Date: February 14, 2018
Author: Mike Clayton

Clayton: It’s about time So-Yeon came back

Tuesdays are working days for pros at golf tournaments. The course, a new one for most of the field this week, is there to be studied.

The travelling cast of teachers work the range with their pupils, the representatives of the attending club manufacturers tweak drivers in an effort to eke out a few yards or make the Trackman numbers look better and a short game needs to be tuned to the condition of the sand and the grass surrounding the greens.

Wednesdays is the pro-am, more tuning and eighteen holes with amateurs of wildly varying abilities. The favoured players come to the media centre for the obligatory press conference answering questions about the state of their games, how they feel about their chances and how they find the course, a question which is a largely pointless, given criticism is a fineable offence.

Fortunately at Kooyonga the course is beyond reproach aside from tiny details few, if any, of the players are ever going to notice.

So Yeon Ryu, the winner of the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the season and falling the week before Augusta, is back for the first time since 2015 as the third-ranked player in the world and one of the premier shotmakers in the women’s game.

Whilst the women have none of the power of the men, a properly struck and well-flighted shot is just that and it doesn’t matter who hits it. Watching Ryu play half a dozen holes in the pro-am was to see the ball hit properly with an enviably correct swing, one looking as repeatable as men like Peter O’Malley or Curtis Strange who played recognisably similar games based on accuracy, commonsense and hitting fairways and greens.

Ultimately for such consistent tee to green players it falls on the putter if they are to win and the shortest club has always been something of an issue for the Korean.

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She spoke about it in the press conference and explained perfectly the problem with the teaching of putting. Ian Baker-Finch, who knew a thing or two about rolling a ball, has helped her as has Cameron McCormick, her coach, but ultimately ‘only I know what is going through by head and how my hands are feeling as I hit the putts. I have to work it out for myself.'

It’s true. Putting is such a personal thing, a part of the game reliant on great touch, a willingness to hit the ball hard enough without concern for the putt you might have coming back and a repeatable technique, which, as McCormick emphasises, means a stroke which hits the ball where you are aiming at the correct speed. Simple really.

The other player of interest, to me at least, is Lydia Ko. The best player in the world at 18 with one coach since she was seven years old she has since been through two teachers and is on to a third.

Ultimately finding someone who can help without messing you up is the aim and from the outside it looks as though sticking with one teacher and one caddy might be a good idea from here on.

Constant searching leads to just that and it’s no good.

The best Royal Melbourne golf I have seen was played by Severiano Ballesteros in the 1978 Australian PGA but it was a course made for Ballesteros’ touch, power, ambition and flair.

Next best was in the 2015 Women’s Australian Open when Ko took the course apart in much different fashion. She understood the course as Ballesteros had, and whilst they played it completely differently, it was magical to watch as she drove to the exact parts of the fairways to open up the flags and they went at those flags with perfectly flighted approach shots.

Less than a year later the merits of a new method were sold to her, or perhaps her advisors, and whilst she has hardly played badly since, I suspect not much of the golf since Royal Melbourne has approached the quality she showed off that week three years ago.

It’s Lydia’s first week back after Christmas so maybe we shouldn’t expect too much but watching her play will be both interesting and worthy of observation.