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Lydia Ko Finding New Gear

Lydia Ko is starting to find the form of old after a scintillating weekend at the LOTTE Championship.
If anyone else apart from the supremely talented Lydia Ko had decided to change caddie, coach and clubs simultaneously, there would have been plenty of eyebrows raised. 

Some still had their doubts when the New Zealander started the 2017 LPGA season with a brace of pedestrian performances.

Based on the high standards she sets herself, the winner of 14 LPGA titles, including two majors, was struggling. Last month, at the Kia Classic, she missed just her second cut in 95 career starts as a professional. And she had not won an LPGA event since July.

The detractors had come out in force. They said Ko had made too many changes in the off season.

She had split with her coach from 2013, David Leadbetter, late last year in favour of South African Gary Gilchrist.

She had also parted with long-time caddie, Australian Jason Hamilton, and replaced him with South African Gary Matthews on her bag.

As well, Ko had left club-manufacturer, Callaway, plumping for Parsons Xtreme Golf clubs.

The changes came amid the 19-year-old World No. 1’s first real slump.

The relationship between caddie and player is often complex and it takes time to build trust in one another.

And the same applies with a coach, even though you don’t spend as much time with him. Leadbetter’s successes are well-chronicled over decades but Ko’s switch - to another South African in Gilchrist – came in search of a simpler approach to the game.

But when she also left her club-manufacturer, even her most ardent supporters feared Ko may have been throwing the ‘baby out with the bath water’ in search of perfection.

But it was ‘simply coincidence and a quest to improve’ that led her to change coach, caddie and clubs in her off-season, she said.

Now Ko has silenced her critics and dispelled any doubts her adoring fans may have had with a big weekend charge at the LPGA Tour's LOTTE Championship in Hawaii on Sunday.

She shook off a first round 73 to contend for the title, before settling for 64, at 17-under par to finish tied for second, three behind American winner Cristie Kerr.

Ko was three-over through 12 holes in the first round but from there had 21 birdies with just one bogey across the remaining 60 holes - and was easily the hottest player on course over the weekend. 

She had a seven-under 65 in the third round and backed that up with an eight-under 64 on Sunday requiring just 24 and 22 putts respectively over those two rounds.

It was her best finish in seven events this season, including five top-10 finishes and her first top-5 finish in 13 LPGA Tour events dating back to last year's Manulife Classic.

Ko explained she has been struggling with the putter so far in 2017, but things clicked nicely during Saturday’s final round in Hawaii.

“I’ve been playing solid, but not a lot has come together the last few events,” she explained. “Even my top-10 finishes I had earlier in the season, I was struggling with the putter. It was definitely nice to be able to putt a lot better this week, even though I wasn’t hitting the ball as good. It helps when you know you’re able to make the par and birdie putts, and have the opportunities.

"Even though I might be the No.1 ranked player in the world I still feel like there's a lot of aspects of my game that I can improve on.

"And I think no matter what ranking you have got to have that mindset because there is always a position for you to get better.

"A lot of things have changed but it's a really exciting time," Ko said.

She is confident in the team she now has around her and the change in equipment.

"I think it's more the excitement factor rather than worrying about, 'hey, is this going to work out or not'."

Ko had already noted improvements in distance off the tee, which had never been her strong-suit, with the PXG clubs.

"I have still got the same Callaway ball but the clubs have been great," she said.

"I'm not a really long hitter off the tee and I feel like I have gained a bit of distance with the new Parsons Xtreme Golf clubs.

"And now obviously with Gary (Matthews), my caddie, we're still in the process of getting to know each other and I think the relationship will hopefully get better as we go on.

"And coach-wise, I just wanted to simplify things. I have got compliments from other players with the new swing so I think we're going down the right direction." Ko said.

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