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Are Lydia Ko's Best Days Behind Her?

The LPGA has now finished exactly 1/3 of its 2019 schedule (11 of 33 tournaments have been completed). We have already had winners from six different countries. In fact, ten different players have already brought home trophies.

One person that has not finished on top of the leaderboard this year is Lydia Ko.

Image result for Lydia Ko
Holding up the winning trophy was a regular occurrence during the 2014 thru 2016 seasons.

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 (22y/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 did not expect was that shs has now gone 26 tournaments without a single win.
What we did not expect is that she has only won once in her last 69 starts dating back to July 2016.

Let us look at some comparisons of Lydia's recent play to those earlier in her career.

Starts 2014-2016 = 74
Starts 2017-2019 = 61

Wins 2014-2016 =12 (16.2% of her starts)
Wins 2017-2019 =  1  (1.6%)

Top five finishes 2014-2016 = 33 (44.6% of her starts)
Top five finishes 2017-2019 =  9  (14.8%)

Top tens 2014-2016 = 46 (62.2% of her starts)
Top tens 2017-2019 = 23 (37.7%)

Failed to finish in the top forty:
2014-2016 = 11 (14.9%)
2017-2019 = 15 (24.5%)

Missed Cuts: 2014-2016 = 1 (1.4%)
Missed Cuts: 2017-2019 = 7 (11.5%)

Lets look a bit deeper:
  • She has fallen all the way down to #18 in the Rolex World Rankings.
  • She is currently #28 on the 2019 official LPGA money list.
  • Her average driving distance of 251 yards ranks her 135th of 149 players ranked.
  • She finished the year 2015 2nd in greens in regulation. She now ranks 56th.
  • Her putts per G.I.R ranking this year is a decent 34th. But that is a far cry from ranking #1 in 2016, and #2 in 2015.
  • Her scoring averages of 69.44 and 69.60 was good enough for 2nd place in both 2015 and 2016. Her scoring average at this moment is 70.71.
  • She has finished 44th, 42nd, and 61st in her last three starts.
She does not look like the same player!

At the end of the 2016 season, you would have thought that Lydia was a sure Hall of Famer. She was just nineteen years old, and had accumulated 17 of the 27 points needed for induction (14 wins, 2 Major Championships, 1 player of the year). Now almost 3 years later, she has managed to add just one more point. Now those nine points needed look very far away. We saw Yani Tseng accumulate 23 Hall of Fame points at the end of the 2012 season at the age of twenty-three. She has not added to that in the last seven years.

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

My conclusion:
Lydia is still playing some pretty good golf. She is capable of going low in any given round, but has had a problem putting four good rounds together. Many players would like to have her numbers, but they are no longer the numbers of the player we saw in past years.

We live in an era where many of the best players on the LPGA Tour (Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson, Minjee Lee, Jessica and Nelly Korda) 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 have already seen examples of some who have. 

Lydia might win again next week. But I think I said that about Yani also. This is something we should definitely keep our eye on.

This Week's Trivia Question: 
Who is the oldest player to win an LPGA event?

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

Comments

  1. All good questions, but answers are much harder to formulate. In sports such as gymnastics or tennis to name a couple, it is commonplace for young dynamos to disappear as the inevitability of their bodies growing into adulthood takes over. The physics change in their bodies and things don't seem as natural as they once were. I think Yani accepted that her lightninng in a bottle had evaporated. will Lydia do the same?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Yani has indeed accepted that, there'd.be no point in continuing especially as she is probably losing money rather than earning at this point.

      Delete

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