Golf Australia

Clayton: Sixteen, winning and fearing nobody

Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko collected her fourth title at the age of 16.

Adam Scott, in winning the first of four end of season playoff events has pushed himself forward as the Player of the Year on the PGA Tour.

He beat Tiger Woods, amongst others, by a single shot and although Woods has won of five of the eight stroke play events he has played outside of the four major championships, one assumes Woods would swap all of those regular season events for a win at Augusta, either of the Opens or the PGA Championship.

Scott had a miserable time of it a few years ago and for one so obviously physically talented, his run of missed cuts was a complete mystery. He left his long-time teacher Butch Harmon and instead began working with his brother-in- law and that seems to be a relationship of benefit.

His play in the major championships over the past couple of seasons has made him an almost constant presence at the top of the leader boards and that has been a significant change.

For one so talented his early career play in the majors was conspicuously poor and the transformation in results has been momentous.

Still, for all that good play he has ‘only’ one major win to show for it and the next few seasons will be career defining.

He has a chance to approach the five major total of the great Peter Thomson and stamp himself as our best ever player.

In the meantime he has three remaining events in the playoffs to add another ten million dollars to his bank account but such has been the quality of his recent play and his long-time marketability that he will hardly notice it.

Certainly it won’t change his life.

The Australian’s play this weekend was not, however, close to being the most interesting result in professional golf.

Across the border in Canada a brilliant sixteen-year-old New Zealand schoolgirl, Lydia Ko successfully defended the CN Canadian Open on the LPGA Tour.

Last year Ko beat nineteen of the top twenty players in the world to win her first event in North America and presumably this year's field was of equal quality.

In the mold of Jason Dufner, the recent winner of the PGA Championship, Ko shows little of her emotions and she barely hits an errant shot.

The question is how does someone get to be so good, so young?

She has, by all accounts, a great teacher who made golf fun for her as a kid by giving her a water pistol and allowing her to squirt him every time she made a birdie.

As importantly, she has a reliable technique that is barely in need of adjustment.

She, and those around her, appear to have an uncommonly mature perspective and so far have eschewed the temptation to turn professional and immediately cash-in some presumably extraordinary commercial opportunities.

Scott is now the second ranked player behind Woods on the men’s tour.

Surely Ko won’t take the best part of the dozen seasons it has taken Scott to stand atop the game – aside, of course, from the extraordinary Woods whose achievements we can never take for granted.

He is truly one of the greatest players ever to play the game and those, like Scott, who play in his time will always play in his shadow.

Ko, however, seems destined to play in the shadow of no one.

11 April 2016
Golf Australia