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Golf: Former No. 1s praise Ko, but warn teen queen of new pressure

Ko has earned praise from Stacy Lewis and Park In-bee, who shared top spot between them in 2014. Photo: AFP.

Lydia Ko, 17, has earned praise from Stacy Lewis (left) and Park In-bee (right), both World No. 1s last year. Photo: AFP.

February 1, 2015: Former World No. 1s Park In-bee, Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr were all united in their praise of Lydia Ko, after the 17-year-old became the youngest-ever World No. 1 in golf, men’s or women’s.

 

Last year the teenage prodigy soared to No. 2 in her rookie season on the LPGA and has needed only one tournament in 2015 to depose Park at the top of the ranking.

 

Park, a five-time Major champion, believes Ko has the tools to remain at the top, but will now find new challenges as the front runner in women’s golf.

 

“I mean, it’s just the thought that everybody’s behind you and trying to catch you. And you have to play well every week, that’s obviously hard to do,” said Park, 26.

 

“However, she’s probably the straightest player out on the Tour and obviously she can roll the putts in. Golf gets easier from there if you hit the ball straight and you can roll the ball in. I heard she’s putting even better than last year, so that’s going to be really tough to beat.”

 

Stacy Lewis, 29, was the world’s top-ranked player last October when the American playfully goaded Ko about her No. 1 ambitions and is now among those voicing their praise of the grounded teen. (For article, visit: sport-asia.com/golf-lydia-ko-swats-away-stacy-lewis-tease-about-no-1-ambition/)

 

“It’s history. It’s never been done, but I can’t say I’m surprised. It was just a matter of time. She’s playing some great golf right now and she’s confident. She’s rolling in putts and it’s good. She’s a good kid and a good person to see at the top of the world,” Lewis said.

 

“I think she’s kind of starting to figure it out that there’s a lot more that goes on, but she’s still pretty naive at 17 and I don’t see this changing her too much or changing her outlook. She might be a little bit busier, but I don’t see Lydia changing too much.”

 

Cristie Kerr, another former No. 1, was among those who didn’t seem surprised at Ko’s latest achievement, which beats the record set by a 21-year-old Tiger Woods.

 

“It doesn’t surprise me, as she’s very talented. She’s way wise beyond her years, but it will be interesting to see how she handles it,” said the 37-year-old American.

 

“The hardest thing will be staying there, to maintain that level of play for a long period of time. Tiger did it forever, then Lorena [Ochoa]. Let’s see what happens.”

 

Kerr said she realised the 17-year-old could handle the biggest of occasions after Ko’s victory at last November’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, when the New Zealander won the Race to the CME Globe for the biggest prize in women’s golf history.

 

“She not only won the CME and a million-and-a-half [dollars] was on the line and it didn’t even look like she cared, you know,” said Kerr, who was asked if she’d ever seen Ko rattled.

 

“Her? Not yet, but she hasn’t lived that long.”

 

Source: LPGA (www.lpga.com); Editing by SportAsia

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