HARRISON, N.Y. – Lydia Ko tees it up at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week looking for her 12th worldwide title, eighth on the LPGA.
She’s aiming to claim a tour best third LPGA victory this year.
Though she just turned 18 six weeks ago, is there pressure on her to claim her first major championship to validate her ranking as the best female player in the world? Her reign as the Rolex world No. 1 extends for a 19th consecutive week, but she finds her lead atop the world rankings down to a mere 10 hundredths of a point over Inbee Park. While Ko is seeking her first major, Park has won five of them in her career, three over the last two years.
No player as young as Ko has ever won a women’s major. She has four chances this year to make history. If she wins the Women’s PGA, the U.S. Women’s Open, the Ricoh Women’s British Open or the Evian Championship this summer, she will surpass Morgan Pressel’s mark as the youngest woman to win a major.
While it seems almost unfair to say there’s pressure on Ko to win a major when she just turned 18, the Rolex world rankings don’t include age in its formula for designating who ranks as the best player in the game. Ko is the only player among the current top 11 in the Rolex world rankings who hasn’t won a major.
“I don't think it's an emergency right now,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, analyst for Golf Channel’s coverage of the Women’s PGA. “She just had her 18th birthday. I personally don't think there's much doubt that that's going to happen sooner rather than later.”
Annika Sorenstam agrees but also senses pressure builds more to win a major when a player holds the No. 1 ranking.
“Lydia has the game, and she's capable of winning majors, there's no doubt,” said Sorenstam, who will be in the analyst’s role for NBC’s coverage of the Women’s PGA. “The pressure will build up a little bit as far as being No. 1. You won so many tournaments but not a major, and so it's always going to be a storyline, until she wins. It’s almost like on the men's tour, where they talk about who is the best player that's never won a major. Well, there's no doubt she's the one on the LPGA, when you win the Player of the Year and the money list.
“There are a lot of factors on the LPGA that we look at to determine the best player. Of course, we have the Rolex ranking. But consistency does pay off, too, and wins in general also matter. I think it's fun to have that story line. I look forward to seeing how she's going to do here at Westchester and certainly the next three majors after that to see how she steps up to the pressure. I remember being a player and you want to prove that you can do it, and I'm sure she feels the same way.”