Punters and NZ Golf gambling on Lydia Ko

By Michael Donaldson at Clearwater Resort

Lydia Ko is a rather short-priced favourite to win the New Zealand Open. Photo / Getty
Lydia Ko is a rather short-priced favourite to win the New Zealand Open. Photo / Getty

Not even when Tiger Woods was at his absolute peak in the early years of the 20th century has golf seen such a prohibitive favourite as Lydia Ko ahead of Friday's New Zealand Women's Open at Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.

Ko is paying $1.57 on the New Zealand TAB and according to England's Laura Davies, perhaps the most experienced observer of women's golf, those odds are unparalleled.

"In English prices she's 8/13 (invest $13 to return $21) which is unprecedented for a field of this size. It's extraordinary but having said that a lot of top punters I know will think this is a great bet - put 13 grand on to make eight grand [profit] - it's a great bet, I wish I had 13 grand," Davies said.

"Tiger is the only one who's started this short - I saw him once at 10/11 ($1.90) when he was at his absolute best but this is the shortest price ever [for a golf tournament].

"It's a shame in some ways as it makes it look like the rest of us can't play.

It's just that she's exceptional and the odds reflect that. If Lydia plays well she will win. She's the No 1 player in the world - I'm not sure who the second highest ranked player is but I'm sure she's not that high." And she's right: the second highest ranked player is Nicole Larsen of Denmark - at 73.

"But having said that Lydia still has to go and play the golf ... but the chances are Lydia is going to win."

New Zealand Golf might not be splurging $13,000 on Ko - there's a lot more than that already staked on the hope she can claim a third Open title in four years. If she successfully defends her title it will almost certainly ensure she returns next year ... and for many years to come.

Ko is a massive drawcard for fans and a magnetic force driving global media coverage the New Zealand Open would not otherwise receive given the relatively paltry prizemoney on offer.

It's a blessing for New Zealand Golf and one they shouldn't take for granted Davies suggested.

"It's a great credit to Lydia that she comes back to New Zealand. Obviously the money is not an issue for her but it's lovely that she still wants to come back here and play because there's a lot of girls who don't go back to Sweden or Spain when they are those countries' best players. Yet Lydia is in a position, as No 1 in the world, where she still wants to come back and play.

Davies said the wider world of golf wouldn't bat an eyelid if Ko failed to front for her national open. "No-one would criticise her but everyone should be praising her because she's such a lovely girl as well.

"Some of the other No 1s haven't been so receptive about embracing the No 1 status - I'm not saying they weren't nice people, I'm just saying they didn't want to go that extra mile. It seems Lydia is really happy to take everything on board and go with it - which is why I don't think I've heard anyone say a bad word about which is pretty extraordinary at a high level of sport.

"That says it all really."

That said Davies still backs herself to play a role over the 54-hole tournament which ends on Sunday.

"A chance? I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could win it but having said that I have to play as good as I can play and putt really well because I don't think Lydia is going to shoot any less than 15-under."

She said if someone else could shoot better than 15-under it would start to put pressure on Ko. "It's a massive ask but there are players here who can do it: Gwladys Nocera, Rebecca Artis is playing really well. You want to be the player who plays with her on Sunday and tries to put the pressure on her - I'm not saying anyone is playing for second."

- NZ Herald

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