Why golf is blessed to have Lydia Ko and her radiant smile in its ranks
Don’t you just love golf? The past weekend alone brought a return to winning ways for Lydia Ko and another victory this season for 47-year-old Stewart Cink. It’s a pity that Martin Kaymer missed out on also being back in the winner’s circle, but hey ho.
Add in Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama both ending droughts over the last few weekends and it really has been one of those spells that make you realise what a wonderful sport it is and, moreover, always will be.
Ko’s success in the LPGA’s LOTTE Championship in Hawaii was her first in 1,084 days, having endured some torrid times in that fallow period but rarely allowing the most radiant of smiles leave her face.
Make no mistake, golf was blessed when the Kiwi took up the game and there’s a good chance that her record of being the youngest player, male or female, to reach No 1 in the world, as she did at just 17, will never be beaten.
Heck, she’s still just 23 - her 24th birthday is later this week - yet her LPGA Tour title tally now stands at 16, including two majors. Ko was back to her very best as she landed a seven-shot success in Hawaii, and that is very exciting indeed for the game.
Her best effort to date in the AIG Women’s Open came on Scottish soil when she finished third behind Inbee Park at Turnberry in 2015, having had the leaders in her sights at the halfway stage on the event’s first visit to Royal Troon last summer but just not managing to make her presence felt at the business end.
Even for proven winners, getting that job done again can be way more difficult than people imagine, but having tasted success again, look out for Ko being in the mix in this year’s AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie.
Here’s hoping she’ll also be teeing it up in the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links the previous week, having already supported that event in the past at Dundonald Links, Gullane and, most recently, The Renaissance Club.
In what has been a welcome recent trend, Spieth’s success in the Valero Texas Open was his first win on 1,351 while Matsuyama ended a drought spanning 1,344 days as he became the first Japanese player to win a men’s major in the Masters.
After then seeing Ko join the club, Kaymer could have been forgiven for thinking the stars were starting to align for him heading into the final round of the Austrian Open on Sunday, but, alas, it wasn’t to be for the German in his bid to span a gap of 2,499 days.
Like Ko, Kaymer is great for golf. Every time he speaks about the game, be it about his own level of performance or something generic, it really is worth listening to and golf is lucky to have individuals like him in its ranks.
The same certainly goes for Spieth and Matsuyama, too, because it was absolutely fantastic to see a photo of him sitting in Atlanta airport last Monday with his Green Jacket casually draped over the back of a seat.
As for Cink, even those who will never forgive him for denying Tom Watson a sixth Open win at the age of 59 at Turnberry in 2009 must surely be tipping their hat to the 47-year-old after becoming a multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season.
“He's old and he's kicking everyone's ass,” said Harold Varner III, who finished joint-second, of seeing Cink open with a pair of 63s and look in total control of his game from start to end as he landed a third RBC Heritage win at Hilton Head with a comfortable four-shot success.
In the Montrose Links Masters, the opening event of the new Tartan Pro Tour season last week, 52-year-old Paul Lawrie was one shot off the lead at the halfway stage before Gavin Hay produced a blistering second-day effort to land the spoils on the circuit for Scotish-based players.
That’s the beauty of golf. Yes, the young guys and young girls are likely to come out top more often than not and the likes of Ko, Bryson DeChambeau, the Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, and Collin Morikawa are going to inspire the next generation.
At the same time, though, well done to both Cink and Lawrie for highlighting the sport’s unrivalled position of providing the chance of longevity. “Yeah, it inspires me,” added Varner of Cink’s latest success as the American hammered home that exact point. “It inspires me to know that I can play golf for a long time.”
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