Ko makes changes to 'take ownership' of swing

By Randall MellJanuary 3, 2017, 6:04 pm

Lydia Ko goes back to work in earnest Wednesday knowing all kinds of questions follow her into the new season as she prepares to unveil sweeping changes to her game.

After going about a month without hitting a ball, the Rolex world No. 1 will go back to work at her Orlando base, back to the practice range to get ready to face all the challengers lining up to try to take that top spot away from her this season.

Ko will do so after making her switch to PXG clubs official Tuesday morning, and after announcing she will start the year with Gary Matthews as her full-time caddie. The former caddie to Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Camillo Villegas picked up Ko’s bag on a trial basis at the end of last season, after Ko let Jason Hamilton go in South Korea in October.

Ko’s major overhaul is two-thirds complete now, with the final major change still to be unveiled. She fired David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan as her coaches a month ago but said Tuesday that she isn’t ready to announce who will follow as her new coach.

Ko won’t play the LPGA season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, Jan. 26-29. She will make her debut at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Feb. 16-19.

“I can’t really say any coach’s names yet,” Ko told GolfChannel.com. “Because I haven’t tried out anyone yet. I just got back to Orlando last night, and I’m going to see what my options are. I’ll definitely have a coach before going to Australia.”

Ko spent most of the last month off in South Korea, where she visited her grandparents and other family. She also spent some time in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower during an Evian photo shoot. She spent the last couple days in Phoenix working on a new driver with PXG.

When a top player makes one major change, especially to equipment or coaching, there’s always speculation about what challenges will follow. With Ko making three major changes, the level of curiosity promises to be more intense when she tees it up for the first time in Australia.

“I’m more excited than worried,” she said, moments before making an appearance on “Morning Drive.” “I know there have been concerns, but I’m going to take this positively.”

While Ko isn’t ready to say whom she plans to seek out as her new coach, she said her approach won’t necessarily depend on the coach. Ko said she believes it’s time for her to take ownership of her swing.

“It’s important for me to understand more about my swing and my game, no matter who I end up working with,” Ko said. “The new coach isn’t going to be with me 365 days a year. If I learn more about my game, I’ll be able to find answers within myself, when I’m away from my coach. I think that’s going to be really important, so I’m not as reliant on coaches.”

Ko said she is seeking something basic from a new instructor.

“I just want to try to keep it simple,” Ko said. “I don’t want to rip the swing apart. I feel like there are a lot of positives in my swing. I’m really going to work around the rhythm of my swing, being able to keep my rhythm and being more consistent. Consistency is what I’m looking for, performance wise.

Ko told Golf Channel she made the move away from Leadbetter last month primarily because she believed she needs to become a better driver.

“I was looking for more consistency with my driver,” Ko said. “I think that’s going to be really important going forward. The driver sets up a hole, sets up a round.

“Even though it was a hard decision to leave David and Sean, I believe it was the right decision.”

Ko, the most successful teen in the history of the game, will turn 20 on April 24. While there was some controversy following her decision to seek a new coach, with Leadbetter saying he believed Ko’s parents were overly involved, Ko said the decision was all hers.

“My parents have been with me from Day 1, and, yes, they give me input, but if I didn’t want to make this switch, I wouldn’t have done it,” Ko said. “The final decision was mine. It’s why I reached out to David, not my parents. I thought this was going to be the right decision going forward. It’s my decision, and I have to own it.”

After winning the silver medal at the Olympics in August, Ko went into a bit of a swoon. She won five titles around the world in the first seven months of the season but struggled to get into contention over the final three months.

“Just because I wasn’t playing well, I couldn’t say it was my coaches’ fault,” Ko said. “I’ve played great with them.”

Ko did say she believed her swing had become too upright in the takeaway, with too pronounced a drop at the top of her swing, to a more shallow downswing.

Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com that Ko and her father began making swing changes, to a flatter swing, while on the Asian swing, changes he wasn’t aware they decided to make.

“After Evian, I did mention to my coaches that I wanted to be a touch flatter,” Ko said. “It didn’t mean I needed to be a straight, one-plane swing, just a touch flatter, so maybe the dropping motion would happen less in the downswing.

“When I was getting overly ‘droppy,’ that’s when I was hitting shots left and right. That’s what we were doing, so maybe if my swing was a touch flatter, I wouldn’t drop the club as much.”

Ko emphasized she valued her time with Leadbetter and Hogan, even as she played the fall Asian swing, struggling to make a move to a different takeaway while still working with Leadbetter.

“I learned a lot from David and Sean, and I really respect what they did for me on and off the course,” Ko said.

Ko showcased her equipment change from Callaway to PXG with an appearance Tuesday on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” flushing her first shot after going on air, nailing the bull’s-eye on the simulator with her new PXG 7-iron.

“I can’t beat that,” Ko said giddily throwing her arms in the air.

Ko hopes to end the year having hit the bull’s-eye with all her changes in 2017.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry