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What is Wrong With Lydia Ko?

There were thirty-three LPGA tournaments played in the year 2017. There were twenty-two different winners. There were winners from eight different countries. There were nine multiple winners, with In Kyung Kim and Shanshan Feng leading the way with three wins apiece.

The LPGA has gotten off to an exciting start this season. They have played four tournaments and we have already had 4 different winners.

One name that has not finished on the top of the leaderboard over that period of time is Lydia Ko!

Image result for Lydia Ko
Holding up a winning trophy was a regular occurrence for Lydia Ko between 2014 and 2016.

Lydia dominated the LPGA tour during the years 2014 through 2016 (she had won twice before that as an amateur). She won twelve times over that three year period, including two major championships. She also spent 104 weeks as the Rolex Rankings #1 player in the world. It seemed like she would stay there forever. Nobody expected her to take the tumble that she has taken.

Let us look at some of her accomplishments:
  • Became the youngest winner in LPGA history on August 19, 2012 at the CN Canadian Women's Open (15yr/4m/2d). 
  • With her win at the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open, became the first amateur in history to win twice on the LPGA tour.
  • Became the youngest player to surpass $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $4 million, $5 million, $6 million and $7 million in career earnings.
  • Was the youngest winner in the history of the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award in 2014.
  • Recorded a streak of 29 consecutive sub-par rounds from November 2014 through April 2015, tying an LPGA record set by Annika Sorenstam in 2004.
  • On February 2, 2015 she became the youngest player, male or female, to reach No. 1 in the world (17yr/9m/9d) besting Tiger Woods (21yr/5m/16d).
  • Won her first major at the 2015 Evian Championship to become the youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history (18yr/4m/ 20d), beating Morgan Pressel's previous record (18yr/10m/9d). In doing so she also became the youngest player, male or female, to win a major championship in the modern era. 
  • Tallied five victories including one major in 2015 to become the youngest player in LPGA tour history (18y/6m/1d) to reach 10 career wins, besting Nancy Lopez's record (22/2m/5d) by more than 3 1/2 years.
  • Captured the 2015 Rolex Player of the Year Award by a mere two points over Inbee Park to become the youngest winner in the 49-year history of the award.
  • Became the youngest player in LPGA Tour history to win two major championships (18y/11m/9d).
  • In 2016 recorded four more victories including her second major championship at the ANA Inspiration, and tallied 10 additional top ten finishes including three runner-ups.
Quite a resume for someone who accomplished all of the above as a teenager.

What we didn't expect is that she has not won a tournament since winning the 2016 Marathon Classic almost 20 months ago. She has not won in her last 38 starts!
Lydia has not only dropped out of the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, but is no longer even in the top 10!

Let us look at some comparisons of Lydia's recent play as compared to her 2015 season:

                                              2015                  2017               So far in 2018

Official Money List                 1                        13                        25
Driving Distance                   60                      137                      112
Greens In Regulation             2                       26                        83
Putts Per G.I.R.                      2                         3                         7
Sand Saves                            1                        57                       33
Scoring Average                     2                         9                        21
Rounds under Par                  2                        13                       13
Birdies                                    3                        18                       29
Rounds in the 60's                  1                         7                        23
Player of the Year                   1                        17                       26
Race to the CME Globe         1                        18                       25
Wow! Doesn't look like the same player.

Let us look further:

                                                2014 through 2016       2017 and 2018

Starts                                                    74                           29
Wins                                        12 (16.2% of starts)              0
Top 5 finishes                                33  (44.6%)                    5  (17.2%)
Top 10 finishes                              46  (62.2%)                  12  (42.3%)
Failed to finish in the top 40          11  (14.9%)                   7  (24.1%) 
Missed Cuts                                   1  ( 1.4%)                     4 (13.8%)

Quite a difference. It really doesn't even look like the same player. Twenty months ago you would have bet the ranch that Lydia was a sure shot for Hall of Fame induction. She had earned 17 points (14 wins, 2 majors, 1 player of the year) of the 27 needed for induction. Now those 10 points that are needed look very far away. We saw a similar thing happen to Yani Tseng, who had 23 Hall of Fame points (at age 23) after the 2012 season. Yani has not added to that total since. 

Lydia's fall certainly has not been as dramatic as Yani's, but certainly bears watching.

Conclusion: 

Lydia is still playing some pretty good golf and is capable of going low in any one round. Her problem has been consistency, as she has struggled to put four good rounds together. Many players would love to have her current numbers, but they have not been "Lydia like."

We live in an era where the best players on the LPGA tour (Lydia, Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson, just to name a few) became superstars as teenagers. What we don't know yet is how long they will last. Will they burn out early? We certainly have seen some examples of that already. 

Lydia has now gone 38 starts without a victory. She might win again next week. But then again didn't we say that about Yani 5 years ago? Stay tuned!


This Week's Trivia Question: (for those who missed it earlier)

Who is the only left handed golfer to ever win an LPGA event?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.                                               

Comments

  1. Well Tony, we witnessed some of these early wins in person and it did seem surreal. But lets recognize what it's like for any adolescent to leave their teens, start to be accepted as an "adult" and what that may mean. It can be overwhelming for people who are safe and invisible. Imagine it being the #1 player in your sport in the world. Lydia's relationships on her bag have been well chronicled and so have the theories about the lack of regularity. But remember her wins in Vancouver and Edmonton were with caddies she had never worked with before. Let the girl grow. She still has lights-out talent.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There's actually nothing "wrong" with Lydia.
    See my article about her here - https://thegolfmuse.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/doing-good-by-doing-right/.
    The last two rounds in Singapore clearly shows she still has the magic and after a transition years in 2017 I see her bouncing bac k to win many more tournaments.
    I also agree with Glen's comments about letting her grow

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Tony... good stuff on Lydia's "problem"
    I have been a huge fan of Lydia (and still am).....wondering what you think of her being "wounded" by her loss to Brooke Henderson....(maybe the PGA? major) when (as I recall) they went into a playoff and Henderson won by sinking some unbelievable putts. One was about 50' or more ! Not sure if she won again after that, but I'm guessing you do....??

    ReplyDelete
  4. I looked it up Tony---it was in the final round of the 2016 LPGA championship that Brooke Henderson sank a putt from @ 60 feet (through 6' of fringe) on the 11th hole. Add that to other long putts on that final round to tie lydia and then to beat her on the 1st hole....must have hurt Lydia more than she let on. Lydia did, however go on to win 2 weeks later (june 26th) in the Arkansas open and also in July at the Marathon classic.

    ReplyDelete

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