World No. 1 Ko addressing biggest fears

By Randall MellApril 22, 2015, 11:50 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – As unflappable as Lydia Ko appears, she isn’t fearless.

In fact, she could show you a list of her 10 biggest fears, because she has been delving into them, plucking them out into the light of day, shaking them around and analyzing them. She’s even writing about them.

Lest you think she’s become too meticulous preparing for championship golf, know that she’s just doing her homework. Ko has officially started her freshman year at Korea University. As one of her first assignments in a psychology course, she was asked to identify her 10 biggest fears and detail how she is addressing those fears.

In the shadow of the Lake Merced clubhouse at this week’s Swinging Skirts Classic, Ko chuckles when asked if she cares to share a fear or two that she is writing about. She has, by the way, one of the most engaging chuckles on tour, a laugh that makes you feel like you grew up next door to her.

“I’ll give you a funky one,” she says. “I’m scared of the dark.”


“Yes, it’s a big story in our family,” Ko says. “We had a two-story house in New Zealand, and our kitchen was upstairs. So, I was walking upstairs in the dark, and my dad had hung a white shirt on the door. For a second, I thought it was a ghost.”

Ko smiles remembering it, remembering how her family loves telling the story, too. She is asked just how young she was when this “event” made such a formidable impression. Maybe 5, 6 years old?

“No,” she says. “It wasn’t that long ago, actually. I think I’ve gotten even more scared of the dark since then.”

Ko is laughing at herself again. She says she is “really weird,” because she loves to watch the TV show “Criminal Minds,” even though it “creeps” her out. Of course, she isn’t weird, and the fact that she likes to watch scary shows reminds you that she really is a teenager, that she really is just 17 years old, for a couples days more, at least.

Though Ko isn’t legally an adult until Friday, when she celebrates her 18th birthday, she remains a marvel of precociousness. It isn’t just her game. It’s all she’s juggling inside and outside the ropes with such gracefulness.

Ko will tee it up Thursday at the Swinging Skirts Classic as the Rolex World No. 1 for the 11th consecutive week. She’s the defending champion here this week, seeking her 11th worldwide title, her third this year. And, oh yeah, she’s now officially going to college, a psychology major making her start with three classes this semester. She also is enrolled in an English course and is taking German as another language.

Psychology, though, is her real academic interest. That’s what got her thinking that maybe she’ll retire when she’s 30 and start a new career. When she enrolled, she told her agent, Michael Yim, that she was already thinking she would like to get a doctorate in the field.

“Obviously, education is important to her,” Yim said.

Ko sees that studying psychology isn’t just an investment in her future. There could be dividends long before she graduates. Doing her assignment, analyzing her fears, she rolled some golf into it. She even talked to her sports psychologist, Jim Loehr, about it.

“It was a really cool assignment, because it was something I could relate to,” Ko said. “I did some about my golf. I’ve been spending some time with Dr. Loehr, so I’ve been kind of mixing our sessions with my assignment.”

Some of Ko’s schooling is online, some straight from emailed assignments from professors. She worked out a special program to allow her to continue to compete while studying. So Yeon Ryu did the same thing at Yonsei University, earning a degree in sports business while she played professionally. Michelle Wie attended Stanford and continued to play on tour.

“There are a lot of assignments,” Ko said. “It isn’t easy.

“My professors send pages of data, sometimes 50 pages, and I’ve got to read them and write reports on them. I just had an assignment where I had to read two chapters of a book. They were 100 pages each, and I had to write reports.”

Ko works in her homework between fighting off Rolex No. 2 Inbee Park, No. 3 Stacy Lewis and a contingent of ambitious LPGA pros that includes the best rookie class to ever hit the LPGA.

There’s serious work on the range required to stay ahead of this era’s best. Last week, Ko met with swing coach David Leadbetter for a full day at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. They worked for six hours fixing little problems that emerged in her last start, the ANA Inspiration two weeks ago.

Knowing she was the favorite to win the ANA, that she could make history becoming the youngest winner of a major championship, Ko struggled. She tied for 51st. It was her worst finish of the year, her worst finish in her 13 major championship starts.

Given her continued run of excellence, an off week was bound to come, but she’s world No. 1, and her game gets extra scrutiny. She came to the ANA having already won twice this year, having not failed to finish among the top 10 in 10 consecutive LPGA starts. The first-round 71 she put up at Mission Hills was her 29th consecutive round under par, equaling Annika Sorenstam’s modern record.

Ko, though, didn’t break par for the rest of the week. She was uncharacteristically errant off the tee. She hit just three of 14 fairways on Sunday, just six on Friday. She played too much from the rough to be a factor.

Though Ko didn’t blame fatigue, didn’t complain about playing her fifth event in six weeks with international travel in between, Leadbetter saw her tiring.

“The major came at the end of a long stretch,” Leadbetter said. “It came at the wrong time.

“I think that’s one of the things you learn as a player, to peak at the right time. I think she peaked too early.”

Ko is a range warrior. She loves to hit balls. It’s something Leadbetter has tried to temper, encouraging her to take her rest and enjoy it.

“There’s no question in my mind, she was really fatigued at ANA,” Leadbetter said. “I could tell the first part of the week. It wasn’t anything you could put your finger on. She was just a little off, her strategy was off. She made some mental errors. In the end, you don’t like making excuses, but you look at the stretch of tournaments she went through, the travel, what have you, it’s a lot of golf.”

And most all of it playing while in contention on weekends, when the pressure is greatest.

Leadbetter said he would like to see Ko make a change in her major championship preparation. He would like to see her take the week off before a major, or at least not play so much leading into one.

Ko did rest after the ANA Inspiration. Following a corporate outing the day after the championship, she stayed in Palm Springs with her mother, Tina. They went shopping. The next day, they drove to Los Angeles, where Ko spent the day with her friend, Danielle Kang. Upon returning home to Orlando, Ko said she slept all day. She spent the next day at hair salon and an Orlando Magic game before getting back to work with Leadbetter on the business of golf.

“Lydia really loves to work at it,” Leadbetter said. “She has an amazing work ethic, but I have to hand it to her, she actually paced herself pretty well last week. She didn’t kill herself. We tidied up a few things, and I would say she’s pretty much back on track, and I’m expecting her to play well.”

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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.