer LPGA Classic before winning the Walmart Arkansas Championship to round off an excellent month for Ko.
Despite that mid-season slump, Ko can't be kept quiet for too long and she sent warning shots to the Tour, with three top-5 finishes in three tournaments.
That reflects Ko's standing in a bunch of different rankings and stats. While the mainstream media concern themselves with how much money Ko has won on Tour (1st), it's a very lazy look at Ko's greatness and I'd expect nothing less of such silly kiwi journalists.
Ko still sits at the top of the Race To CME Globe Season and Rolex Rankings, no surprises there. Those standings come from Ko leading the scoring average stat by a pretty hefty margin as well. Ko is ranked 1st with the lowest scoring average on tour, averaging 69.078 and when you consider that Ha Na Jang in 2nd averages 69.778, Ko is head and shoulders above the pack.
This is just one stat that highlights Ko's consistency and is related to the 'Rounds In The 60's' stat which Ko leads with 30 rounds in the 60's. Also related to that is the 'Rounds Under Par' stat, Ko leads that with 43 rounds under par and it's borderline ridiculous that Ko has the most rounds in the 60's and under par, despite playing only 51 rounds through 13 tournaments.
That needs to be put in some context; Ko is ranked 109th in events played and is ranked 46th in rounds played. So, basically there are a lot of women on Tour who play more golf than Ko, but Ko dominates when she plays.
You'd think that with Ko leading the scoring average and a few related stats, that she'd be hitting the most birdies right? Wrong, Ko is ranked 13th in birdies with 207 which has her considerably behind Henderson who has 275 birdies.
Ko doesn't even hit many eagles as she's ranked 24th with only 4 eagles this season.
So Ko is the best female golfer in the world, she averages the lowest score each round and 12 ladies hit more birdies than her? I couldn't find a stat for bogeys, but given Ko's standing on Tour and her putting ability, it's safe to assume that Ko makes up for her lack of birdies/eagles by rarely doing worse than par. Ko averages the least number of putts per-round, averaging 28.67 putts.
'Greens In Regulation' is a stat for the golfing nerds and thanks to Ko, I managed to wrap my head around it. Basically, if the ball is on the green in at least two shots fewer than par, that's considered being on the green in 'regulation'. So on a par-3, you want the ball on the green in a single shot. On a par-5, you'd have to get on the green in two shots.
Ko is ranked 6th in GIR, but once Ko is on the green, she's a dynamo. Ko averaged 1.72 putts per GIR (1st) ... so for all us common folk that means that Ko gets on the green in regulation 74.18% of the time and from that position, she's sinking it in less than 2 putts.
As you'd expect, Ko doesn't drive the ball the furthest (117st) but it's her consistency in getting to the green and the ease at which she sinks her putts that has her on top of the LPGA Tour.
If Ko is playing golf, I'm watching. She's a wizard and while this season has already been hugely entertaining for fans like me (I've taken stock twice!), it's only about to get more crazy with the US Open this weekend and the British Open later this month. That's two majors and then the Olympics, so I'll guess we'll take stock again after the Olympics.