“She got lost”: How golfer Lydia Ko found her old self after hard exertion

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Lydia Ko had dropped out of the top 50 female golfers not so long ago, which raised the question of whether the kiwi who lit up the golf world half a decade earlier would ever find her way back to her former self. Sports reporter Robert van Royen looks at her impressive turnaround.

It would be easy to point out the appointment of new swing coach Sean Foley last July and claim that this was solely what fueled Lydia Ko’s recovery.

The world-renowned coach, who previously worked with Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, has certainly played a key role after Ko chewed through five coaches in four years.

However, it is the letter Ko wrote to her 15-year-old self just before Foley replaced Jorge Parada that highlights Phil Tataurangi, a former PGA Tour winner and member of New Zealand’s Eisenhower Trophy winning team.

Lydia Ko wrote a letter to her 15-year-old self last year warning her about what to expect in the world of professional golf.

Mark Runnacles / Getty Images

Lydia Ko wrote a letter to her 15-year-old self last year warning her about what to expect in the world of professional golf.

CONTINUE READING:
* Swing coach Sean Foley pays tribute to Lydia Ko after a drought-breaking victory
* Lydia Ko’s remarkable second act is something we can all smile about
* Lydia Ko dispels her doubts by breaking winless years with an out of control victory
* Lydia Ko clears her mind under Sean Foley, while the kiwi golf star tries to rediscover the formula for success

In the long open letter posted on the LPGA’s website, Ko told her younger self to cherish the experiences she would have during her career, while warning that wonderful moments are mixed with “hurtful things” that will move you to tears ”.

“The most important advice I can give you is never to take a single day or moment for granted,” Ko wrote.

The now 24-year-old was ranked 49th in the world at the time, and her decision to leave Parada and join forces with Foley was imminent.

“It came up with some interesting insights that indicated a slight change she had made, addressed some of the things that were either out there in public or just simmered for them personally,” said Tataurangi.

Sky sports

Emotional Lydia Ko talks about the death of her grandma.

“I had the feeling that it was a change, that sounds like a very mature approach to going public with something like this. And someone who felt like they were pulling the curtain a little bit for everyone to look in and said, ‘This stuff really touched me, I haven’t been myself lately and I’m looking forward to coming back to being myself’ . “

With Foley fresh on board, Ko’s ranking dropped to 55th place after finishing 28th in the LPGA Drive on Championship in July 2020, but that’s where the slide would stop.

Hindered by psychological and swing battles after numerous tweaks among a number of coaches, Foley began showing knockout videos of her swing as she took the LPGA by storm, spending an incredible 85 weeks in first place between February 2015 and June 2017 of the world.

Swing trainer Sean Foley has been working with Lydia Ko since July 2020.

Andrew Redington / Getty Images

Swing trainer Sean Foley has been working with Lydia Ko since July 2020.

Foley wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, instead choosing to dig up what worked in the past for the South Korean-born kiwi.

“I’m just challenging her to find out what’s already inside,” as he put it.

Fast forward 13 months and it’s fair to say she’s knocked out again.

Lydia Ko was pictured in action during the Tokyo Olympics last month.

Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

Lydia Ko was pictured in action during the Tokyo Olympics last month.

Ranked # 5 in the world as she takes a break from a hectic schedule, the ultra-smooth swing is back, her excellent short game has resurfaced and, perhaps most important of all, her smile is back.

Ko flashed the field and snagged a 1,084 day victorious drought by winning the PGA LOTTE championship in Honolulu in April.

Ko has finished in the top 10 in half of the 16 LPGA tournaments she has played so far in 2021, and won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in August.

“I’m not surprised. Lydia is a special talent. As a fan, I was hoping that she would find out something and the game would return,” said Tataurangi.

Lydia Ko has finished in the top 10 in 8 of the 16 LPGA tournaments she played this year.

Andrew Redington / Getty Images

Lydia Ko has finished in the top 10 in 8 of the 16 LPGA tournaments she played this year.

“The turnaround never happened, no matter how noble it is. It’s never taken for granted, and I say this because I’m inside and know, not as a fan.

“As a fan, you always hope that someone will turn it around. But all of the different components that go into taking your game back when you’re in a little shape aren’t as easy as snapping your fingers and trying a little harder. “

Tataurangi has no doubt that the extra distance Ko has gained from the tee this year has helped her turn things around.

The average travel distance from Ko this year is 258.95 yards (236.7 meters), down from 254.41 yards in 2020 and 245.47 yards in 2019.

Lydia Ko averaged 258.95 yards with her driver on the LPGA Tour this year.

John Cowpland / Photosport

Lydia Ko averaged 258.95 yards with her driver on the LPGA Tour this year.

“If you have the ability to shorten a club or two on par fours and par fives based on the extra distance the driver takes and golf course setups that reward being aggressive and some of the fairway Bunkers being able to fly the landing zone and take them out of the game, that’s definitely a bonus, it always has been, “said Tataurangi.

Then there is your putting. The LPGA is not yet breaking the data down to the extent of the PGA Tour, but Tataurangi suspects that a collapse on the greens would show that Ko’s ability to lower putts between 3 and 30 feet had also played a major role in her resurgence.

He did not claim to know the specifics of her swing, which was “talked about as much as it was about Tigers in his prime,” he cautioned against judging her by the few strokes that could be seen on television or purely statistical data .

Lydia Kos's excellent short game is a big part of her resurgence.

John Cowpland / Photosport

Lydia Kos’s excellent short game is a big part of her resurgence.

“I think the story that goes on with Lydia inside is more about the things she revealed in this letter and regaining her own self. I felt like she got lost, she gave a lot of people a little bit of control over her, ”he said.

Ko, who took 91 career top 10 finishes on the LPGA, pocketed $ 1,214,954 ($ 1,719,946.88) this year, bringing her career income to more than $ 12 million .

She recently made it clear that her plan to retire at 30 remains in place, giving her another six years to expand her legacy.

Lydia Ko has obviously been enjoying her golf lately.

Andrew Redington / Getty Images

Lydia Ko has obviously been enjoying her golf lately.

Whatever the future holds, Tataurangi had a warning to those who would take it for granted that Ko is “back and she is back forever”.

“You have to keep working on it, and she will keep working on it. She could play the exact same golf as this year and it could be the 20th best on the LPGA next year, and it would be easy to say she didn’t play quite as well.

“The game is evolving so fast these days that you’re going to make a few percent more or not even that tiny improvement in your performance every year because it’s so competitive.”

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