It seems fitting that the men’s golf world is giddy at the possibility of Tiger Woods making an unlikely return to the Masters next week. Before that, Ko Jin-young has the ability to lean into the kind of running that reminds Woods of his heyday. The major year, however, does not begin at Augusta National on April 7; On Thursday, Ko and his teammates competed in the renamed Chevron Championship in Mission Hills, Calif.
Since last July, Ko has had six wins on the LPGA Tour. This 11-tournament run features a tie for second, two split sixths and a tie for fourth. Ko’s 60th place finish in the Evian Championship looks disastrous against the backdrop of his otherwise imperious form. She returned 33 successive laps under par. Tiger-esque? Too fair.
The 26-year-old Korean arrived in California with a warning when asked if she had reached her best. “Not yet, no,” she said. “I try to play better than yesterday and even better than two days ago.”
Ko is the star attraction of a Major who will be missed by Nelly Korda after the former World No. 1 was diagnosed with a blood clot.
Her form naturally means she’s top of the charts and Ko is candid about her desire to complete a career grand slam, having won the Evian and the Chevron (then called the ANA) in 2019. “Major competitions are a motivation in themselves,” she says. “It makes me much more focused. I love this course. I love playing here. »
Unfortunately for Ko, this marks the last game of the event at Mission Hills before a move to the Houston area, which is tied to Chevron’s multi-year sponsorship deal. It remains a shame that Augusta’s women’s amateur event is coming up against a tournament carrying a $5m (£3.8m) prize pool – $750,000 goes to the winner – given the women’s game’s battles for attract eyeballs. There are five amateurs in the Chevron field.
While Ko will attract plenty of attention on the West Coast, it would be unwise to overlook England’s Georgia Hall chances. It seems incredible to think that almost four years have passed since she won the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, with the passage of time not always being kind to her.
Hall slipped outside the world’s top 50 last year, but her win at the European Tour event in Saudi Arabia this month gave one player a rebound. Hall’s only other victory since his glory at Lytham was at Portland in 2020. Now ranked 24th, Hall played in the ANA for the first time as a 15-year-old amateur. “This year I thought, well, I just want to take it to another level,” she said. “I’m really ready to do it and I’m looking forward to winning a lot more events. Obtain the best ranking possible, world number 1, I hope.
“I was very happy with the way I played. Winning by five strokes, leading from start to finish was something I was very proud of. My two previous big wins came late, in the second half of the year, August, September, that’s why I was really happy to start this year well, normally I have a very slow start to the year.
Patty Tavatanakit saw Lydia Ko twice 12 months ago and the latter had to change her plans to compete in Saudi Arabia after contracting the coronavirus, confined in quarantine in Singapore.
“I didn’t have a lot of symptoms,” she said. “It came more while I was in quarantine. But it was very mild. When I tested negative I had some breathing issues and felt like I had never seen the gym before. I walked for 30 minutes and my mask was completely soaked. It was really weird.
“I run normally and try to stay on top of my workouts, and I felt like I didn’t do any of that. I was just doing my laundry and I was totally out of breath. At the end a week or so was much better.