‘Veteran’ LPGA star Lydia Ko finally claimed her 18th LPGA Tour title after one of the most consistent seasons seen in professional golf.
In 20 events so far this year Ko has finished inside the top-five nine times, won on another two occasions and three other times finished between fifth and 10th.
Anyone who knows anything about golf knows how remarkable those numbers are, particularly the top-five results which generally suggest a player has had a legitimate chance to win.
But as we do with Tiger Woods, we forget what an extraordinary talent Ko is. We don’t forget either is talented, just the incredible details of their achievements.
(For confirmation, put the words ‘Justin Ray Tiger Woods’ into google and click on Ray’s Twitter thread from last year about Tiger’s career numbers.)
RIGHT: Ko first won on the LPGA Tour as an amateur back In 2012, when the Kiwi was just 15 years old. PHOTO: Harry How/Getty Images.
It has been just a shade over 10 years since Ko won on the LPGA for the first time. The New Zealander was a 15-year-old, bespectacled amateur at the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open and to say she stunned the world would be an understatement.
While most remember the event, few recall the field that week boasted 18 of the top-20 ranked players in the world. It boggles the mind to this day.
Of course, it wasn’t the first professional tournament Ko had won. Earlier in the year she captured the NSW Women’s Open at Oatlands in Sydney as a 14-year-old having finished second the previous year (at 13!) to future Solheim Cup star Caroline Hedwall.
Ko defended the Canadian title in 2013 (still as an amateur) then in 2015 became the youngest woman to win a major when she captured the Evian Championship.
She added the title of youngest woman to win two majors when she backed up at the next Grand Slam event, the then ANA Inspiration, early in 2016.
In 2017 she became the youngest golfer to achieve World No.1 status and between then and this year even managed to endure a slump.
What is perhaps most remarkable about all of it, though, is that she is still only 25. Ko was born 11 days AFTER Tiger won his first major at Augusta in 1997.
So what was the ‘interesting’ moment on the final green at the weekend?
Among the first to congratulate Ko was another member of the final group who is also carving out a special place in the game.
Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul is just 19 years old, already a two-time Tour winner and presently holds the World No.2 ranking.
“What is perhaps most remarkable about all of it, though, is that she is still only 25. Ko was born 11 days AFTER Tiger won his first major at Augusta in 1997.” – Rod Morri.
She began the final round one shot ahead of Ko and American Andrea Lee and would have liked her chances of capturing a third LPGA Tour title.
But it wasn’t her day and a final round 74 – which must have felt like 84 as she watched Ko shoot 65 – might prove one of the most important rounds of her year or even career.
Geoff Ogilvy once said there are two types of tournaments when you’re near the lead. There are ‘could haves’ – where you had a chance to win but someone played better – and ‘should haves’ – where you messed up and didn’t win an event you should have.
Thitikul will likely be looking at this past weekend as a ‘should have’ which will make her next outing particularly interesting.
So far in her career the Thai star has navigated mostly calm waters, but this past Sunday will be a test of character for her.
The very best generally pass this test and all indications are that Thitikul will, too. But it will still be interesting to watch.
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