Lydia Ko is at risk of burning out – and soon.
That’s the frank assessment of her coach David Leadbetter, who says the New Zealander’s revered work ethic could bring her undone if it’s not addressed.
And Leadbetter, in a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Star-Times, said Ko’s worst career major finish in 13 starts – T51st at last week’s ANA Inspiration – was directly attributable to her relentless schedule.
"She was very, very tired. You could see she was very flat,” Leadbetter told the New Zealand newspaper.
"She'd played and travelled a lot before the tournament and then that was another busy week, too. And then there was all the talk about the record number of rounds under par, it all contributes mentally.
"She had low energy all week and just never really got anything going."
Ko became golf’s youngest –male or female – world No.1 by four years in January and turns 18 on Friday this week.
But Leadbetter said the Australian Open champ wanted to change her training patterns so she could peak in a decade.
"We don't want her peaking now. We want her to peak when she's 27 or 28 and to keep going from there. We don't want her to burn out and it could happen,” the legendary coach warned.
"The only thing that can stop Lydia reaching the goals she and everyone else has set herself of being the best women golfer ever is burnout or injury.
"It's a tough balancing act for someone like Lydia and her family. How did she become as good as she is? Through hard work; a lot of hard work.
“So when things aren't quite going as well as you'd like, it's easy to think that more hard work is the answer. But that's not always the case.
"The greats over the years have all paced themselves. They've let their minds and bodies rest. And it's a learning curve, how do you recognise when your battery is a bit low? By the time you've made a couple of mental errors, it's a bit late."
Leadbetter has teed up a meeting for Ko with nine-time major winner and legendary golfing traveller Gary Player. Her build-up to majors and the value of rest and time away from golf will all be on the agenda, the Star-Times said.
He said with three majors in seven weeks from June to the end of July, the discussion will be important.
"As disappointed as Lydia would be with her result at the first major of the year, having three in quick succession is when we all want her peaking,” Leadbetter said.
“And we want her in the best possible state mentally and physically to try and win that first major."
Ko, who skipped the weekend’s LPGA Tour event in Hawaii, will return to defend her Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic title this week.