Q&A: Lydia Ko weighs in on the state of her game, her first time at Pebble Beach, playing four majors in a row and caddying for her husband at an amateur event
It’s an off-week for the LPGA, but Lydia Ko joins Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda in headlining the Ladies European Tour event this week — in Florida — for the latest installment of the Aramco Team Series at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The LPGA’s season-ending ADT Championship was held at Trump International for eight years.
This year’s total prize fund on the LET is a record-setting 35 million euros ($37M). There are once again six Saudi-backed events on the LET’s 2023 schedule, with the Aramco Team Series featuring five stops worldwide, each with a $1 million purse. The series began in Singapore last March.
Other Aramco stops include the Centurion Club in London next July, Hong Kong in October, and one final leg in Saudi Arabia Nov. 3-5 at Riyadh Golf Club. The events remain controversial given the wide-ranging human rights abuses Saudi Arabia has been accused of, especially toward women.
Ko began 2023 with a victory at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, which featured a $5 million purse, but has yet to contend this season on the LPGA. She missed the cut at the year’s first major, the Chevron Championship, and hasn’t finished inside the top 30 since February.
Golfweek caught up with Ko ahead of the LET event to talk about her recent form, playing Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time and how she fared caddying for husband Jun Chung on the U.S. Am Tour in Monterey, California, last month. Spoiler: She was “super proud.”
Here are excerpts from that conversation:
How would you assess your season so far – where your game is at and what you’re working on?
Lydia Ko of New Zealand plays her second shot on the first hole during the second round of The Chevron Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods on April 21, 2023 in The Woodlands, Texas. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
I think the last couple weeks the results weren’t as good as I’d like – missed cut at Chevron – but to be honest, last week, apart from the last day (she shot 77), and PV (Palo Verdes), a couple of those weeks, were actually not bad, but the results don’t show how it was. After Chevron, (instructor) Ted (Oh) and I put in some good work, nothing new or different, but we just put in some good quality time together. … I started off the season with a bang, winning back in Saudi again, which was really cool. We’re just going to keep working on the same things. I feel like it’s getting closer and closer.
There were a couple weeks I was frustrated. I really wasn’t sure, like ‘What’s going on?’ When that kind of thing happens, you just keep going in a circle. OK, what are all the things going wrong?
But I feel like it wasn’t many things, and my team has helped me be a lot more positive. It’s pretty rare that you finish fortysomething and you’re like, actually, it’s not a bad week. Chevron, I think, was a little bit more of a wake-up call.
Lydia Ko poses iwth the trophy after winning the 2023 Aramco Saudi Ladies International.
I’m playing four majors in a row, just because some of the things in between I’m not playing. It’s going to be a long June to August, but I’m excited for it. … I’m hoping to get in a good rhythm of things, which kind of started for me last year around Women’s Open time. It should click in by now.
I understand you’ve been to Pebble already (in preparation for the U.S. Women's Open). Was that the first time you'd played it when you went there with your husband?
The seventh Hole of Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
I’d been to Cypress a couple times before and had lunch at Pebble but had never teed it up at Pebble. In all honesty, I’m not like, a golf nerd. I don’t have these bucket lists, like I want to play these golf courses before I die. … I have seen the AT&T Pro-Am and I thought it was just a really cool event, but I never really thought to think that we would be potentially playing there one day.
When they made the announcement, I was really excited for it and having been there and played, I finally understand why people talk about Pebble Beach.
I also heard you caddied for your husband in a tournament!
I helped him out with a ruling when he hit it in the water. I was like, OK, you have to take the water drop first, and then the cart path drop next. I would have definitely been fired after the first few holes because I gave him the putter head cover instead of the putter. …. He birdied the first hole on the first day and on the second day, he made a great up-and-down. He holed his short putts from 5 feet and in really, really good. I was like, I don’t know if I can have that high of a conversion percentage.
When he does come out to my tournaments, he’s always trying to help me out. It was one of the rare times I could do something for him. I was more excited. I was like, you have to play the two days. He would push his push cart down one of the holes to help me out, and I was like, you’re stealing my job right now. I’m your caddie.
Were you nervous?
I was nervous. I didn’t want to get in their way. I also didn’t want his playing parnters to be bothered. I feel like if Rory McIlroy was watching me play, I’d be like ‘Oh, he’s right there.’ I remember when I was playing the British Amateur and Graeme McDowell was there and, because I’m a fan, I was like ‘Oh, this is extra pressure.’ I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable. I tried to stay out of the way and get the pins. On the second day, I was a much better caddie. Keep my player hydrated, keep my player calm.
What are you impressions of the golf course this week? The LPGA played there for a long time.
Lydia Ko hits a shot during a practice round at the Aramco Team Series event in Florida. (Aramco photo)
That’s what I heard. Obviously, it was before my time, so I had never been there, and I don’t really have much experience playing in the West Palm/Jupiter area. Golf course is nice. It’s a lot trickier than I thought. I had zero information about this golf course, so I didn’t know what it was going to be like apart from knowing there was going to be Bermudagrass and it was going to be humid.
I feel like there’s a lot of personality to the golf course, bunkers in play, water in play. … I think you have to think your way around it, and this golf course will definitely pull out somebody who is on their game.