Posted: May 20, 2015 7:27 pm
Lydia Ko, the 18 year-old who’s the world’s top-ranked female golfer, plays with an unusual bagful of clubs.
So unusual, or untraditional, that maybe the average golfer can learn something from it. Further, it implies an approach to the game that may be especially relevant in July, when the U.S. Women’s Open is played at Lancaster Country Club.
An old-school, male tour-pro’s set of clubs would include a driver and 3-wood, one club in the 5-wood/hybrid/driving iron category, 3- through 9-irons, a few wedges and a putter.
Ko carries a driver, 3-wood, 4-wood, and three hybrids. Her longest iron is a six.
There’s so many headcovers in her bag, it looks like a puppet show.
“Actually it’s changed a little lately,” Ko said after playing a practice round at L.C.C. for the second straight day Wednesday.
“I put a 5-iron in (sometimes) instead of one of the hybrids. It switches back and forth.”
The point remains the same. Hybrids – clubs between a long iron and fairway wood from a design standpoint – have a wider sole, slide through deep grass and make it far easier to get the ball airborne than a 3-5-iron – are increasingly popular.
They’re especially popular among LPGA pros, and probably should be among average amateurs of both genders.
For the Women’s Open, L.C.C. figures to include at least five par-4s (nine, 10, 11, 15 and 18) that will measure 420 yards or more. Both the par-5s, seven and 13, are reasonably short, possibly reachable in two. Then there’s the par-3 eighth, which can play around 190 yards.
Every one of those holes could require a shot of, say, 170-220 yards. For the majority of LPGA pros, that’s hybrid time. On the high end of that yardage range, it could even be 4-wood time, even though it used to seem as if that club had been phased out of the sport.
Ko described herself as “around average, distance-wise,” by LPGA standards. She hit driver, 3-wood into the ninth Wednesday. She hit driver, 3-wood into 10, from the gold tees, and didn’t reach the green.
It was weirdly cold and windy Wednesday. The course almost certainly won’t play that long in July. But still.
“There are definitely some long par-4s,” Ko said. “It’s the U.S. Open. It’s supposed to be tough.”
Ko turned 18 last month. She has won seven tour events, two of them before turning pro in late 2013. She became the youngest world No. 1 ever, male of female, when she rose to the top of the Rolex World Rankings in February.
But while she’s been ridiculously successful by any standard, Ko’s major championship record is not quite as strong as everything else on her resume.
In 13 majors, she has no wins, and has finished 25th or worse six times. She has three top 10s in majors, but her best U.S. Women’s Open finish is 15th.
It’s a small sample size, and she’s a teenager. It’s not as if Ko’s under-valuing the majors. Spending two straight days in Lancaster in May is clear enough evidence of that.
“U.S. Open champion – that kinda says it all,” Ko said. “I’m just trying to get enjoy playing in these tournaments and get used to playing in them. I’m not putting any pressure on myself.”