Lydia Ko looks to move one step closer to the Career Grand Slam
She may only be 24 years old, but Lydia Ko is now in her 8th year on tour and thinking about retirement. The former teen prodigy took to the media room at Carnoustie to answer questions and share her thoughts about the course, the championship, her recent good form, the career Grand Slam, and retirement at the tender age of Thirty.
Playing aggressive has been Ko’s strategy for the past two tournaments, serving her well as she repeated as an Olympic medalist in Tokyo and finished with a second place finish last week at the Women’s Scottish Open.
“One of my strategies at the Olympics was to play a little bit more aggressively, especially because there is only three Medalists, and I think that was the mindset and then I continued that when I played last week. Last week some of the par 5s were definitely reachable. I hit driver, 9-iron on the par 5, 15th on the second or third day.”
As for the course, Carnoustie is known for being one of, if not the most difficult course on the entire rota of Open Championship courses. You will hear some refer to it as “Carnasty” in reference to its difficulty, and more often than not, the course requires expert shotmaking if one is going to stand as the victor on Sunday. The course requires long periods of concentration and calls on the player to execute their shots, rewarding those that do and punishing those that don’t. The course requires players to navigate the local watercourse, the Barry Burn, no less than twelve times over 18-holes, and in some cases such as the 17th and 18th, as much as twice (17th) and 3-times on the 18th.
For her part, Ko has been keenly aware of the challenge that Carnoustie poses, having both heard the stories of the course while watching the men competing for the Open Championship recently.
“This might be the trickiest British Open I’ve played yet . . . I think you have to be strategic around here. It’s tricky but at the end of the day, everybody plays the same golf course. You play with what you get and I’m just going to enjoy it out here. It’s going to be a great experience and I’m excited to be at a golf course where there’s so much history.”
As for the closing two holes, Ko has already played it in practice and she has picked up on some of the nuances of those holes, both the subtle and not so subtle. In Monday’s practice round she played a hybrid off the tee leaving her with a 5-wood into the green. As for the 18th, she understands the importance of a good tee shot and keeping the ball in the fairway for a possible birdie opportunity.
“I think if you hit a really good drive down there, I think you’re able to go for birdies and I think the more times you keep it in the fairway, the more chances you’ve got . . . So yeah, hopefully I’ll be able to hit four really good drives down the 18th and give myself a good chance coming in.”
Confidence is a big part of Lydia Ko’s game right now, given her bronze medal win in Tokyo and her second place finish last week. It is form that she is hoping to carry over into this week.
“Medaling in Tokyo gave me a lot of confidence coming into last week. Last week my ball-striking was really good, and then I was able to kind of back up my putting over the weekend on top of that, which I think was probably the reason why I was able to finish on a high on Sunday last week.
“So yeah, I think I've just been trying to stay confident and work on the things that I feel like needs a little bit more work and just keeping it simple and just making sure that when I'm out there playing, I'm playing with freedom and hopefully the last couple weeks translates into this week. But all in all, I'm just going to have a good time and whatever happens, happens. Just not be so result-oriented and enjoy my time here in Carnoustie “
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When asked what her goals would be for the next 10-years, Ko responded that she had set a goal of retiring when she’s 30, but that she is not going to permit herself to get overly focused on what may happen. However, she did share that one of her biggest goals remaining is to achieve the “Career Grand Slam”.
“I kind of set a goal of retiring when I'm 30. I hope to not be playing when I'm 34. I love this game, but I feel like there's also a lot of other things that I would like to do in my life. I try to not get too focused on what may happen. Obviously, I have goals and doing the career Grand Slam is definitely one of my biggest goals as a golfer.”
It may be coincidence or not, but she chose to speak of her Grand Slam goal at one of golf’s most appropriate venues. It was in 1953, when the second man to achieve the career Grand Slam, made his one and only trip to play the Open Championship at this very course.
Ben Hogan, the “Wee Ice Man” as he was affectionately dubbed by the Scots, posted successively better scores every round to capture the Championship by a 4-shot margin and with it, golfing immortality.
Lydia Ko has set numerous records over her early years as the youngest player to achieve this or that. She has been a World No.1 and she is a two-time Olympic medalist. She has already captured the Evian Championship and the ANA Inspiration. Should she pull off a victory at Carnoustie, she will have added a third crown jewel to her collection of major titles. It would be fitting to see her win the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie in her first try; it may be too much to ask, but if she were to pull it off, it would rank with some of her best wins to date. And for what it is worth, some of the most memorable events in golf have taken place at this course.
The AIG Womens Open Championship runs through this week to August 22nd.