Golf: Can 18-year-old Lydia go on to be a great Ko-nqueror?

New Zealand's Lydia Ko is kissed by French dairy food giant Danone chairman Franck Riboud (far left) and director of the Evian tournament, Jacques Bungert, as she celebrates with her trophy after winning the Evian Championship.
New Zealand's Lydia Ko is kissed by French dairy food giant Danone chairman Franck Riboud (far left) and director of the Evian tournament, Jacques Bungert, as she celebrates with her trophy after winning the Evian Championship.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WELLINGTON • New Zealand's prime minister led the congratulations yesterday after 18-year-old Lydia Ko made golfing history on Sunday as the youngest winner of a women's Major title.

"Amazing stuff," tweeted John Key. "Congratulations @lydiako on your win at the Evian Championship and becoming the youngest ever Major winner in women's golf."

Ko's legendary coach David Leadbetter described her final round of 63 at Evian, the best round of this year's event, as almost perfect.

"She hit basically every green. I think she missed two fairways, just by a yard or two and she putted phenomenally well. Her strategy was good - it was pretty much a perfect round of golf."

Leadbetter added: "At the age of 18, it's incredible what she's done.

"The floodgates will really open now that she's won her first Major and got that so-called monkey off her back.

"The confidence is now there, she's really ready now to take the game by the scruff of the neck."

Ko, though, will be mindful that American Morgan Pressel, whom she eclipsed as the youngest Major winner, made a similar splash when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship at the age of 18 years and 313 days.

Pressel has won just one LPGA event in the eight years since.

Nevertheless, when comparing Ko's achievements to the fellow players on the LPGA tour, she is completely dominating the game for her age.

The Seoul-born prodigy already has 13 professional wins to her name. In comparison, the greatest women's golfer and one of Ko's idols, Annika Sorenstam, did not win her first professional tournament until she was 24.

The Swede went on to win 93 tournaments, including 10 Majors, during her 16 years as a professional. She could have triumphed in many more if she had not retired at age 38.

Considering her age, Ko appears to be well on her way to breaking more records.

Former PGA Tour professional and one of New Zealand's best golfers, Phil Tataurangi, told Radio New Zealand that he believes Ko's infallible, composed maturity is capable of taking the women's game to new heights.

"At each new step she takes in her career, it doesn't seem to have fazed her - it's just another stepping stone along the way," he said.

"And although this (winning her first Major) is a major milestone, I don't expect there to be a new amount of pressure upon her shoulders as she goes forward."

However, the number of titles that Ko can add to her name could be limited by her plans to retire at age 30.

She, too, will be aware of the number of players on the LPGA Tour who have suffered from burnout. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Can Lydia go on to be a great Ko-nqueror?'. Print Edition | Subscribe