Lydia Ko: Can she reset before the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship?

Lydia Ko. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Lydia Ko. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Lydia Ko needs to take a hard look at her game and get her long irons dialed in.

Lydia Ko needs a reset. Ko’s been sitting at the top of the world rankings now for 82 weeks but her hold on the top is getting increasingly tenuous as she searches for a turnaround victory.

The Kiwi phenom, 2014 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year, 2016 Player of the Year, two-time winner of the Race to the CME Globe, hasn’t hoisted a trophy since the LPGA‘s Marathon Classic last July.

Just about any other player on the Tour would be more than satisfied with Ko’s 2017 season to date – out of 9 starts, 8 cuts made, 5 top 10 finishes, one of them a runner-up (the LOTTE Championship). But that performance level isn’t going to keep Lydia Ko in control of the Rolex Rankings. So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, and Lexi Thompson are all closing in on her. Only Jutanugarn finished behind Ko this week at the Kingsmill Championship.

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So what does Lydia Ko need to do over the next three weeks, as she steps back from the Tour’s early summer 12-week tournament binge?

Ko ranks 100th on the Tour in distance off the tee, but she’s never been a long hitter and she has already demonstrated that length isn’t a necessary component of championship-level golf.

Can she tighten up her accuracy off the tee? Does she even need to focus on that aspect of her game?

Right now, Ko is hitting 80% of the fairways and that puts her in the top 20 on the Tour. That should be good enough to get her into contention and with 5 top 10 finishes – 63% of her starts this season – I’d say she could turn her attention to other aspects of her game during her three-week pause.

Where Ko Needs to Get Dialed In

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Looking at her stats, I think Ko needs to fine tune her short game. That’s where she’s going to get the biggest bang for the buck. Right now she’s hitting less than 75% of the greens in regulation. So Yeon Ryu is averaging 81.5%, Lexi Thompson 79.5%, and In Gee Chun 78.6% GIR. At 74.8% only Ariya Jutanugarn lags behind Ko in this crucial shot and she more than compensates for the shortage with her power off the tee, something Ko lacks.

So far as her performance on the putting surface is concerned, I think Ko’s competitive even though she’s averaging 29.18 putts per round and ranks 28th on the Tour. Jutanugarn is averaging 28.78, Ryu 29.64, Chun 29.73, and Thompson 30.12 putts per round.

Ko’s reset, if there’s going to be one, needs to focus on her fairway-to-green play, on her accuracy with her fairway woods and long irons. Once she gets to the green, Lydia Ko should be able to outplay all five of her closest challengers. She just needs to get there faster, and that may mean she needs to stop tinkering with the swing that took her to that position of dominance in the first place.

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We’ll be able to determine if she used her time off wisely when Lydia Ko returns to competition in -mid-June.