Golf: Caddie sacked, Ko blasted

Lydia Ko chipping onto the green during the first round of the Hana Bank Championship last week as her former caddie Jason Hamilton looks on.
Lydia Ko chipping onto the green during the first round of the Hana Bank Championship last week as her former caddie Jason Hamilton looks on.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Golfer ignores advice not to jettison bagman, accusations surface of hitting 'panic button'

WELLINGTON • New Zealand's world No. 1 Lydia Ko has "hit the panic button" by sacking her caddie in response to a slump in form, high-profile bagman Steve Williams said yesterday.

Ko's Australian caddie Jason Hamilton confirmed this week that he had parted ways with the 19-year-old after almost two years together.

"She felt like now was a good time to make a change," Hamilton told golfchannel.com.

"She said she thought it would be good to get a different set of eyes out there.

"These things happen, it's part of the game."

After rewriting the amateur record books, Ko enjoyed a dream start to her professional career and claimed 14 LPGA titles, including two Majors.

But the Korean-born Kiwi's form has faltered lately and she finished 51st in the Korea LPGA Championship that wrapped up on Sunday.

Fellow New Zealander Williams, who has caddied for Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Adam Scott, said dumping Hamilton looked like a knee-jerk reaction.

"It's very surprising news. This is the first form slump of any kind she's had as a professional, and it's only a slight form dip," he told Fairfax New Zealand.

"It doesn't seem like a reason to release her caddie. Maybe they've hit the panic button a bit early."

Ko's swing coach Sean Hogan revealed to Radio LIVE yesterday afternoon that he had suggested to the world No. 1 to stick with Hamilton till the end of the year, but she went against that advice.

"It was unexpected that she was going to make the change at the end of the week," said Hogan.

"Our recommendation was maybe that given she has three events left, including a race to the finish here in the Tour Championship where they've had success, to maybe finish the year out.

"We thought given the success that they had had and certainly the success in the run-up to the Tour Championship, an event she's won with Jason on the bag, to go through that event and maybe make a clean cut after the event. But in her mind it needed to happen now."

Hogan also suggested the "marriage-like" relationship of a golfer and caddie had broken down.

"She had cited a little lack of chemistry over the recent past. Obviously between caddie and player inside the ropes, that relationship is sort of a marriage."

Ko is still on top of the LPGA money list but Thai world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn is close behind her.

The New Zealander, who has yet to name a replacement for Hamilton, will next start at the Sime Darby Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur next week.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Caddie sacked, Ko blasted'. Print Edition | Subscribe