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Ko moves into LPGA mix Friday despite wrist injury

Lydia Ko, 17, would become the youngest major winner on the men's or women's side with a victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. (Getty)


PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Lydia Ko betrays no weakness behind those librarian’s glasses.

She plays with an inscrutable game face that belies her 17 years, 3 months and 21 days on this planet.

There’s no better evidence than the stoic way she’s making her run this weekend at trying to become the youngest winner of a major championship and the youngest world No. 1 in the history of professional golf.

Ko got herself in the hunt to win the Wegmans LPGA Championship Friday with a troubled, sore left wrist that she never let on was hurting until she was asked about it after the round. She shot 3-under-par 69 at Monroe Golf Club showing no visible effects of the pain the wrist is causing.

After the second round, Ko acknowledged her wrist began hurting on the range when she started hitting drivers before the first round, but she opened with a 70 and never mentioned any physical issue after.

“It definitely feels much better today,” Ko said. “I felt much less pain than when I was on the range, because I got it taped up, and that's been supporting my wrist.”

The supporting wrap wasn’t visible under Ko’s long sleeves. She sought treatment at the LPGA medical trailer after the first and second rounds.

Ko also saw Tom Graham, a hand specialist and orthopedic surgeon with Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a couple weeks ago – according to David Leadbetter, Ko’s swing coach. Ko is being evaluated for whether an issue in her left wrist will require surgery at season’s end.

Ko betrayed no concern about any serious issue.

“It felt OK during my round yesterday, and I think if it stays like this I'm definitely playable with it,” Ko said.

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Playable? Ko appears equipped to win this championship despite Monroe Golf Club looking as if it sets up better for long hitters. Ko isn’t short, but she isn’t a long hitter. Still, she birdied three of the four par 5s in the second round and was within one shot of the lead when she signed her scorecard.

“Lydia hits hybrids like other players hit short irons,” Leadbetter said. “She also has a wonderful short game.”

There’s so much history that can be made for Ko this weekend.

If Ko wins, she will become the youngest winner of a major championship. She would be six weeks younger than Young Tom Morris was when he won the British Open in 1868. She could also become the youngest world No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s golf. A victory will move her to No. 1 as long as current No. 1 Stacy Lewis finishes worse than solo second place.

Speaking of Lewis, there’s something about her that brings the best out of Ko.

Ko got herself in contention over the first two rounds at Wegmans playing alongside Lewis (71-73), who has battled a balky putter this week. When Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA title at 15 years old, she was paired with Lewis in the final round. When Ko won the Swinging Skirts Classic in San Francisco in April of this year, she played all four rounds with Lewis.

“When I go out there and see my name next to her name on the pairing sheet, I'm pretty excited to play with her, because I learn a few things playing alongside her,” Ko said. “She's just a great person to play with.”

Leadbetter believes Ko’s stoic temperament suits her for the rigors of major championship tests.

“She has the perfect temperament,” Leadbetter said. “You never know what she’s shooting by looking at her. She never gets too high or too low.”

Leadbetter says there is no need to address the pressure that might build on Ko this weekend because of the way she approaches the game.

“Lydia never gets ahead of herself,” Leadbetter said. “She never mentions making history, becoming No. 1. She’s like, `Ho-hum, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and we’ll see where the chips fall.’ There’s maturity beyond her years.”