Lydia Ko no certainty to play future NZ Opens

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014
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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Lydia Ko would love to play in every New Zealand Women's Open but she can't guarantee it.

The 16-year-old Kiwi golfing phenom is a raging hot favourite to defend her title - the TAB has her at a staggeringly low $3 - at Christchurch's Clearwater club during the next three days.

She tees off in the first round at 8.05am today and yesterday spoke glowingly of the course, the city and how she loves playing in her home country once a year.

But when prodded, she acknowledged there might be some years when she can't come home, such was the nature of professional golf.

We've seen it in the men's open, with the likes of leading pros Danny Lee, Tim Wilkinson and Michael Campbell rarely making the trip back home.

"I'm not too sure; as it is, tournaments don't clash and hopefully it doesn't," Ko said.

"Sometimes it might be hard but it would always be great to come back home and play nice courses like here at Clearwater. I really don't know what my schedule is going to be like."

As it stands, the 54-hole NZWO, co-sanctioned between the Ladies European Tour and the ALPG Tour, fits well with her schedule as it's just prior to the Australian Open, which is an LPGA Tour-ALPG Tour event.

This is Ko's rookie season on the LPGA Tour and she plans to buy a house in Florida, near to new coach David Leadbetter's team, with her only visits back home likely to be over summer.

She plans to do most of her schooling by correspondence this year, with an increased playing schedule now she's in the pay-for-play ranks.

She was in a relaxed and confident mood as she addressed media for about 20 minutes yesterday, the 16-year-old having arrived in Christchurch on Wednesday night after finishing in a tie for seventh in the LPGA Tour event in the Bahamas on Monday.

It's a stark contrast in preparation to last year's successful tilt as an amateur, when she spent 10 days learning the Clearwater course before the open.

However, she completed a reccy before she left for the Bahamas.

"I actually came down a couple of weekends ago to play two rounds here and it was really windy that day. So I saw how windy it could get and I'm going to play the pro-am (yesterday) and that'll get me to see the course close to the tournament.

"I'm pretty confident but the wind can get pretty nasty out here, and it's about playing your own game and managing the course."

She is thinking more about playing well rather than trying to win.

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"I know that if I have a really good couple of rounds I'm in contention to win but I'm not there to go 'oh, I'm going to win every tournament'," said Ko, who was coincidentally sporting red and black nails on both hands.

"It would be great to win every tournament but that's not really realistic so [it's about] just putting myself in good form and giving myself opportunities."

As has always been the case, Ko seemed unperturbed by the pressure.

"Last year I think [the marketing slogan] was 'Ready, Set, Ko' and this year it's 'Here We Ko Again'. So it's quite cool to have my name and maybe it was a really good last name to have.

"It's just playing my own game. I can't control what somebody else does and there's a lot of great competition here. So I'm just going to try my best and if somebody makes an eagle, that's out of my control."

She made a statement about the recent coaching split with long-time mentor Guy Wilson, and hooking up with Leadbetter's team, but otherwise would not take questions on the decision, which is understood to have not been her call.

Ko said Leadbetter's team "didn't want to make huge changes. It's about fine-tuning things and big changes can lead to big stuff, but it was just little bits at a time".

She tees off at 8.05am alongside Australian Stacey Keating and England's Charley Hull.

- The Press

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