Ko splits with Leadbetter after three years

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2016, 1:03 am

Lydia Ko and swing coach David Leadbetter are parting ways.

Ko told Leadbetter Tuesday night that she wanted to go in a new direction, and Leadbetter made the split public releasing a statement on his website Wednesday night.

“She called me and said, `David, this is the hardest decision for me, you’re like family, but I’ve decided I need to make a change,’” Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com.

Ko and her management team couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“Lydia’s a great person, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time together,” Leadbetter said. “We did a great job together, just look at the record. We can hold our heads up high.”

Leadbetter said he believes Ko’s father, Gil Hong Ko, and her, mother, Tina, were likely heavily involved in the decision to fire him. He believes they were also behind the firing of Lydia’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, during the Asian swing this fall.

“My parting words to Lydia were that I think she needs to take control of her life and her golf game,” Leadbetter said. “She’s the No. 1 player in the world. She isn’t 15 anymore; she’s nearly 20. Her parents have done a great job bringing her up and getting her to a certain level, but she is old enough now to where she should be making her own decisions.”

Ko is making some sweeping changes. She fired Hamilton after the Hana Bank Championship in October. They were together for two years. She is also apparently poised to announce she’s leaving Callaway for a new equipment deal with PXG Golf, according to news reports. Now, there’s news of the Leadbetter split.

Ko’s changing swing and second-half swoon are clearly at the root of her decision to leave Leadbetter, but she limited explanations to “wanting a fresh set of eyes.”

Ko won five times around the world in the first half of this past season, but she didn’t win after claiming the Marathon Classic in July. She struggled this fall, contending less. She went five consecutive events without a top-10 finish late in the year, her longest run without a top 10 since she began playing LPGA events as a 15-year-old.

While Ko denied she was working on swing changes during the Asian swing, Leadbetter confirmed she began moving away from the swing they built together while in Asia.

“There were swing changes in Korea we weren’t made aware of,” Leadbetter said.

Ko left her long-time coach in New Zealand, Guy Wilson, to go to work with Leadbetter and his longtime associate, Sean Hogan, in November of 2013. Her parents told Leadbetter at the time they wanted to fix Lydia’s shut face at the top of her back swing and turn her fade into a draw. They also wanted her to get longer.

Leadbetter built Ko what he called a “Mid A swing,” a version of his “A Swing,” which features a more upright takeaway with a transition to a more shallow downswing. Leadbetter said the steepness of Ko’s takeaway had become “too exaggerated” as this past season wore on. He says fatigue during a brutal summer stretch of big events and fitness issues led to the swing problems.

“Her swing certainly got looser,” Leadbetter said. “It looked like she was lifting the club too much, and as the year went on that grew worse. Her trainers will tell you fitness was an issue, and I think that was a huge factor. So, all of a sudden, you’re not hitting the ball as well, and you lose some confidence and you have a tough run of form.”

Leadbetter said Ko and her father began working on changes while playing the Asian swing, where they were mostly away from Leadbetter and Hogan.

“The fix for her dad’s part was to try to flatten her backswing,” Leadbetter said.

Ko won 15 times in her three years under Leadbetter and Hogan, including two major championships, and she has held the Rolex No. 1 world ranking for 78 weeks. In her last 50 starts going to the CME Group Tour Championship, she had 33 top-10 finishes, 11 of them victories, but she wasn’t herself through the late summer and fall. She led the Rolex Player of the Year race, the battle for the Vare Trophy for low scoring and the LPGA money list beginning the Asian swing. She left the season without winning any of those honors.

Leadbetter said Gil Hong Ko’s presence on the practice tee was becoming a stronger influence in his work with her this year.

“It’s been difficult the last few months, when she’s hearing more than one voice,” Leadbetter said.

Leadbetter was asked if he is bracing for criticism of his “A Swing.”

“The A Swing worked great for two-and-a-half years,” Leadbetter said. “That’s my answer.”

Leadbetter said he treasures what he and Hogan accomplished with Ko.

“These things happen in the world of coaching,” Leadbetter said. “We did a great job together.”

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."