Imagine if she played more. Jin Young Ko participated in 13 LPGA Tour events in 2021, about every three weeks on average. In these appearances, the former Rolex No. 1 ranking has taken two wins, a third, two fourth places and twice seventh place in two major championships, the ANA Inspiration and the US Women’s Open. Her most recent win, a four-stroke lead in the rain-shortened Cambia Portland Classic, was her first start in six weeks since representing her native South Korea at the Olympics. And to call it impressive would be an understatement.
For starters it was a new golf course, one none of the participants had seen and one that, according to Hannah Green, 2020 winner of the Cambia Portland Classic, “had the fastest greens we’ve played all year”. Brooke Henderson, who has won twice in Portland, described Oregon Golf Club, a late replacement for Columbia Edgewater Country Club, as “a golf course for hitmakers with a lot of strategy,” while Yealimi Noh, who was close to winning, called that event in Last year said of Oregon Golf Club, “It’s quite long as there are a lot of holes uphill so I think a lot of longer clubs could benefit from it. I think just exploring the slopes (is the key). You just have to play smart and get yourself in a good position. And be patient on greens because they roll very quickly. Yes, it will be an interesting week. “
Ko had to smile inwardly when she heard these comments. Her name was on the criteria her colleagues named. Ko is a ball hitting machine that hits 79.94% of its fairways and 75.56% of its greens in regulation. And although it is not particularly long and covers an average of 257 meters with the driver, it has an additional gear if necessary. But precision is Ko’s game. She’s so rarely out of position that it won’t surprise anyone when she posts a ho-hum of 66 or 67. She also ranks second on the LPGA Tour for laps under par, which, given her relatively small number of starts, could be the most extraordinary statistic of all.
In the 45 rounds of stroke play she played this year, Ko has set up a number 21 times in the 1960s. And she was under par in 33 of 45 rounds. Half of her rounds, which were even par or more, came in major championships where the course conditions make these numbers seem good.
In Portland, she dominated another statistic, winning only 48 putts in the first two rounds. The 30 putts she had in round three, which came the Sunday after Saturday, were a washout, bringing her tournament average to 26 putts per round for the week.
“I changed putters in Korea a few weeks ago and spent over a month in Korea, so I’m really comfortable and fresh,” said Ko.
She ended the week at 11 under par after dropping a 25 foot on the final green, which was completely unnecessary as her next challengers, Su Oh and Jeongeun Lee, were 7 under in the clubhouse.
“I thought I could just do a simple two-putt. But the ball went in, so who knows, ”she said.
So hit almost 80% of your fairways and then more than three quarters of your greens regulated. And then putt like a magician. Do that and you will make golf look boring and easy.
And then only to giggle you can follow a quote that is so subtle that it makes anyone who hears it smile – something like: “I’m playing really well at the moment.”
Indeed, Jin Young. That’s one way of putting it.