Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Golf: Ko extends driving skills to road

Lydia Ko had a share of the lead in Florida yesterday before weather forced the suspension of play. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko had a share of the lead in Florida yesterday before weather forced the suspension of play. Photo / Getty Images

It's been more than two months since Lydia Ko scooped up a bag of honours at the end of the LPGA season.

Among her batch of awards, the world No 1 claimed a car for the most top 10 finishes - 16 from 23 starts - but because Ko didn't have a licence, she gave the vehicle to her sister.

During her off-season, though, Ko got her learner's permit and plonked her 18-year-old frame behind the wheel of a Lexus.

The car has plenty of grunt but Ko is taking it steadily in her driving infancy and warning others around her Orlando neighbourhood to give her a wide berth.

"Everybody said it's the same as a cart, but it's nothing like a cart," she said. "It goes so much faster.

"I've got a pretty fast car, an RCF Lexus, and it should be going like really fast, nice, speedy, 80 miles per hour [130km/h], and I'm going like 30, 35 cruising along to Publix.

"But no, it's really cool. It's a good change. But it's good that a parent or a guardian is there to keep me in line.

"I haven't gone on the freeway yet, and I want to stick to that for a little bit," Ko admitted. "But no, my mum thought it would be good, but we'd already left the house by then, and I don't trust me."

Out on course, Ko does not suffer the same driving timidity as she hits 75 per cent of fairways from the tee.

She bypassed the start of the LPGA schedule in the Bahamas and teed it up for the first time at the Coates Championship this week in Florida before she will make the long journey to Clearwater to defend her New Zealand Open title.

In Florida yesterday, Ko played enough golf to catch up to the lead but didn't play enough to finish the rain-delayed second round.

She was 4-under for her round and had a 15-foot birdie putt on her final hole at the par-4 ninth when the horn sounded to stop play because of local thunderstorms.

Ko was 7 under for the tournament, tied with Ha Na Jang.

Ko started quickly yesterday by opening with two birdies. But she birdied only one of the par 5s, though she never missed a fairway.

"I felt more comfortable today. I was pretty pleased to see all my balls finish in the fairway," Ko said.

Ko has been working on further refinements to her swing with coach David Leadbetter and his group of advisers as she begins her third season of professional golf.

While some women hit the ball further, Ko dissects courses with her surgical golf. Her control is astounding in all areas of her game and she has been the youngest to reach a list of golfing records.

Most importantly for Ko, she became the youngest woman to win a major with victory at the Evian Championship in September when she closed with a remarkable 63 in the final round.

There is an easy rhythm about her swing and her demeanour on the course. She is all concentration and intent as she prepares to hit before she breaks into conversation and interaction until her next shot.

Her mental poise and shot control is a magnetic combination for those who are drawn to watch the world No 1 next week at Clearwater.

- NZ Herald

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