Golf: Ko experiences different build-up to NZ Open

Lydia Ko has experienced a notably different preparation for the defence of her New Zealand Women's Open crown compared to when she won the title last year. Photo / Getty Images.
Lydia Ko has experienced a notably different preparation for the defence of her New Zealand Women's Open crown compared to when she won the title last year. Photo / Getty Images.

Lydia Ko has experienced a notably different preparation for the defence of her New Zealand Women's Open crown compared to when she won the title last year.

When Ko emerged victorious by one stroke as an amateur at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch in 2013, she had enjoyed a 10-day lead-up where she was able to immerse herself in the course.

Fast forward 12 months and the world No 4 is now a full-time professional and arrived in the Garden City yesterday after playing at the LPGA's first event of the year in the Bahamas last weekend where she finished in a share of seventh.

"I'm feeling pretty good,'' Ko said at her pre-tournament press conference this morning. "It was a pretty long flight overnight [on Tuesday] but I had a long sleep last night and I guess I've got to be ready to start the tournament tomorrow.''

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Although she hasn't had a lengthy lead-in, she has seen Clearwater recently.

"I actually came down a couple of weeks ago to play two rounds and it was really windy that day,'' she said.

"So I kind of saw how windy it could get.''

Ko also had one last chance to get a look at how Clearwater might play this week when she teed off in the pro-am at 1pm today in blustery conditions.

Much of the chatter around Ko in the past month has focused on her new equipment deal with Callaway and her coaching split from former mentor Guy Wilson.

The golfing prodigy now receives advice from the US-based David Leadbetter and his offsider Sean Hogan.

"They didn't want to make huge changes,'' Ko said. "It's about fine-tuning things and big changes can lead to big stuff but it was just little bits at a time.''

Ko didn't speak to Leadbetter or Hogan during her time in the Bahamas as she didn't have cellphone coverage there but said they had sent her messages of congratulations on her top-10 finish.

The gear change was never likely to be a major issue but Ko confirmed the new clubs were working out just fine.

"I really love what I'm playing with right now. They feel good in my hands, so I think that's the most important part.''

Ko was sporting red and black nail polish at her press conference today but said it wasn't by design that it looked as though she was paying tribute to the famous colours of Canterbury sports teams.

"It ended up being those kind of colours, but I was at the airport, I had some free time and I kind of got it done.''

Given Ko's rapid rise up golf's world rankings, the inevitable question is when she believes she could be the best player on the planet with only Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis ranked ahead of her.

"I don't know. People say `you could be No 1 at the end of this year'. But there is a huge points difference between me and the big three, as they say, and there are so many great players behind me,'' Ko said.

"It just depends on how I play. I don't have a goal set about when I want to become No 1 but I guess sooner rather than later, right?''

In a nod to Ko's expected dominance this week she is a $3 favourite to win the tournament with the bookies, while English teenager Charley Hull is the next shortest quote at $12 followed by France's Joanna Klatten at $17.

- APNZ

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