Great success breeds even greater expectations but Lydia Ko has shown she’s capable of exceeding them anyway and making history, writes David Leggat

Lydia Ko's phenomenal performances are in danger of being viewed as just another entry in her rapidly bulging bag of achievements.

That's not her problem; more the perception of others. With success comes expectations.

Yesterday's winning of the Race to the CME Globe is stunning. Translation: she has been the most consistent performer on the LPGA Tour this year. Winning the Group Tour Championship on the fourth playoff hole gives her five LPGA Tour wins.

Still only 17 and the accomplishments are piling up.

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This year, as Ko was finishing close to victories, one could detect a hint of public frustration. She "only" finished third/fourth/fifth. Occasionally it would be termed a "failed to win". That's daft.

Apart from pocketing US$1 million ($1.3 million) for finishing top of the Race, Ko snapped up another US$500,000 for yesterday's dramatic win in Naples, Florida. It was women's golf's biggest payday. Her earnings are now US$3.089 million.

You're tempted to wonder how Ko's financials, and her playing record, might look in 10 years' time - let alone if she's still marching the fairways at 40.

Then again, it's best to guard against those thoughts. Much happens to athletes as they make their way through, let's face it, a peculiar lifestyle.

Ko has talked about aiming for a good balance in her life. Will her desire remain strong at 30?

She's already the youngest player in LPGA history to have won five titles. Might the squirrelling away of trophies become mundane? Only the most driven athletes retain that relentlessness through to the end of their careers.

Bjorn Borg is among tennis' all-time finest. He quit at 26, worn out and with younger hustlers at his heels, like John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.

Mark Ella's genius for the Wallabies ended at 25. He'd had enough. There are plenty of examples.

Then there are the greats who have the other problem, not recognising when to quit, unable to break with, in some cases, all they've ever known.

As Ko munched on a snack wandering up a fairway during the playoff, she might have been strolling the fourth fairway at Middlemore on ladies' day.

Others may betray their emotions, good or bad. Not Ko, which is not to say she's immune to pressure. She'll feel it, but is adept at hiding it well.

The annual Halberg Awards voting begins in a few weeks. Ko a shoo-in? What about athletics' Woman of the Year Valerie Adams?

Yes, it's apples and pears but you'll rarely please everyone.

What is undeniable is that there's never been another woman golfer like Ko. Next on the bucket list must be the No 1 ranking and a major. First chance? Next April at the newly named ANA Inspiration in California.

It might take a while, golf being the way it is, but bet that it will happen. This is an extraordinary young athlete well on her way to potentially being the best woman golfer there's been.

Kiwi female legends

It may sound preposterous, but even at 17 years young Lydia Ko has joined the conversation about who is New Zealand's greatest female athlete. If she was to wake up tomorrow and decide she hates golf, she would still have five more LPGA titles than the next best New Zealander. In other words, it's almost impossible to overstate her achievements to date.

Here are some other nominees.


Yvette Corlett
In many ways the pioneer, Corlett (nee Williams) will be best remembered for being the first New Zealand female to win an Olympic gold medal - in the long jump at Helsinki, 1952. But she also won four Empire Games golds (two in long jump, one in discus and one in shot put), and silver in the javelin in 1950.

Val Adams
A modern-day colossus, Adams has driven opponents to distraction (and drugs). Her shot-putting CV is sensational: two Olympic golds; four world championships; three world indoor championships; three Commonwealth golds. She has won every competition she has entered since August 22, 2010.

Susan Devoy
As a sport, squash might be struggling for cachet these days, but we shouldn't forget what a mighty figure Devoy was in the sport's glory days. She won four world titles, was runner-up at another and won a staggering eight British Opens.

Barbara Kendall
The boardsailor won the full set of medals across three Olympic Games -- gold in Barcelona, silver at Atlanta and bronze in Sydney.

Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell
These supreme double scullers won two Olympic golds, three world championship golds, three world championship silvers (including one in the quadruple sculls), and a bronze.

- Dylan Cleaver