Aotearoa welcomed Lydia Ko back for the Aotearoa Women's Open to usher in October, although Ko couldn't quite be the dominant force that kiwis had hoped. Ko finished tied-22 which slowed her nifty run of form down, almost to a hault. Coming into the Aotearoa Women's Open, Ko had a 2nd and 3T in her previous two tournaments and after finishing 22T in Aotearoa, Ko then went on to finish 19T at the HanaBank Championship in South Korea. Two top-five results, then normal service appeared to have snuck back into Ko's life with two results outside the top-15.
At the moment, we're wondering what Ko's normal service actually is though. Outside the top-15 is Ko's status-quo of the past 18 months, but Ko got back on the wagon in China at the Swinging Skirts Taiwan Championship last weekend. Ko finished 2nd, giving her three top-five results in her last five tournaments. Ko then went to Malaysia where she finished tied-11 at the Sime Darby LPGA and given her inconsistencies during this elongated lean patch of form, it feels as though Ko's status-quo or fair gauge of how she's playing is to put her in that 10-15 bracket.
By that I mean that my gut feel on Ko's average tournament placing is in the 10-15 area. Her actual average is 18.4 (this doesn't include three tournaments where Ko didn't make the cut and one where she withdrew, so it's probably worse with legit stats). This is skewed by some horrible tournaments outside the top-30 and Ko has finished in the top-25 in her last six tournaments, with four of those six tournaments featuring Ko in the top-15. So overall, I'm happy with my gut feel that Ko is in the 10-15 bracket.
That might be downbuzz for those of you who only pay attention to mainstream media and ignore how hard it is to come into the LPGA Tour as a teenager and maintain dominance for multiple years. Hence I don't view Ko's current status as a major negative and I'm just happy that Ko is steadily battling away, finishing in the top-20 the majority of the time as she susses this professional golf thing out. The LPGA Tour ain't a place for suckers either and the strength of the Tour seems to get ignored when people discuss Ko's 'struggles'.
In that vein, October sums up where Ko is at right now nicely. Ko played three tournaments; 19T, 2, 11T. First of all all three were top-20 finishes so that's cool, but within that top-20 bubble there were dramatic ups and downs with one result on the edge of that bubble, one in the middle and one on the podium. Again, it's super important to note that those inconsistencies come in a top-20 bubble and this is a great place for Ko to be considering the last 18 months have seen her dip well outside the top-20 on numerous occasions.
The last time we checked in with Ko's stats was ahead of the Aotearoa Open, which started in September. Here's how she's looking now, including the Aotearoa Open and the three tournaments in October...
Birdies: 21st (37th last time).
Rounds Under Par: 16th (17th).
Scoring Average: 11th (15th).
Putting Average: 12th (16th).
Putts Per Greens In Regulation: 3rd (3rd).
That's improvement in all major stats and no change in the Putts per GIR. To me that smells lovely and with Ko playing some decent golf, we've got some highlights to enjoy. If you enjoy our coverage of Lydia Ko, then hit an ad as Ko would stroke a putt. You'll be showing your support to the Niche Cache and making a donation, without having to pay anything. Tu meke.