As I follow Lydia Ko's golfing odyssey, nothing makes me laugh more than kiwi media reporting with a splash of disappointment that Ko lost her No.1 ranking, or is slipping further down the rankings. I can't speak for Lydia, but if maintaining her No.1 spot was a major goal for Ko then it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to take a three week holiday during the LPGA Tour, does it?
The last thing you'd want to do if you only cared about the rankings would be to skip tournaments and that's exactly what Ko does. Not because she's a lazy so and so, she just doesn't really care about the rankings that seem to be so important to the mainstream media. I'm sure Ko would love to hold down the No.1 ranking for her entire career, the fact is that Ko is picking and choosing which tournaments she plays, most likely for her sanity's sake and that doesn't translate perfectly to chasing rankings.
Since we last touched base with Ko, she has been solid without being spectacular. Forget your previous expectations of Ko as she's simply not playing at the same level as she had in previous years and I continue to be impressed by the depth of the LPGA Tour. As I've said before; Ko only needs to be slightly off her game and the likes of Su Yeon Ryu, the Jutanugarn sisters, Lexi Thompson, In Gee Chun, Inbee Park, Brooke Henderson or Brittany Lincicome can put Ko in the shade.
Ko finished 10T and the Kingsmill Championship, 10T at the Meijer LPGA Classic and last weekend she finished 25T at the Arkansas Championship. Solid and when you chuck in 9 of 10 rounds played during this period, under-par along with major improvements in Ko's short-game; I still believe Ko is trending upwards.
Much of optimism is thanks to her improvements in her short-game. Regular readers will know that I have been tracking five different stats throughout this season and the last time I wrote about Ko, she had dropped from 33rd to 31st in Birdies, 31st to 20th in Rounds Under Par, 23rd to 13th Scoring Average, 87th to 28th in Putting Average and 55th to 20th in Putts Per Greens In Regulation.
The biggest improvements were in Ko's putting, where she went from relative oblivion to being ranked as we'd expect Ko to be ranked. Even though Ko hasn't finished inside the top-10 in her past three tournaments, she's still continued to impress with these improvements.
Birdies: 33rd (33rd).
Rounds Under Par: 14th (20th).
Scoring Average: 9th ( 13th).
Putting Average: 13th (28th).
Putts Per Greens In Regulation: 5th (20th).
The beauty in Ko's work when she was dominating was that her putter could get her out of any tricky spot and while she hasn't improved her Birdies ranking, she is working back to her putter being dynamite.
Ko would have taken those three weeks off, with a target on the Women's PGA Championship. This is the second major of the year and Ko has played three tournaments leading into this major, setting herself up nicely to have a crack at winning it. Majors are majors for a reason and things won't look so bad if Ko can rampage to victory in Chicago this weekend.
Even as Ko's not quite dominating the golfing world, I'm thoroughly enjoying following Ko as she works her way through this period of her career. A lull was to be expected and not too many young athletes settle straight into a dynasty of dominance, what happens from that lull is however crucial. What I'm seeing from Ko is that she is slowly and steadily working her way out of this lull. It damn sure would be nice to see Ko get back to winning, although as I'm loving the journey, I'd be happy to see Ko finish inside the top-5 as she continues to re-gain confidence in her short-game.
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