DALY CITY, Calif. – Lydia Ko’s ball striking isn’t honed in this week.
Not yet, anyway.
At day’s end Friday at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, she was 85th in hitting greens in regulation and 79th in driving accuracy.
And yet she is T-5 on the leaderboard.
That says everything about Ko’s short game.
With a scrambling 1-under-par 71 on a difficult, blustery day at Lake Merced Golf Club, Ko fought her way into weekend contention. She’s four shots off the lead in her bid to win her fourth worldwide title this year and to win this event for a third consecutive year.
Haru Nomura (70) leads at 9 under overall.
“It was tough when you don't hit the fairways as much as you want to, but I've just got to maybe go to the range and try and get this sorted out, but I feel like I've hit quite a few quality shots, made quite a few good strokes on my putts,” Ko said. “I've just got to think positive. We’ve got two long days to go.”
Ko has scrambled impressively. Lake Merced isn’t some easy muni, either. Getting up and down from the thick rough here, onto some firm greens, takes some creativity, some versatile shot making and a velvet touch.
“We've been working on trying to spend more time on the short game, because even though I would love to hit the ball straight every single time, there are going to be those days where I don't hit it as good as I want to,” Ko said. “And if you have a short game you can trust, you can always kind of feed off that.
“There are going to be times where you need to make up and downs, and a crucial up and down to get in contention, or stay within the lead. That's what we've been focusing more on, trying to spend more time on the short game stuff, because it is important. When something is off, it can definitely balance it and help your day out.”
Ko is chasing Nomura, whom she has some history with this year. Ko opened Sunday at the Women’s Australian Open in February one shot behind Nomura. Though Ko pressed her hard with a strong final round, Nomura didn’t crack. Nomura closed impressively to win by three.
This time, Ko has two rounds to catch Nomura.
“I know Haru is playing great, and there are some other big names that have played well the last two days,” Ko said. “But there is still a lot of golf to be played. I've just got to focus on my game. Because of the three-peat thing, obviously, there is a lot of say about it, but I've got to enjoy it, and, at the end of the day, just try my best.”