CLIFTON, N.J. — Jin Young Ko is undoubtedly the No. 1 player in the world. Yet, after an off week following a runner-up finish at the Palos Verdes Championship, she didn't feel like it.
"I practiced just two days in off week,” Ko said Wednesday at Upper Montclair Country Club, the site of this year’s Cognizant Founders Cup. "When I got here, I forgot how to play golf."
But after getting a few practice rounds under her belt in the Garden State, she returns to the Founders Cup as the back-to-back defending champion and heavy favorite.
However, she'll be blocking out any expectations of a three-peat, as she stays in the moment ahead of the thick of major season.
"I don't care [that] the other people think about [if] Jin Young is going to be winning or if they're expecting for one more win for this week," Ko said. "I don't care. I just care about myself, how to play this golf course, and how to get the wind direction."
Whether or not the 13-time LPGA winner leaves the Founders Cup victorious again, the focus, and high expectations, will transition to a tougher and more notable test: the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles.
Though she’s already the world's best, she's honed in on one part of her game as she tries to notch her maiden win in golf's most grueling test.
"U.S. Open is coming up,” Ko said. “The course is going to be a little longer — long and fairways are wide, I heard, but golf is always important thing is your game under 100 meters. Even this golf course, too. So I will prepare [for] majors or the other into the summer, the tournament. I will practice more under 100 meters. Even putting or green-side bunkers."
Despite Ko rising to world No. 1 and capturing Player of the Year honors last year, she hasn't won a major since 2019, the year in which she notched both of her lone major victories — the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship.
The three majors she hasn't yet claimed — the U.S. Women’s Open, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, and the AIG Women's British Open — will be played this year at venues that have produced top-flight champions, Pine Needles, Congressional (PGA) and Muirfield (British).
There's no doubt that that's what Ko is, even if she forgets how to play the game she dominates for a brief second. But major or non-major, she doesn't dwell on her successes or hardships. She just tries to stay in the moment.
"I don't care if I'm playing good from this week or bad from this week,” she said. "I don't care about what's coming up in this summer.
"Some people that play bad from this week, then they think next tournament will be sad or will be bad, but not for me,” Ko continued. “I'm trying to hold my best this week, and I think I might take some good, positive things from this week, of course, so I don't think about if playing good or bad, don't think about next event, what will be like the future."