Jin Young Ko doesn’t look like she wants to be the second best Ko in the women’s game.
With a 3-under-par 69, she took command Friday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, setting herself up for a possible wire-to-wire victory in her LPGA rookie debut.
At 10 under, Ko is three shots ahead of Emma Talley (69), an American looking to make her rookie season something special, and four shots ahead of major champions Jiyai Shin (71) and Sung Young Yoo (70).
Lydia Ko struggled in the winds at Kooyonga Golf Club in South Australia, following up her 68 on Thursday with a 74. She’s eight shots back.
Jin Young Ko, 22, may technically be an LPGA rookie, but she’s already a star in South Korea, where she has won 10 Korean LPGA Tour titles. She claimed LPGA membership based on her victory at the co-sanctioned KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s No. 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
“I had a wire-to-wire win before, so I know how I can do it,” J.Y. Ko said.
Jin Young Ko first burst on to the world golf stage at the Ricoh Women’s British Open three years ago, when she lost a 54-hole lead to Inbee Park.
Lydia Ko struggled with her ball striking in the more difficult afternoon winds in Adelaide, battling what appeared to be a double cross, pulling and tugging too many iron shots to the left. She hit just seven greens on her way to seven bogeys against five birdies.
Talley, the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, will give the Women’s Australian Open a pair of rookies in the final pairing Saturday.
“It’s a long year and someone said it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Talley said. “So, I’m just trying to stay patient and get better every week.”