WITH just two tournaments remaining before the player of the year is crowned, it appears that Ko Jin-young is on course to reclaim women’s golf’s top prize from her fellow South Korean, Kim Sei-young, who took the honor 12 months ago.
It is still a two-horse race for the LPGA player of the year with Nelly Korda just 15-points behind her rival, but the smart money is on Ko; the 26-year-old is the player with the impetus after returning to action with a devasting run of form, the bookies agreeing that the title is now hers to lose.
Ko is 8/13 (-162.50) to take the top honor – bet $13 with promotional offer for bet365
on the South Korean to win $8 – with Korda out to 6/4 (+150). The next player in the betting is Yuka Saso at 28/1 (+2800), so it appears to be the archetypal pick one from two unless something extraordinary happens at the two remaining events: the Pelican Women’s Championship in Tampa and the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples.
The confidence in Ko is based on her hot streak – the recent BMW Ladies Championship win was her fourth in seven starts, and ensured she regained the top spot in the world rankings.
The decision to take a break from competition after what she saw as a disappointing ninth-placed finish at the Olympics is paying dividends, with Ko talking of the enjoyment she had practising, and seeing the results of the hard work she has put in both at the gym and on the range.
“I would go to the range around 8am and I would finish around dinnertime,” said Ko, who is looking to make it two Rolex player of the year prizes in three years. “And so, it was just the driving range and the gym, and I was going back and forth between practice and gym.
“It’s also more fun at the time when I’m actually training because I think it’s fun to feel the improvement that you make after hard work. So that’s what’s really a driving force for me.”
The effort paid dividends, the improved form allowing her to overhaul Korda, but the 23-year-old is unlikely to just lay down and let Ko take the top honor without a fight.
With 30 points available for a tournament win – 12 points are awarded for second — there is still all to play for, and with the Pelican event taking place in her home state of Florida, Korda will be determined to make up some ground at Tampa.
The fear is that Korda may have peaked too early, with three wins earlier in the season, including a first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, along with her Olympics gold medal.
Korda is from the sportiest of sporting families: her sister Jessica is a professional golfer, her brother Sebastian is ranked among the best tennis players in the US, and she is the daughter of former tennis professional Petr Korda, who won the 1998 Australian Open.
The win at the PGA this year means Nelly qualified for the PNC Championship in December – the event where the professional usually plays with a parent or child, the ‘non-golfer’ being someone who does not hold a PGA Tour card. Nelly will play alongside her father Petr, with the two-day event played over 36 holes in a scramble format.