Mickey Walker: All change for Lydia Ko
On top of the world
What an interesting year in prospect this is for women’s golf. There is much to look forward to after an outstanding year in 2016 when Ariya Jutanugarn narrowly pipped Lydia Ko for Player of the Year honours.
Of course New Zealand’s Ko still retains the World No 1 spot. And in a bid to stay there and improve her golf, has embarked on what I believe is a courageous strategy.
New clubs, new coach, new caddy
She changed her long-time caddy Jason Hamilton to Gary Matthews for the final two events of 2016, switched her equipment from Callaway to PXG and will shortly announce who her new coach is, having split from David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan at the tail end of last season.
Apparently the main reason for leaving Leadbetter is to get more consistency in her game. Especially from the tee where Lydia ranks 68th in driving accuracy. For someone who has an amazing amount of consistency in her results overall. Particularly from 110 yards in where statistically she ranks at or near the top in every category. Her driving is undoubtedly a weakness rather than a strength.
When Lydia does improve her driving then she could double the number of tournaments and Majors that she wins. One tournament last year that springs immediately to mind is the US Women’s Open. Where, despite a three-over 75 in the final round, she still finished in a tie for third.
The other reason for Lydia changing coaches is because she wants to understand her swing and simplify it so that when her coach isn’t around she can figure things out for herself.
I really admire Lydia for taking control for her own swing and being proactive in deciding how she’s going to do that. Although there has been some bad feeling voiced by Leadbetter following the split. Despite this, Lydia has said nothing but positive things about their relationship and what David has helped her achieve.
She has just taken time to evaluate her year, and the areas that she feels need improvement. I’m sure that some people in the media will think that Lydia is crazy to change everything all at once and that it’s a recipe for disaster. I think that, because of how positively she thinks and that she will be 100 per cent committed to the changes, it will make her an even better player.
There are many examples of players who have changed coaches, caddies or equipment to the detriment of their games. And that’s just one of those factors let alone three at once!
I’m sure that fans will remember Rory McIlroy’s slump in form after switching equipment. And Suzann Pettersen struggled after changing her coach having had one of her best ever years in 2007.
One of the best-documented splits regarding a player/caddy relationship was Lee Westwood. When, after so much success, fired Billy Foster, only to re-employ him two years later.
One thing that isn’t in question is the integrity, intelligence and likability of Lydia. She won’t have made these potentially career-changing decisions without giving them serious thought resulting in her belief that they will help her become a better player.
No matter what your circumstances or who you are, in the words of the founder of the Ford motor company Henry Ford: “If you think you can or think that you can’t – you’re right!”