The funkiest week in kiwi golf is also a crucial week for Lydia Ko as she rides into the Aotearoa Women's Open. As you regular Niche Cache homies know, Ko has been battlin' her way through 2017, even through the back-end of 2016 and if I am to continue my metaphor of comparing Ko's career to an 18-hole golf course, Ko is now approaching the fourth hole.
Last time we checked in with Ko was mid-July and Ko was on her third hole,struggling to get out of the bunker as she finished 59T and 33T in two majors. Unfortunately for Ko, she couldn't get out of that bunker and kept on hitting the lip of the bunker, although in typical Ko fashion she kept her cool and didn't biff any golf clubs into the pond - Ko instead gave them away to some fans, well that's what I'd assume Ko would do in such a situation.
Ko stayed in that pesky bunker by finishing 20T at the Marathon Classic, missing the cut at the Ladies Scottish Open, a 59T at the Women's British Open and then again missing the cut at the Canadian Women's Open. Of a possible 12 rounds, Ko scored under-par in just four of those rounds and this included a Scottish Open where she went +2 and +7. In other words, a rather terrible run of form by Ko's lofty standards continued and got worse over the next four weeks.
That was July and August, then a new month and possibly some Spring equinox vibes brought a complete flip in form for Ko. She finished 2nd at the Indy Women Championship in early September and then last week she was tied for 3rd at The Evian Championship, with five of her six rounds coming under-par.
In the context of the golf course/Ko career metaphor, Ko eventually got out of that bunker and drained a long-distance putt. Ko smiled, thanked everyone and then waltzed off to hopefully start the next chapter, a better chapter of her career and what better place to do so than the Aotearoa Women's Open. Obviously Ko will want to showcase her change in fortune and her real ability on home soil, so here's hoping that in this fourth hole of Ko's career, she can hit her drive long and straight down the middle.
Having won three of the last four Aotearoa Women's Open events, Ko has the history, form and kiwi knowledge to get her first win in over a year. Also in Ko's favour is that the Aotearoa Women's Open has a relatively weak field, despite what their PR department and mainstream media will tell you. Of course, it's fantastic that we've got an LPGA event in Aotearoa, however let's keep it all the way real for y'all because none of the Rolex Rankings Top Five will be in Aotearoa and Brooke Henderson is the only player in the Official Money Top Five who will compete in Aotearoa; Henderson's ranked 12th in the world and is 5th in prize-money via playing the most rounds so far in 2017.
Brooke Henderson is the only player in the Race To CME Globe Top Five (5th) who will be in Aotearoa, while there's a notable lack of the large and dominant South Korean contingent, as well as Thailand's Jutanugarn sisters. Ko's homie Danielle Kang in the Women's PGA Championship and she will have Steve Williams on her bags, which is an obvious benefit in kiwi conditions. Kang isn't top five in any stats though.
All of that combines for Ko's perfect opportunity to get back to winning, or at least seal another top-five finish. Ko will be gunning for the win, at this stage, after such a dip in her form for such a long period, a third consecutive top-five finish will also be an impressive result for Ko. From there Ko can go about getting her season back on track.
Here's how Ko is ranked in major stats look since they last time we touched base with her...
Birdies: 37th (36th last time)
Rounds Under Par: 17th (19th last time)
Scoring Average: 15th (16th last time)
Putting Average: 16th (5th last time)
Putts Per Greens In Regulation: 3rd (3rd last time)
Peace and love 27.
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