Lydia Ko dropped a spot to No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week despite a strong finish Sunday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, but her quest to become the youngest No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf is very much alive as she seeks to claim a third consecutive title at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this week.
The battle for the No. 1 ranking in women’s golf is an unrelenting, weekly struggle this year. With three victories this season, Stacy Lewis wrestled back the No. 1 ranking from Inbee Park on June 2, ending Park’s 59-week run atop the rankings. Park responded by winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship on Sunday, moving back up to No. 2.
Ko, 17, and Park, 26, both are within striking distance of gaining the No. 1 ranking this week.
Ko must win to have a chance to move to No. 1. She will ascend to the top spot if she wins and Lewis, 29, finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse.
Park will ascend to No. 1 if she wins and Lewis finishes in a four-way tie for second or worse. Park also goes to No. 1 if she finishes second and Lewis finishes 47th or worse and Ko does not win.
How tight is the competition for No. 1? Ko finished third at the Wegmans LPGA Championship Sunday and still dropped one spot in the world rankings. She played well despite an injured left wrist that might require surgery at season’s end. Her swing coach, David Leadbetter, told GolfChannel.com that the plan is to try to make it through the end of the year before considering a procedure. Ko was evaluated by Tom Graham, a hand specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, two weeks ago.
Ko already has two victories this season, and there’s something about Canada that brings out the best in her.
“I just really love playing here,” Ko said Wednesday in her pretournament news conference. “I mean, the last two courses that I got to play have been pretty amazing. They were in great conditions, and so is this one here.”
The Canadian Women’s Open rotates venues. It’s being played at London Hunt and Country Club in Ontario this week. Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA event, taking the title as a 15-year-old at Vancouver Golf Club. She successfully defended her title last year at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton.
Ko has proven formidable with Lewis within her sights. When Ko won at Vancouver two years ago, she was paired with Lewis in the final round. When Ko won the Swinging Skirts Classic in San Francisco earlier this year, she was paired with Lewis in all four rounds. They are not paired together for the first two rounds this week.
As well as Lewis is playing this summer, she hasn’t been able to distance herself from her gifted pursuers.
“I think all three of us, and you can even throw Suzann [Pettersen] in there, too, we're all pushing each other,” Lewis said in her pretournament news conference. “We're all raising the bar. We've each gone on runs where we're playing better. I went on a run there early in the year and kind of forced Inbee.
"They kind of picked things up and started working. We're making each other better. That is the biggest thing. As long as we keep making each other better and keep having great finishes like we had last week, we're going to be around here for a long time.”