Ko-motion over rising NZ star but pros on par

HIGH PRAISE: New Zealand Open favourite, Angela Stanford, says Lydia Ko (pictured) is a tremendous talent.
HIGH PRAISE: New Zealand Open favourite, Angela Stanford, says Lydia Ko (pictured) is a tremendous talent.

The hype around golfing sensation Lydia Ko is infectious, with even the New Zealand Open favourite, Angela Stanford, calling her a "tremendous" talent.

Ahead of the open, which begins today at Clearwater in Christchurch, Stanford, the world No 19, brought the topic of Ko up herself, and was buzzing about playing in today's feature group with her and European No 1 Carlota Ciganda.

"I'm excited, it's cool to be in Lydia's environment - it's like a home game for her."

Stanford played with Ko last year and said the 15-year-old's poise was a distraction.

"I kept kind of thinking, ‘she's driving me crazy, how is this kid so good'?" she said.

"I've been really impressed with her.

"I'm excited about playing with her, her game is tremendous, and because you never know when you're watching history."

Stanford has 10 top-10 major finishes in her illustrious career, but was quick to talk down any favourite's tag.

"For me, this is my first tournament of the year and I have a lot of things going on in my head. I know some of the ladies here and know how good they are. It's not going to be easy."

Like most experienced golfers, Stanford knows what's important.

"Obviously, I want to win it, we all do, whether it's your first tournament of the year or your last, you always want to win.

"[But] my goal is to be hanging around in the last nine holes on Sunday afternoon."

There are 14 players inside the top 100 in world at Clearwater this week, including Ko, but one of the players to watch will be world No 162 Laura Davies.

Davies is often labelled a reluctant trainer but spent a good few hours putting and hitting balls on Wednesday and feels her form has turned a corner.

The former world No 1 and four-time major winner once said the Clearwater course didn't suit her but she changed her mind yesterday, though she's still not a fan of the water-laden back nine.

"The thing was, when we played here before [in 2009], I wasn't playing well and wasn't hitting it well. Now I am hitting it well," the 2010 New Zealand Open champion said.

"I remember the front nine. I loved the front nine, it was the back nine with its gratuitous water everywhere which I find quite frustrating," she said.

"But you have to play what you've got put in front of you and if I'm good enough I'll have a chance."

Davies made plenty of birdies at last weekend's Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast but her three rounds were littered with too many bogeys and doubles.

Her time on the range seems to have helped her ball-striking, though the wind doesn't suit her either.

"I used to think I was a good player in the wind but my last few years' results say I don't."

Even her vast experience - she's been a professional for 28 years - doesn't help in the wind, she said.

"If you're good in the wind, you're good in the wind. Doesn't matter if you're 14 or 49. I'm the 49, by the way."

And it will blow at Clearwater. It has all week in the afternoons and is forecast again today and tomorrow at least.

That wind could well suit Ko - she keeps the ball low naturally and has been at Clearwater more than a week practising.

That's if all the hype, even from some of the world's best players, doesn't become too much. 

The Press