Date: February 17, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Ryu feels right at home in Melbourne

So Yeon Ryu is from Seoul and lives most of her year in America, but she feels almost as Australian as Karrie Webb and gum leaves.

That's because Ryu, the world No. 7 from South Korea, has developed an infatuation with Australia that stretched to all her staff being antipodean.

Ian Triggs, the Brisbane instructor who has a cluster of players in the field for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, has coached her for several years. Her caddie, Tom Watson, is a former Royal Melbourne member and even her physiotherapist, Adam Olarenshaw, is Australian.

"Everybody calls me I'm like 50 percent Australian,'' said Ryu, a delightful character who is already a major champion and one of the best in the world. "Because I love Vegemite, (I) care about everything about the Australian culture, so I just want to make a really great win, not just for me but for my staff.''

Ryu does her winter training in Australia, and asked for an explanation for her level of comfort in this country, she explained that for most of the year, she felt like a foreigner. "It feels like home. It feels really comfortable. It's not like I feel I'm in the middle of nowhere, kind of thing.''

Triggs is working with Ryu this week. "He (Triggs) loves what I'm doing right now,'' she said. "This course, the key is who is more creative, not how you swing like, how you stroke like. He just said to practise around the green, use your imagination and feel and what shot will make a win. I'm really happy to have him in a really special place.''

She also takes advice from Watson, and played a round at RMGC with Mike Clayton, former touring professional and renowned course architect, who had her hitting "50 yard shots with a five iron'' for purposes of developing the creativity needed around a links-style course.

As for Watson, he is not to be confused with the multiple major winner, although he was a fine player himself. "I call him (Watson) a golf addict,'' said Ryu. "He knows everything. He remembers every British (Open) champion from 1960 to now. He's such an addict. The really good thing I have with him on the tour is that now he knows my game.

"He knows what improves my game and he suggests a lot of things to help me practice and what shot's going to help me out and have a more successful career. He's a character on the golf course. When I make a crazy birdie he's dancing or that type of thing. He makes me relax quite a lot; of course he makes me angry quite a lot of times, but I take it. I'm lucky to have Tom Watson.''

The last time the Open was played at the composite course, in 2012, Ryu missed a putt from just over a metre to win the tournament outright on the first hole of a six-woman playoff. It left her with "good and bad memories here'', but she managed to stride forward.

"I had a really great chance and I missed it, so I was really quite damaged. Because I really wanted to win the tournament here because all my staff is Australian and I love this country, so I wanted to hold such an honour with the trophy. It was a tough loss.''

The Korean said she could not even concentrate on the second hole of the playoff because she was so upset, and Jessica Korda ended up winning. But three years on, she has managed to move on.  "I only think about the positive, I don't think about the negative. I never look back at the past. It didn't have a big effect on my game.''

Ryu is amazingly consistent; she has missed just three cuts in three years and had 15 top-10s last year. But the next step is plain. The time has come to close the deal more often. "This year's a very important year for me, this is a very important moment for me. I played consistently well the last three years, but at the same time I lost a lot, I lost a playoff, I blew up a lot. 

"One thing I trust myself is that I could feel that I improved a lot. My game has improved a lot. Compared to when I won the US Women's Open, now my golf level is way better than four years ago. Now I think it's time to make more wins. Now I want to see rather than think that I'm a good golfer. I want to see the number of wins.''

The Korean tees off at 12.50 pm on Thursday with Lydia Ko and Charley Hull.