Lydia Ko is the third ranked player in the Rolex World Rankings. She won two LPGA events as an amateur, and in April, won for the first time as a professional at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. The sky is the limit for the 17-year-old from New Zealand.
At the pre-tournament press conference, Ko said Pinehurst has changed since her last visit, “It was definitely different to when I played here a month ago. The course is much drier, and obviously not having much rain may be the cause of that. I’ve been enjoying it so far. The greens are so pure. It feels like the U.S. Open, and I’m really excited for it to start.”
Lydia will have one of the best in the business on the bag to help navigate the firm, turtle back greens. Fluff Cowan, who loops for Jim Furyk, is using his off week to caddie for Ko. She said, “I obviously knew him as Jim Furyk’s caddie, and I know they’ve been together for a long time. Yeah, I think personally he’s more famous than me.”
Ko’s celebrity has been steadily on the rise, and a win at a major will be huge for her career. Although young players dominate the LPGA, it is rare that someone goes to the top at such an early age.
Speaking of youngsters, Lucy Li is the youngest player in the field at 11-years-old. Lydia said Lucy “has a lot of talent…I think my first Open was when I was 15. I thought I was pretty young then. But 11, that’s insane. I’m six years older than her and she makes me feel old. Yeah, I think she’s going to have some fun out there. And that’s what we’re all going to try and do.”
Many of the players, including Lydia, had a great time meeting the men as they got ready for their final round this past Sunday. Ko described the experience as a “mental breakdown.” She said, “I got to hug Sergio Garcia. When do I ever get to do that? I don’t. So every player I looked and said, oh, my, there’s Keegan Bradley. Oh, my, there’s Rory McIlroy right there. I’m never going to be that close to them, ever. So it was awesome, and the next time I do get to see them, I’ll be like this, again, have a mental breakdown.”
Ko is not your average teenager, but she does share many similarities with her peers. “I just feel like a normal 17-year-old. I wake up, and the alarm goes off, and I want to like throw my phone, because I don’t want to wake up yet. I feel like a normal teenager when I’m in the hotel, in my room. I don’t feel like the world no. 3.”
Many of Ko’s fellow competitors probably share the same alarm clock aggravation, but it’s a small sacrifice for what the future holds.
“Winning a major championship would pretty much be up there. It would be the top. Everybody strives to win tournaments, and the majors are the biggest out of them all.”