Ko's Kiwi allegience complicates coaching change

By Randall MellDecember 23, 2013, 6:47 pm

Lydia Ko’s decision to drop the only coach the 16-year-old has ever known is creating a giant stir back in New Zealand.

Even Kiwi caddie Steve Williams, who knows something about controversial splits, weighed in with strong words on news that Ko is leaving Guy Wilson of New Zealand’s Institute of Golf. Williams called the move “shocking” and “unethical” in an interview with Radio New Zealand.

Ko will be going to work with David Leadbetter, who told GolfChannel.com Monday that he was well aware of the sensitivities that would be involved with Ko making a switch.

“We were a little reluctant,” Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com. “We were very aware of the relationship she had with her coach, and we treaded lightly, but they approached us. When somebody of that ilk asks, you don’t turn them down.”

There’s more behind the emotional reaction to Ko’s decision than just coaching implications. For New Zealanders, it’s about her Kiwi connections and nationalistic pride. In fact, in presenting news of the coaching change, a Television New Zealand reporter asked if it might “signal a shift away from New Zealand Golf.”

Ko is something of a national treasure in New Zealand, and her rise in fame has brought with it concerns over loyalties and how she plans to align herself in the future. During Ko’s first news conference after announcing she was turning pro in October, New Zealand media peppered her with questions about where she planned to establish her professional base and even what nationalistic affiliation she planned for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.


Video: Analyzing Ko's swing, rhythm and motion

Lydia Ko: Articles, videos and photos


Ko was born in South Korea but her family moved to New Zealand when she was 6. She became a New Zealand citizen when she was 12. That evolved partly out of her former coach’s push for citizenship so Ko would become eligible for national funding. In fact, New Zealand Golf has funded Ko’s world travels the last three years. There are questions back in New Zealand over whether Ko will re-establish her connection to South Korea, where women’s golf is immensely popular and more endorsement opportunities for women abound.

Ko, who turned pro in October, has won five professional events, three this year. She’s No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Williams, who had a controversial split as caddie with Tiger Woods, quickly leaped to defense of Wilson, the Kiwi coach who first taught Ko how to swing when she was just 6 and has guided her until this split.

“Obviously, he’s tremendously upset about what happened,” Williams told Radio New Zealand. “I think it’s pretty unethical myself what has occurred . . . I don’t think he had any inkling, and I guess that is why it has come as such a shock, and probably not the ideal time of the year, either, at Christmas time.

“I can’t actually fathom that when you have had such a tremendous run and you’ve been with somebody for such a long period of time. Guy’s been with her every step of the way. I find it a baffling decision, to be honest.”

Leadbetter said he and Leadbetter Academy staffer Sean Hogan will share duties coaching Ko. Williams said he didn’t have a problem with Leadbetter as a new coach, but he questioned the nature of the family’s break with Wilson.

“It is not who she has chosen,” Williams said. “It’s the fact that she has decided to drop the person who has dedicated his life, or 10 years of his life, to get her where she is.

“He has spent all his own time and had no compensation for the time and effort he has put in. You could understand if the player was having poor results, or a breakdown in the relationship, but from what I gather talking to Guy, who I know personally, he is shell-shocked. He doesn’t feel he was in a situation he should be dropped.”

Wilson released a statement confirming the switch.

“While I’m incredibly disappointed that our 11-year partnership is over, I respect Lydia and her team’s decision,” Wilson said.

The Ko family took their time carefully considering Lydia’s transition to the professional ranks. Nothing appeared rushed. Now, with the start of her LPGA rookie season less than a month away, decisions are necessarily coming together quickly. Over the last couple weeks, Ko has signed with IMG and announced an endorsement deal with Australian and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). New Zealand media also is reporting that she’s coming to terms on a new equipment deal with Callaway.

Ko told One Sport TV Monday that the coaching decision was all about her travel schedule. She’s looking for a United States base for her LPGA career. Leadbetter is based at ChampionsGate in Orlando, Fla.

“I’m going to be away from home, and I’m not a player that likes to not have my coach at tournaments,” Ko said. “So, it doesn’t really work, him being here and him coming on the weeks that I’m not playing a tournament. That means I’d only see him like 10 times a year, and to me, that kind of situation didn’t work out. So, that’s why I thought it might be better to have a coach somewhere in the United States.”

Ko said she intends to maintain a friendship with Wilson.

“It’s obviously sad to stop with Guy, because he’s been a great coach and a great friend as well,” Ko said. “But it’s important to know that we still are good friends.”

Michael Yim, Ko’s IMG agent, is in South Korea and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Leadbetter said he understood the sensibilities that would be involved in Ko making a coaching switch.

Leadbetter and Hogan worked with Ko for three days at ChampionsGate last month. Ko won the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan in her next start, the third professional event she won this year.

“This isn’t about re-inventing her swing,” Leadbetter said. “It’s about guiding, keeping her on track.”

Ko told One Sport she is hearing and reading speculation that a coaching change could be detrimental to the foundation of her quick rise.

“I’ve heard those rumors and tweets, where people say lots of people have left their coaches after they’ve succeeded and stuff,” Ko said. “But, to me, it’s not like I left him because he was a bad coach. It was because of the situation. We knew there was going to be a problem [with travel]. I know it’s a change, but fingers crossed that nothing bad happens.”

Ko’s legion of fans in New Zealand will be hoping for the best, too.

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Tour Championship winner Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 12:48 pm

Tiger Woods won his 80th career title on Sunday at the Tour Championship. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M3 (13 degrees), M1 2017 (19 degrees)

Irons: TaylorMade TW Phase 1 prototype (3-PW)

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (56, 60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B XS

Getty Images

McCarthy tops Bae in Web.com Tour Finals 25

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 11:51 am

The Web.com Tour handed out 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season based on how players fared in the Finals series. Here are the final standings after Sunday's Web.com Tour Championship.

1. Denny McCarthy: $255,793

2. Sangmoon Bae: $218,156

3. Robert Streb: $187,460

4. Peter Malnati: $157,296

5. Cameron Davis: $126,675

6. Adam Schenk: $125,798

7. Lucas Glover: $125,212

8. Matt Jones: $112,000

9. Hunter Mahan: $107,505

10. Roger Sloan: $84,307

11. Shawn Stefani: $80,579

12. Seth Reeves: $80,360

13. Max Homa: $78,200

14. Roberto Diaz: $70,326

15. Stephan Jaeger: $69,923

16. Curtis Luck: $64,920

17. Nicholas Lindheim: $59,169

18. Dylan Frittelli: $48,600

19. Wes Roach: $48,100

20. Sepp Straka: $47,844

21. Cameron Tringale: $47,760

22. Ben Silverman: $47,700

23. Michael Thompson: $45,466

24. Fabian Gomez: $43,657

25. Jim Knous: $41,931

Getty Images

DJ moves back to No. 1; Woods to 13th in OWGR

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 11:05 am

Justin Rose did just enough to claim the FedExCup title Sunday at the Tour Championship, but Dustin Johnson's late surge was enough to vault him back into the top spot in the World Ranking.

Johnson shot a final-round 67 to finish in third place, while Rose stumbled with a 3-over 73 for a share of fourth. DJ lipped out a birdie putt on 18 that would have given him a shot at the FedExCup crown, and that allowed Rose to clinch the $10 million prize with a two-putt birdie.

Tiger Woods continued his incredible surge up the World Ranking with his 80th career win at the Tour Championship. Woods moved up from 21st to 13th after a two-shot victory over Billy Horschel. It marked Woods' seventh top-10 finish of the year.

Horschel made the other big move of the week jumping up from 48th to 35th with his second place finish. Outside of a WD in Boston, the 2014 FedExCup champion had another great run in the playoffs finishing T-3 at the Northern Trust, T-3 at the BMW and second at East Lake.

Here's the top 10 after the PGA Tour season finale.

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Justin Rose

3. Brooks Koepka

4. Justin Thomas

5. Francesco Molinari

6. Rory McIlroy

7. Bryson DeChambeau

8. Jon Rahm

9. Rickie Fowler

10. Jordan Spieth

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.