Ko's poise, grace stand out as much as No. 1 ranking


OCALA, Fla. – She went all Lydia on us coming out of the scoring tent after the dramatic finish Saturday to the Coates Golf Championship.

By that, I don’t mean Lydia Ko went all teary-eyed and crying sad on us, or all temper-tantrum juvenile on us, or all fireworks happy on us, or all emotionally haywire in every direction on us in the media as we waited for her to exit scoring.

I mean she went all masterfully composed on us, all cool equanimity on us, all Dalai Lama-ish on us.

Really, they ought to create a word just for her and her precocious ability to quickly see the big picture that most of us can’t stand back and see nearly as quickly as she does.

At 17 years, 9 months and 7 days old on Saturday’s finish to the LPGA season opener, Ko’s perspective belied her youthfulness yet again. She impresses in so many ways, but the way she handled screwing up on the back nine at Golden Ocala is by far the most impressive exhibition I’ve seen from her yet.

Waiting for Ko to come out of scoring, I was sure we were finally going to see some emotions that her limited time in human form would not allow her to process, manage or contain. There had to be so many emotions banging around inside of her. She blew a tournament with some awful shots in front of huge crowds. She shanked a shot in the woods at the 17th, so unlike her. She skulled a chip shot over the 18th green in front of a packed grandstand with TV cameras bunched at the back of the green. This also was so unlike her.

Photos: Lydia Ko through the years

In the scoring tent after, sitting there checking her card, with the first real public failure of her career sinking in, she was totally unaware that she was going to become the youngest No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf with Monday’s release of the new Rolex rankings. She thought she blew that, too. She thought the only way she could get to No. 1 was by winning the Coates Golf Championship.

If this 17-year-old would have melted down in front of us, we would have understood. We’ve seen players a lot older melt down over a lot less.

But with Ko stepping out of scoring, her mother, Tina, and her agent, Michael Yim, informed her that her three-way tie for second was good enough to vault her to No. 1.

So how does Ko react? She goes all Lydia on us. She goes classic, pure even-tempered Lydia on us.

Neither the crushing loss, nor the thrilling ascendance to No. 1, could shake her poise or grace.

You wouldn’t have known whether Ko won or lost watching her handle all the media questions in the raw, fresh moments after leaving scoring. It was uncanny. Of all I’ve seen her do up to this tender age of 17, nothing’s impressed me more than the way she handled Saturday’s finish.

“It’s fantastic,” her caddie, Jason Hamilton said. “I’m glad you can’t bottle it. It’s one of the qualities that makes Lydia unique.”

David Leadbetter, her coach, could only chuckle.

“I always joke that we have to send her to anger management classes, so she can learn to get angry,” he said. “She walks on this cloud. She doesn’t get overly excited. She doesn’t get overly down.”

The thing is, Ko took more than a month off from hitting balls this offseason. It’s the longest break she ever took and it sounded very difficult for this workaholic teen. She felt so rusty coming back, she was worried last week that she wasn’t ready to make her first start. She isn’t close to her usual form yet.

Still, she never mentioned that after.

Give her mother, Tina, and her father, Hong, a lot of credit for this teenager’s composure. Whatever they’re doing, it’s a shame they can’t bottle it for the rest of us parents. It’s a shame we can’t buy something to drink that will make us go all Lydia in our world.