Ko's work with Leadbetter has more than paid off

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2015, 1:39 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Next week marks the two-year anniversary of the day Lydia Ko began working with her swing coach, David Leadbetter.

There was much angst at the time, questions about whether Ko should be abandoning the swing and the New Zealand coach who helped her emerge as such a phenom.

So how’s it going?

Ko, 18, has reigned as Rolex world No. 1 for 23 weeks since the union. She has won eight LPGA titles, including her first major championship, the Evian Championship in September. She claimed the biggest payday in the history of women’s golf, winning the CME Group Tour Championship last year, and is looking to do it again this week. If she does win Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club, she will likely sweep the LPGA’s three most prized season-long awards: the Rolex Player of the Year title, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

“You’re always happy when a player is confident and has a real understanding of what they’re doing,” Leadbetter said. “We’ve made the changes we wanted to make. We don’t do anything more than maintenance now. As a coach, you want a player to have control of what they’re doing and to be their own best coach.”

Leadbetter says Ko is there.

In a controversial move two years ago, Ko left her long-time coach, Guy Wilson. She turned to Leadbetter and his assistant, Sean Hogan, in part because her father, Gil Hong Ko, admired the swing of Hee Young Park, who worked with Leadbetter and Hogan.

“In the beginning, to be honest, we were a little reluctant to take her on, because it was a case of you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Leadbetter said. “If she played well, she was supposed to play well. If she played badly, well, then it’s, 'You guys screwed up.’

“I went through that before with Nick Faldo. It was, 'Who the hell are you to mess up our golden boy?’ It’s always a bit of a risk, but you have to take a little bit of risk in life sometimes.”

There was added risk in that Leadbetter and Hogan didn’t manage and refine the swing Ko brought to them. They changed it rather significantly. It was actually a change the Ko family pushed to happen.

Ko hit a fade when she came to Leadbetter, but Tina, Lydia’s mother, told Leadbetter they wanted to get rid of Lydia’s shut face and have her gain some more distance. Leadbetter changed Ko’s strong grip to a neutral grip. He changed her shut face at the top of her backswing to a more square position. He turned her fade into a draw, and he got her more distance.

“If you look at her swing now, it is much more compact than it used to be,” Leadbetter said. “She used to have this wide swing that took her a long time to complete. Her tempo has gotten a smidgen quicker than it used to be, which matches what she’s doing. The big thing is this has enabled her to get her leg action more solid.

“When she had this big, wide, long swing, as slow as that was, her hips got really active. You see now her hips are much more stable, providing much more balance to her swing. In a word, she is much better synchronized. Her arms and body work much more in sync. Before, there was a lot more timing involved. She's gotten a lot more efficient.”

It’s Leadbetter’s A-swing.

“It’s a commercial name for an alternative backswing,” he said. “I have always believed that the backswing should be a little steeper and the downswing should be a little shallower. It is not really a method; it’s an approach. She is a mid-A swinger.”

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.