Is women’s golf ready for a 17-year-old as its new world No. 1?
Lydia Ko could make that happen this week.
Or is the game poised for an American to return to the top spot?
Stacy Lewis could make that happen this week.
Inbee Park’s 57-week reign as Rolex world No. 1 is vulnerable at the Kingsmill Championship.
With Park not playing in Williamsburg, Va., Ko and Lewis are both in position to ascend as the new No. 1.
Ko is No. 3 in the world today. If she wins Kingsmill, she will overtake Park, according to projections based on strength-of-field ratings. Lewis is No. 2 in the world. She can ascend with a victory or solo second-place finish. The projections are subject to change until the strength of field is finalized when play begins on Thursday.
No matter, the possibility of a shakeup in the world rankings looms.
“I don’t know if that might happen or not,” Ko told reporters when asked in her pretournament news conference this week about her desire to be No. 1. “I'm going to work really hard towards that.”
If Ko wins this week, she will become the youngest No. 1 in the history of the men’s or women’s games.
“I don't like to think about the rankings and things,” Ko said. “I try and just think about the tournament and just try and get a good performance there. I think that's more important. When I’ve tried to think about results before, something happens. It doesn't go as well as I would like.”
Ko and Lewis have mounted terrific runs to close the gap on Park. They’re both coming off victories in their last starts.
Lewis, 29, won the LPGA’s last event, the North Texas Shootout, in a six-shot runaway. She’s practically a fixture on leaderboards with top-10 finishes in 19 of her last 20 worldwide starts. She has a victory, three second-place finishes and a third this year.
Lewis took the No. 1 ranking from Yani Tseng in March of 2013 and held the top spot for four weeks before Park took it.
“It's motivation,” Lewis said. “I wouldn't say it's my No. 1 goal. My No. 1 goal is to win tournaments. Obviously, the rankings and the money list, everything like that takes care of itself. The goal doesn't change: win tournaments.”
Lewis is leading a resurgence for the United States with Americans having won five of the 10 LPGA events staged this year.
“I think it's an unbelievable thing,” Lewis said. “It's a great thing for this tour. We've needed it over the last few years, to kind of get sponsors on board, and get people paying attention to us, people writing about us, people watching. That's what we need to do. Young Americans playing well is a great thing.”
Nobody should be surprised if Lewis and Ko are on another collision course this week at Kingsmill. Ko beat Lewis in a weekend duel to win the Swinging Skirts Classic in San Francisco the week before Lewis won in Texas. Ko, a rookie from New Zealand, didn’t play in Texas
“I feel very confident about my game,” Ko said.
Ko is looking for her fourth LPGA title, her seventh victory in a professional event. She may be ready to hold the No. 1 ranking, but she finds talk that she’s going to be the game’s next big star awkward.
“I'm trying to enjoy the moment and not think about what's going to be happening in the next couple years, or whatever,” Ko said. “It's my first year on the tour. I'm really having fun. I just feel fortunate that I'm having this opportunity to play on the tour as a 17-, 16-year-old.”