Lydia Ko

The Renaissance of Lydia Ko

More alive than she has ever been, the 25-year-old star won for the third time in 2022 and took home the richest prize in women’s golf

By Jordan Perez

The toughest conditions of the week at the Tour Championship couldn’t rain on Lydia Ko’s parade.

Battling light showers and 30 mph gusts, Ko claimed the 2022 CME Group Tour Championship title on Sunday, finishing at 17 under and two shots ahead of Leona Maguire. Ko appeared well on her way to her third victory of the year after carving out a five-shot lead through two rounds at Tiburon Golf Club, but Maguire caught her on Saturday after posting a 9-under 63, adding intrigue to the final round of the LPGA season.

Ko collected $2 million, the richest prize in women’s golf history. She also took home Player of the Year honors and the Vare Trophy, which goes to the player with the lowest scoring average on the LPGA Tour. Each of these honors comes with points that count toward the LPGA’s formula for inclusion to the LPGA Hall of Fame, and now, at 25, Ko is only two points away from being enshrined.

Lydia Ko

Amid all the success, the new-age Ko isn’t afraid to say she doesn’t have it all figured out. In fact, before the tournament, she admitted she has fallen victim to the trap of comparing herself to others. “Everybody has their own route,” Ko said early in the week. “I think when you are very honest with yourself and transparent with yourself, you are able to do what’s best for you. What’s best for me is not the right answer for somebody else.”

It wasn’t all that long ago the teenager in the big glasses was holding her own against the game’s best. That same carefree attitude is back.

“I realize now that it’s my ninth year on tour already,” said Ko, who was quick to add she hasn’t forgotten the three-year winless drought she experienced starting in 2018. “When you are not playing as well, you have those lower moments, those times feel so long. I think if I didn’t have those times, I probably wouldn’t have some of the mindset I do now.”

The spectacles she wears now aren’t rose-colored.

“I think, yes, maybe when I was younger, I played maybe a little bit more freely because I was a little clueless at the same time,” she said. ”I think I’m freer now knowing that, hey, whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”

Like what happened on Saturday. After opening with rounds of 65-65, Ko battled afternoon winds and a balky putter before signing for a modest 70. Nevertheless, she maintained an unbreakable smile when her day was over. “I just want to play good golf that I don’t regret,” she said of her game plan.

Maguire shrugged off any notion of a battle. “You can’t get distracted in any way,” she said. “Whatever Lydia does, Lydia does.” 

Ko opened the final round with a bogey at the par-5 1st, but she bounced back with a birdie at the 3rd and took sole possession of the lead with another bird at the 8th. Both players found the water and made bogey at the par-5 14th before Ko closed things out with birdies at the 16 and 17.

“She was really steady, really solid,” Maguire said. “She obviously putts phenomenally well, so any time she got a chance, she took it.”

Ko has never been afraid to show what her triumphs mean to her, especially as of late. Just a few weeks ago in Korea, she broke down after her second win of the season. At Tiburon, she did the same. And as she walked off of the green victorious one last time in 2022, with family and her fiance, Jun, on the scene, she exuded joy, not relief.

No doubt about it: Lydia Ko is undergoing a renaissance.

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