Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Lydia Ko in strong shape for latest golf major

Lydia Ko. Photo / AP.
Lydia Ko. Photo / AP.

Experience is Lydia Ko's most valuable weapon as the Kiwi golfer fronts for tonight's start to the US Open.

The world No 1 has claimed multiple titles in four years as a professional and pinpoints that education as a boost for this year's third major on the CordeValle course in California.

Ko won the ANA Inspiration this year and was edged in a playoff with Brooke Henderson for the PGA Championship title last month. Ko's best finish in four US Open attempts has been 12th but she likes her chances this time.

Her game is in strong shape, the course suits her eye and she feels comfortable in the west coast conditions. Her time on tour had taught her about being patient especially in the majors.

"It is not thinking about low scores but being patient and consistent," she said. "You are never out of it, even if you are four or six shots behind you are still in a tournament like this."

There were birdies on offer but a course like CordeValle demanded patience too and finding that balance was a key to success.

"Every hole is a new event then you move to a new tee box," Ko said.

Ko played three good rounds at last year's Open but lost her rhythm in the second round and all that scrambling took her out of contention.

Age did not matter out on the golf course but experience did and that helped in the range of pressure situations every golfer faced.

Ko said coaching and technical changes she had made in the last few seasons had moved her game to another level.

She expected significant galleries to follow her group where she drawn with Henderson and Lexi Thompson who is playing her 10th Open at the age of 21.

"We all feed off each other," she said about the challenges facing that trio.

Losing the PGA playoff to Henderson was disappointing but Ko said she had played solid golf in her last round. Many had focused on her missed putt on the 17th but she had holed out strongly throughout the tournament while Henderson shot a magnificent final round.

Hitting it long and straight at CordeValle was an advantage but accuracy was paramount and this type of course offered hope for a range of players.

"One game does not fit all for this course, this is a game of many parts," Ko said.

Henderson offered similar thoughts about her strategy for playing the Robert Trent Jones jnr designed course. Being patient and hitting it in the right place on the fairways and greens was a trusted formula.

CordeValle was very demanding and shaped like a tree-lined course without too much timber. The back nine was much tougher than the opening half.

There were several reachable par fives and Henderson felt that would be her advantage over most of the strong field which is missing injured multiple major winner Inbee Park.

- NZ Herald

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