Lydia Ko's profile expected to soar in the USA
Lydia Ko is already a huge name in golf, but one of the world's leading golf writers predicts she could follow the likes of Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie and have an appeal that transcends the sport.
Two months after turning professional, 16-year-old Ko is the talk of the US golf scene as she heads to Christchurch to defend her New Zealand Women's Open title at Clearwater, starting on Friday.
The start of her rookie season at the Bahamas Classic this week when she finished seventh equal made headlines as did her switch from Kiwi coach of 11 years Guy Wilson to David Leadbetter, the self-proclaimed "world's leading golf instructor".
Reuters golf writer Mark Lamport-Stokes labelled Ko the most exciting player on the women's tour since Wie and predicted her profile to balloon in the US.
"No question she's the most talked about player on the tour," Lamport-Stokes said from Los Angeles. "Americans love prodigies - especially from America - but really, any prodigy they embrace.
"You look at how big Michelle Wie was, and Lexi Thompson, the fact Ko has won multiple times even before turning professional only makes her even more popular here."
Ko has timed her run well, Lamport-Stokes said, with the LPGA Tour starting to find more traction with golf and sport fans.
"I was speaking to someone at the LPGA and they said media accreditations to cover tournaments have gone up hugely in the last couple of years.
"Part of that is because of Lydia Ko and others like her," he said.
Lamport-Stokes said she's already appearing in the US at the least expected times, being mentioned during the men's PGA Tour shows and even got a mention on the PGA Tour's merchandising show last week.
What made Ko special was that she'd already delivered on her promise, Lamport-Stokes said.
He predicted major wins in her future, but the fact there were so many more top female professionals now meant she was unlikely to completely dominate the sport.
"There are lots of one and two-time major winners now, there is some very good competition, but I would be surprised if she didn't win a couple of majors with the game she has."
If she continues to deliver on her potential throughout her rookie LPGA Tour season, and push at the majors, Ko's stocks with sponsors and fans will only rise.