Rookie Lydia Ko unruffled despite the changes

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:02 25/01/2014
Lydia Ko
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LYDIA KO: The Kiwi teen golfing sensation admits she may not always be able to play the New Zealand Open.

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The more things change with Lydia Ko, the more they stay the same.

A new coach, new equipment and a new caddie have only helped Ko start her first full season on the LPGA Tour with distinction.

The 16-year-old was joint first round leader at the season-opening, US$1.3 million (NZ$1.56m) Bahamas Classic yesterday, shooting a typically efficient five-under 68 to kick off her rookie season in style.

Ko shares the lead with Korean world No 75 Meena Lee at five-under with 10 players just a shot behind.

She could have enjoyed the lead alone had her handy eagle-putt at the par-five 18th dropped, but she had to settle for a tap-in birdie.

New coaches David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan must have let out a huge sigh of relief as Ko mixed her six birdies at the Ocean Club Golf Course with a solitary bogey.

Taking on Ko after she dumped Guy Wilson after 11 years appeared to be a tough sell.

If Ko continued to do well under their tutelage, then she would have only been doing as expected, if she flopped the blame would be aimed at them.

She didn't; the world No 4 played her normal solid golf, again putted well and kept out of trouble.

One of the chasing group at four-under was Ko's playing partner and world No 3 Stacey Lewis who wasn't surprised Ko had started her rookie season so well.

"You can change your clubs, your coach, all these things, but she's still the same person," Lewis said.

"I think she's really good. Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that [confidence] out, watch out for the rest of the Tour."

Ko joked she'd heard the word "change" so often over the last month that it could have been her middle name, but there was still a sense of relief at starting the year on a high in the shadow of a serious career makeover.

"It's good that I kind of got off to a good start and it will definitely help with the rest of the season."

Worryingly for the rest of the 108-woman field, Ko thinks she could play a lot better.

"I thought I was playing much better than my scores [indicated]," she said. "Three-under was a great score during the middle of my round, but I thought I was playing even better. I gave myself opportunities and I hit my putts on the line that I wanted to hit them [but] sometimes it would just dive off to the left or right."

Ko was due to tee off her second round at 6.20am (NZ time).

After this tournament, she heads straight to Christchurch to defend her New Zealand Women's Open title at Clearwater, starting next Friday.

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- Fairfax Media

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