Not even some match play in Mexico could get the best out of Lydia Ko as she continues to plod along on a plateau of mediocrity. That plateau certainly isn't a bad place to be though, especially when Ko's steadily improving after a rough start to 2017 and a Ko plateau is far better than the plateau of many other female golfers.
At the Lorena Ochoa Match Play, Ko (#1) was knocked out in the round of 16 after she had defeated local Ana Menendez in the first round and then American Jennifer Song in round two. Round three saw Ko go up against South Korea's Mi Jung Hur (#5) and after conceding 2 shots, Ko came back to level it up before Hur hit two birdies in the final five holes and Ko only hit a one birdie in that final stretch. Hur won '1UP' which basically means she won by a shot and Ko was left stranded with another kinda disappointing result.
Again, kinda disappointing given Ko's standards but Ko is still battlin' her way through these struggles and a major positive is that although she is clearly not playing her very best golf, she is not that far off the pace. Up until April 5 - when I last wrote about Ko - she had three top-10 finishes in six tournaments and she finished 11T at the ANA Inspiration, so not too far outside the top-10.
Since April 5, Ko finished 2T at the LOTTE Championship (April 12) and then withdrew after two rounds at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout before finishing 9T in Mexico - along with all the others who were knocked out in round three. Match play has two golfers going against each other, knocking the other to progress to the next round as opposed to normal stylez where they play four rounds and grab the lowest total. That means that Ko's 'rounds' in Mexico weren't kept on record, but in the six rounds she has played since April 5, four rounds have been under par.
In theory, Ko then had two rounds under par in Mexico as she won by 3 shots in round one and 1 shot in round two. So on the whole, this has been a steady little stint for Ko and while kiwi mainstream media tend to focus on the world rankings, given the context of the end of last season and the start of this season; Ko is doing pretty damn well.
In the last Ko update, I compared her stats to her 2016 stats. This time around we'll check in to see how Ko has improved since April 5 and the proof is in the pudding:
Ko is 31st in birdies (104) vs 33rd last time.
Ko is 20th in rounds under par (20) vs 31st.
Ko is 13th in scoring average (69.86) vs 23rd.
Ko is 28th in putting average (29.18) vs 87th.
Ko is 20th in putts per Greens In Regulation (1.76) vs 55th.
Major improvements have come in Ko's putting and that is more an example of how bad she was putting previously, as opposed to her suddenly becoming amazing. Ko was 1st in putting average and putts per GIR last season, so she is merely clawing her way back to her putting throne after a horrible stretch with the putter. We know Ko won't smack the ball on to the green via power - ranked 100th in driving distance - and Ko's consistency with the putter allows her to hover around par, pouncing on any birdie opportunity.
Ko is named to play at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia next weekend. I've got Ko trending upwards despite the result in Mexico as match play could be viewed as a curveball, leveling the playing field a wee bit. The rest of the LPGA Tour should be slightly concerned that Ko is putting a lot better now and with a week's break where she can settle down, suss a few details with her coach and possibly enjoy some quality time with another caddie, don't sleep on Ko making another step up in Virginia.
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