Large pack chasing Ko in Founders Cup


PHOENIX – It’s more ballet move than golf swing.

Lydia Ko should play to Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky.

There’s music in the 16-year-old’s movements at this week’s JTBC Founders Cup.

That’s what Shirley Spork thinks. One of the 13 founders of the LPGA, Spork, 84, has studied a lot of swings over the years. She played with Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg and Louise Suggs. More than that, Spork is a student of the swing who became one of the great women teachers. She was instrumental in the creation of the LPGA’s teaching division.

Spork made a point of getting out in a golf cart and following Ko this week, but she says she would have been content just watching her hit balls on the range.

“I enjoy watching her play,” Spork said. “She has absolutely perfect tempo and rhythm. Each and every swing has the same tempo and rhythm. It’s the same with every club in her bag.

“She’s a blossoming star, just coming into existence. Hopefully, she keeps that swing and doesn’t let anyone mess with it. She’s going to be great.”

Ko’s star continues to rise at the Founders Cup, where she will take aim Sunday at winning her third LPGA title before her 17th birthday, her sixth professional title overall.

With a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Ko seized the 54-hole lead at JW Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club. She goes into the final round one shot ahead of Jessica Korda (66), Sun Young Yoo (68) and fellow rookie Mirim Lee (70), but this is shaping up as a potentially wild shootout with nine players within three shots of the lead on a golf course that is yielding a load of birdies.

Michelle Wie (67), So Yeon Ryu (68) and Azahara Munoz (64) are among a pack of five players three back.

Defending champ Stacy Lewis (67) Paula Creamer (64) and Morgan Pressel (67) are just four behind.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some nerves,” Ko said. “But it’s great you have a one-shot lead.”

It’s looking like it will take a blitz of birdies to win this event.

“It’s perfect scoring conditions,” said Korda, who won the LPGA season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas. “Definitely, a low score is going to take it tomorrow.”

Cristie Kerr equaled the course record Saturday with a 63. Creamer and Munoz shot 64s.

Korda checked the leaderboard as she started her round.

“I was like, `Wow, that’s some serious scoring out there,’” Korda said.

Ko is among six players who have shot in the 60s every round this week.

“There are obviously going to be low scores,” Ko said. “That’s why you’ve just got to concentrate the whole way, and you never know, until the last hole, the last putt.”

Ko may be a rookie, but nobody’s treating her like one here. Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old two seasons ago. She defended that title last year.

“It would be pretty special to have my first win [as an LPGA member] be here at the Founders Cup,” Ko said.