Golf: 'Tech freak' Lydia Ko dials down criticism over changes

World No. 1 Lydia Ko wants to take a swing at winning the HSBC Women's Champions title for the first time. She headlines a star-studded line-up at Sentosa Golf Club from March 2-5.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko wants to take a swing at winning the HSBC Women's Champions title for the first time. She headlines a star-studded line-up at Sentosa Golf Club from March 2-5.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

After his split with women's world No. 1 Lydia Ko last year, veteran golf coach David Leadbetter warned of the influence the player's parents were having on her career.

Yesterday, the Korean-born New Zealander, still only 19, launched a staunch defence of parents Ko Gil Hong and Hyeon Bong Sook.

In a conference call with local and international media, she said: "Ever since day one, my parents have been with me. They are a huge part of my career and without them I wouldn't be here in this position.

"Even though sometimes we have different opinions, I know that all they want is the best for me. They're a huge part of my career... and I know they'll always be there to support and guide me."

The comments from Leadbetter came during a difficult end to 2016 for Ko, who will be in Singapore for the March 2-5 HSBC Women's Champions at Sentosa Golf Club.

  • 65

  • Lydia Ko has topped the golf rankings for 65 consecutive weeks.

A 14-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Ko, who also has two Major titles to her name, cracked the top 10 only once in her final six tournaments last year.

Apart from bidding farewell to Leadbetter, the poor run saw her part ways with Sean Hogan, her hitting instructor of three years, and Jason Hamilton, caddie of two years, in an overhaul of her support team.

But she remains optimistic, insisting that all these are positive changes ahead of the new golf season.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medallist said: "I'm more excited than worried. Sometimes change is a good thing and even though these are big changes, it's going to be an exciting time for me."

Ko, who turned professional at the age of 16 and became the youngest woman to win a Major when she lifted the 2015 Evian Championship at the age of 18 years, four months and 20 days, also shot down suggestions she is burning out.

There are precedents in golf, most notably 27-year-old Taiwanese Tseng Ya-ni, who topped the rankings for 109 consecutive weeks from 2011 to 2013, but is now ranked No. 111.

Named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2014, Ko said her antidote for fatigue is simply to enjoy the moment.

"I feel fortunate to be able to do the things I've done in my career and I've decided that I'm going to embrace the moment right now and not think about what might happens in the future," said Ko, who has remained at the top of the world rankings since October 2015.

"I'm still having a lot of fun. I love being on Tour, playing alongside the world's best golfers, travelling the world, seeing awesome golf courses, visiting different places and experiencing different cultures."

Her refreshing outlook can be seen in her new year resolution.

"My new year resolution would be to use my (mobile) phone less. I always seem to be on my phone a lot, I'm a little bit of a tech freak," she quipped.

This year's HSBC Women's Champions boasts a star-studded line-up featuring the world's top 10 golfers but Ko is still setting her sights on winning her first title here.

Ko, whose best finish here was second in 2015, said: "I came close a couple of years ago, so I would love to go one better and take the trophy home with me this time round."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline ''Tech freak' Lydia Ko dials down criticism over changes'. Subscribe