What if there was a world of no limits where anyone was capable of accomplishing anything they dreamed of? That’s the kind of world that Lydia Ko lives in. She just won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced in San Francisco, her 7th LPGA victory at just 18 years old (as of two days ago).
She did it as the defending champion and she did it kind of wallowing through the two middle rounds, 72, 71. It worked out for her because of her first round 67 and the cool, windy conditions that kept scores high. As fatal as those two middle rounds could have been, she began Sunday morning in 4th place.
The day looked for all the world to be Morgan Pressel’s. She was playing good solid golf, gave a great, confident interview Saturday night and began Sunday morning T2 and right behind young Brooke Henderson from Canada.
But it didn’t quite work out for Morgan. Lydia caught her on 18 and they had a two-way playoff for the title, settled the second time they played 18. As she tried to describe the day, there was not only disappointment, but true heartache, her voice wavering and in odd octaves. After she got through these first two paragraphs — they were almost therapeutic — she was able to settle herself and engage in a matter-of-fact conversation:
Yeah, you know, I had plenty of chances out there today, so I can’t be too disappointed. I gave it my all.
Definitely was a little bit sloppier today in general. I did not have my so‑called A game, but got into the playoff. Hit one good putt and hit one not‑so‑good putt.
But it happens. I would say my — nothing was really sharp, but I definitely missed some putts that I could have made, even earlier in the day. It was a very strange day. Missed a 4‑footer for birdie and make a 50‑footer for eagle on the next hole and then 3‑putt. It was kind of all over the place.
But I gave myself a chance, and that’s what I came here to do.
Lydia, on the other hand, spoke in that calm, quiet voice of hers where all of her words have soft edges in a pleasing, modulated tone. She unintentionally makes you hang on her every word. But at 18 years old now, this is a young woman with no affectations:
You know, every hole is pretty nerve wracking, but to be in a playoff, that was double the pressure. Morgan had been playing so well the whole week and she’s a tough player to beat, but I tried to concentrate on my game.
That’s all I can do.
But with her calm demeanor in the media room and from all appearances on the golf course, that’s not quite believable. Somebody said that she didn’t look nervous at all, so why should we believe her? Her response was filled with her low-key, fun-loving sense of humor:
Why wouldn’t you? I’m an 18 year old and I’m very nice [getting big laughs].
No, yeah, I do get nervous. You have to take my word on that. Yeah, you know, I think everybody has nerves. Some people show it; some people don’t. But to me, even just playing a round of golf with club members gets me nervous.
I know I’ve got the nerves. If some people think I don’t look like I am nervous, then it’s a good thing.
Coming down the last five-hole stretch, there was no real way to know who was going to win. Things were that tight. Morgan went birdie, bogey, bogey, par, par, 1-over and Lydia went par, birdie (from 40 feet), bogey, par, birdie, 1-under for the tie. Morgan had a putt on 18 for birdie to win, but couldn’t convert. Lydia’s birdie on 15 gave her real hope that she could catch Morgan and win:
Yeah, I think so. I parred the 14th. If you play that hole well enough you’re going to come off with a birdie; I didn’t do that.
I was a little disappointed, and then didn’t hit great shot on [the 15th] tee. I putted and I thought it looked good but I thought it was actually going to stop right in front of the hole. That would’ve been a whole different scenario, but that definitely gave me a lot confidence.
She needed that boost because she started off with two bogeys and spent the whole day trying to fight her way back…although Lydia would probably say, “work her way back.”
I just needed to play my own game. I started off a couple shots back.
When you’re in that situation, I just said, Just try and make as many birdies as you can. If the other players play better, you can’t do much about it. That was the game plan.
I mean, obviously I would love to have the lead going into a final round, but ended up being okay today.
Despite how easy Lydia made all of this look, we know that it’s not and she confirmed that:
Yeah, I mean, it’s never easy. You’re playing good golf and then someone beats you by a shot; that can happen.
So sometimes it’s just really out of your hands. You know, sometimes you don’t hit the ball well but you putt great and you end up winning, and vice versa.
And ever gracious, she had kind words for Morgan:
Morgan is definitely showing she’s playing some great golf. She played great at ANA and she played great last week, and then here. She’s having a great season.
You just can’t [dismiss] anyone. Just because someone has not had a win for a while doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not playing good golf. She’s definitely playing great golf.
That sort of sincere, thoughtful kindness is what we’ll all remember Lydia for as much as for her accomplishments that continue to amaze us.