Holes, not history, Lydia Ko's major objective

HOLE BY HOLE: Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko going to play step by step in her first LPGA major as a professional.
HOLE BY HOLE: Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko going to play step by step in her first LPGA major as a professional.

Love your golf, but haven't heard of young Tom Morris? You won't be in the minority.

But if Kiwi golfing sensation Lydia Ko is able to win the first major of the LPGA tour this week, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs, California, prepare yourself for hearing plenty more about the Scotsman, and his 146-year-old record.

Morris, seen as one of the greatest golfers of all time, beat his father, the appropriately named Old Tom, to win the 1868 British Open at just 17 years, five months and 28 days old. He remains the youngest golfer to have won a major.

If Ko finishes at the top of the field at the end of the Kraft at Mission Hills Country Club, starting tomorrow, Morris' record will be gone  and sporting history books will have to be rewritten.

Ko, who will be aged just 16 years, 11 months and 13 days on the tournament's final day next Monday (NZT), told Fairfax Media yesterday that she had heard of Morris' record, but certainly wasn't focusing on it.

''A lot of people have been saying that,'' Ko said.

''I just guess it would be great to win.

''It's great to win any tournament, but to win a major, it takes a lot of good golf to make that happen.

''I'm just going to take it hole by hole, and if it comes, it comes.''

The youngest women's winner of a major is certainly well within reach of the No 4 ranked golfer in the world.

That honour is held by American Morgan Pressel, who claimed the 2007 Kraft Nabisco title at 18 years, ten months and nine days of age.

Ko will have to shrug off her recent outing at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California, last week, however, if she wants to break records.

Ko scored 78 in her final round and while she was upset at the time, the Kiwi teenager has since shrugged off the round  and dwelling on its positives.

''It was a really tough final round there,'' she said.

''But, you know, seeing my score, I didn't feel like I played that bad compared to my 78.

''I came off the course and was a little upset with that. But I didn't feel like I shot that much, things weren't really going that well.

''I didn't give up until the end. I made a bogey on the last hole, too. That was not a great day overall. It was a whole new experience where nothing is going your way, nothing is going in, nothing was going where you want to hit it.

''But I hit the ball really well. I was really confident with that.

''That was one of the reasons why I didn't feel like I had that kind of a bad round.''

Ko finished tied for 25th - and the top placed amateur - at last year's Kraft Nabisco, but had no expectations for her final placing in Palm Springs this week.

''I don't really have like a specific number or placing, especially coming off the final round last week,'' she said.

''I just want to have a really good start. I've been struggling with that good start the last couple of weeks.

''Starting off well I think will really help the whole week like it happened in [the JTBC Founders Cup in] Phoenix.''

Ko won't have to contend with one of her biggest competitors in Palm Springs this week, with world no 2 Suzann Pettersen withdrawing from the Kraft Nabisco Championship yesterday. An aggravated disc in Pettersen's back will keep her out of the tournament.

Ko has been drawn to play with Japan's Ai Miyazato in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco, teeing off from the tenth hole at 3.50am tomorrow NZT.

Ko is again paired with Miyazato for round two of the tournament, with the duo teeing off from the first hole at 8.50 on Saturday morning.

It's hoped that Ko's story has a happier ending than the one that befell Morris.

After winning four straight British Opens between 1868 and 1872 - no tournament was held in 1871 - the Scotsman entered an early grave.  

Morris, only 24, was said to have ''died from a broken heart'' on Christmas Day, 1875 - nearly four months after his wife Margaret died giving birth.


 - Young Tom Morris (Scotland), 1868 British Open, age: 17 years, 5 months, 28 days.

- Young Tom Morris (Scotland), 1869 British Open, age: 18 years, 4 months, 26 days.

- Morgan Pressel (United States), 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship, age: 18 years, 10 months, 9 days.

- Yani Tseng (Taiwan), 2008 McDonald's LPGA Championship, age: 19 years, 4 months, 6 days.

- Young Tom Morris (Scotland), 1870 British Open, age: 19 years, 4 months, 27 days.