Lydia Ko may have come up four strokes short Sunday in her Australian Women’s Open final-round shootout with winner Jiyai Shin, but with Tiger Woods’ ex-caddie jumping on the teen prodigy’s bandwagon, the buzz surrounding the 15-year-old will likely only grow louder.
"It's really hard to fathom,” Steve Williams told AAP about fellow Kiwi, Ko, prior to Golf Channel rearranging its TV schedule to broadcast the tourney finale live instead of on delay. “To be that good, that young, and that composed at that age is just incredible."
Ko suggested after carding a closing 3-over 76 and finishing third behind Shin (18-under) and world No. 1 Yani Tseng (-16, after starting the day eight shots back of co-leaders Shin and Ko) that she may wait two years before giving up her amateur status. Her long-time coach Guy Wilson, and now Scott, however, are in favor of her doing so sooner.
“I’ve got a couple of years until I turn pro so I guess within that period hopefully I’ll be able to get a little bit better,” Ko, the world’s South Korean-born top amateur now living in New Zealand, said after her round, pointing specifically to the mental aspect of her game and her final-round total of 33 putts.
Ko, who will be 16 on April 24, told the Australian Golf Digest last month that she would turn pro “when I think I’m ready and my coaching staff thinks I’m ready.” Wilson, however, may want to move up the timetable.
“Realistically, she’s probably going to look to turn pro next year, only because the opportunities now are pretty obvious,” Wilson told Fairfax Media, according to GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell. “Wasting two years at college could be a disadvantage.”
Williams, now on the bag for Aussie Adam Scott, threw his opinions into the mix and has a meeting planned with Wilson to share what he knows about life as a touring pro.
"I don't know the rules and regulations of the LPGA tour and I don't know what her philosophy and thoughts are right now and what her parents have planned for her but whatever plan they had she has probably exceeded their expectations in every single manner,” Williams said. "I would think someone like Lydia could only help the LPGA and help grow their game and their name.
"There is no negative on going pro in my mind. There is nothing I can think of to suggest she shouldn't play the LPGA Tour,” he added. "These days she could continue to study while playing. Let's face it she already plays a schedule where she misses plenty of school."
As for Ko’s attempt to capture back-to-back professional victories and her fourth overall, after winning last week’s New Zealand Open, it was not to be. She finally ran out of gas as Shin withstood a fierce rally from Tseng to earn the LPGA’s season-opener.
While Ko faded to four shots behind Shin in the opening two holes, she briefly regained a share of the lead at No. 12 but could not keep pace with her eighth-ranked playing partner. Meanwhile, world No. 1 Tseng worked herself back into the conversation with a closing 66 that included six birdies and an eagle.
Tseng, the youngest golfer ever to win five major championships, chimed in on the play of her teenaged competitor.
“She’s a great player,” Tseng said about Ko. “She’s hitting so consistently and I think she just need to play more tournament, I think she will be there and she will be a top player.”