Lydia Ko says she likes The Grange more than any of the wonderful swing of courses that Adelaide has gifted to the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open as venues.
It’s a personal choice, of course, because Kooyonga and Royal Adelaide have both been superb venues for the Open over the last two years.
But in Kiwi Ko’s case, she has a little history here at The Grange’s west course, where she was runner-up in 2016.
It was the first of three Opens held in the South Australian capital in Golf Australia’s deal with the SA Government and the three sandbelt courses, and the crowds had come in their thousands to see the world’s best players. For her part, Ko looked like she was enroute to victory until Japan’s Haru Nomura came rollicking home with a 65 including three consecutive birdies from the 15th.
“Hopefully I draw back on those good memories,” Ko said today as she met up with SA Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing. “I think this is my favourite one out of the swing that we play in Adelaide. Hopefully I make my share of birdies out there. It’s a tough course but if you play your way around I think you can make some birdies. I’ve got to enjoy it. I love playing in Australia. The key thing for me is to just have fun.”
Ko said it was the variety of the west course, remodelled a few years ago by Mike Clayton’s company, that set it apart. “There are some long holes, some shorter holes where you can reach the par-fives. I love the variety of holes and this course, it doesn’t suit one type of player, shorter hitter or longer hitter. That makes it really interesting. It’s nice to play a golf course where you feel comfortable and you know he can play well.’’
The New Zealander who was No. 1 in the world at 17 years of age is now ranked 14th in the world, but 2018 was a good year for her, with a win (over Minjee Lee in a playoff) in April thrown in. In Florida last month she led the LPGA Tour’s tournament of champions into the final round but fell away with what she admits was “not the best final 11 holes of my career”, ultimately finishing eighth.
But she is optimistic about 2019 and one of the reasons is that she has taken up practising yoga. It happened in December and she loves he inner calm that she draws from it. “I do it not only for the physical side but the mental side, just meditation,’’ she said today.
“During that time of day we’re either on our phones or out playing golf or talking. You don’t have much time for yourself to have peace and quiet in your mind. I love that one hour of getting your mind away from everything and not worrying about what’s going on around. I’ve been enjoying it and flexibility hasn’t been one of the key points of my body and that’s been helping too.’’
The 21-year-old Ko was out on the course practising today for Thursday’s tee-off despite some wild and woolly Adelaide weather.
The field for this week includes world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, world No. 7 Minjee Lee of Australia, world No. 8 Georgia Hall and world No. 10 and the defending champion, Jin Young Ko of South Korea, as well as Ko, world No. 16 Nelly Korda and the 19th-ranked Moriya Jutanugarn.