SYLVANIA, Ohio – Lydia Ko rose to fame as a bespectacled prodigy by making the game look easy. It felt like old times on Thursday at the Marathon Classic, when Ko made five birdies from tap-in range.
After Ko hit the flagstick on the fifth hole from the rough, playing competitor Amy Olson turned to her and said, “At one point, one of these shots is going in.”
Alas, Ko had to settle for eight birdies in an opening 7-under 64. She shares a two-stroke lead with good friend Danielle Kang, who won last week’s LPGA Drive On Championship seven miles away at Inverness Club.
Only five players broke par at Inverness, where relentless rain made a tough course all the more demanding. It’s a different story here at Highland Meadows, where perfect scoring conditions led to a boatload of low scores.
“Golf is a silly game where one day you feel like everything is going your way,” said Ko, “and the next day you’re like, ‘What am I doing?’”
SCORES: Leaderboard at Marathon Classic
Ko certainly felt that way at last Saturday at Inverness when she carded a second-round 80. Kang’s post-round interview actually helped Ko turn things around. Ko heard Kang talk about a conversation she’d had with Annika Sorenstam about the need to stay aggressive at a 54-hole tournament. The Kiwi committed to that for Round 3 and beyond.
“Like aggressive doesn’t mean you’re going at every pin,” she explained. “For me, the term aggressive is like even if … I’m playing safe, I’m still being aggressive and committed over that shot.”
Ko hit every green and every fairway on the back nine last Sunday and said the confidence in being aggressive suited her well.
A two-time winner of the Marathon Classic, Ko had a scoring average of 68 at Highland Meadows going into Thursday’s opening round. Her opening 64 is her lowest round on the LPGA since the 2017 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Ko began working with Sean Foley over the LPGA’s COVID-19 break and said they’ve FaceTimed this week while Foley’s at the PGA Championship in California.
“He just said there is not a lot that can go wrong in my swing,” she said, “so I think when somebody tells you that it gives you the confidence.”
Kang went out for ice cream with Lizette Salas after her victory at Inverness, keeping with tradition. She was hoping for Graeter’s, her favorite, but settled for Baskin Robbins. Amy Yang cooked her dinner.
Then it was back to work for Kang, who jumped to No. 2 in the world, her highest career ranking. Nelly Korda, who opened with a 67, dropped to third.
“I worked a lot on my putting for the last couple days,” said Kang, who had 27 putts in her bogey-free round. “Didn’t really like how the ball was coming off my putter. But I think that I kind of got a good feel out of it; then today my putting worked really well.”