Ko's work with Leadbetter has more than paid off

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2015, 1:39 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Next week marks the two-year anniversary of the day Lydia Ko began working with her swing coach, David Leadbetter.

There was much angst at the time, questions about whether Ko should be abandoning the swing and the New Zealand coach who helped her emerge as such a phenom.

So how’s it going?

Ko, 18, has reigned as Rolex world No. 1 for 23 weeks since the union. She has won eight LPGA titles, including her first major championship, the Evian Championship in September. She claimed the biggest payday in the history of women’s golf, winning the CME Group Tour Championship last year, and is looking to do it again this week. If she does win Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club, she will likely sweep the LPGA’s three most prized season-long awards: the Rolex Player of the Year title, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

“You’re always happy when a player is confident and has a real understanding of what they’re doing,” Leadbetter said. “We’ve made the changes we wanted to make. We don’t do anything more than maintenance now. As a coach, you want a player to have control of what they’re doing and to be their own best coach.”

Leadbetter says Ko is there.

In a controversial move two years ago, Ko left her long-time coach, Guy Wilson. She turned to Leadbetter and his assistant, Sean Hogan, in part because her father, Gil Hong Ko, admired the swing of Hee Young Park, who worked with Leadbetter and Hogan.

“In the beginning, to be honest, we were a little reluctant to take her on, because it was a case of you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Leadbetter said. “If she played well, she was supposed to play well. If she played badly, well, then it’s, 'You guys screwed up.’

“I went through that before with Nick Faldo. It was, 'Who the hell are you to mess up our golden boy?’ It’s always a bit of a risk, but you have to take a little bit of risk in life sometimes.”

There was added risk in that Leadbetter and Hogan didn’t manage and refine the swing Ko brought to them. They changed it rather significantly. It was actually a change the Ko family pushed to happen.

Ko hit a fade when she came to Leadbetter, but Tina, Lydia’s mother, told Leadbetter they wanted to get rid of Lydia’s shut face and have her gain some more distance. Leadbetter changed Ko’s strong grip to a neutral grip. He changed her shut face at the top of her backswing to a more square position. He turned her fade into a draw, and he got her more distance.

“If you look at her swing now, it is much more compact than it used to be,” Leadbetter said. “She used to have this wide swing that took her a long time to complete. Her tempo has gotten a smidgen quicker than it used to be, which matches what she’s doing. The big thing is this has enabled her to get her leg action more solid.

“When she had this big, wide, long swing, as slow as that was, her hips got really active. You see now her hips are much more stable, providing much more balance to her swing. In a word, she is much better synchronized. Her arms and body work much more in sync. Before, there was a lot more timing involved. She's gotten a lot more efficient.”

It’s Leadbetter’s A-swing.

“It’s a commercial name for an alternative backswing,” he said. “I have always believed that the backswing should be a little steeper and the downswing should be a little shallower. It is not really a method; it’s an approach. She is a mid-A swinger.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.