Geum Yi

LPGA star trying not to get caught up in pursuit of record, No. 1 ranking

October 20, 2021

Ko Jin-young, world No. 2 in women’s golf closing in on the top spot, has arrived in the southeastern city of Busan in the midst of her best stretch of the LPGA season.

She has won twice in her past four starts while also picking up a runner-up finish and a sixth-place finish. Ko is the odds-on favorite to capture the BMW Ladies Championship, which starts Thursday as the only LPGA tournament in South Korea this season.

In addition to making a run at the No. 1 ranking at the LPGA Player of the Year honor, Ko will also try to break an LPGA scoring record that she currently shares with the retired legend Annika Sorenstam.

Ko closed out her victory at the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey on Oct. 10 with a final round of 66. It was Ko’s 14th consecutive round in the 60s, which tied the mark set by Sorenstam in 2005.

“I was aware of the record, and it was a good source of motivation for me,” Ko said at her virtual pretournament press conference Wednesday from LPGA International Busan. “But I didn’t go out there just to tie that record. I played for myself, and the number just followed.”

Not every golfer has a chance to break anything set by Sorenstam, one of the very best women’s golf has ever seen. Ko said she appreciates the opportunity, but surpassing Sorenstam’s mark won’t be her only objective this week.

“While getting ready for this tournament, I thought about things that are more important to me than the record,” the oft-philosophical Ko said. “If I continue to do my best and maintain my focus, I can shoot in the 60s well beyond the 15th straight round. How far I can go is entirely up to my performance and the kind of mindset that I adopt. And if you want to become a truly great athlete, you must have the drive and determination to go after records.”

Ko first climbed to the top of the rankings in April 2019. She briefly fell to No. 2 that summer but returned to the top spot at the end of July.

After spending the entire 2020 season as No. 1, Ko fell behind the surging American star Nelly Korda in June this year. But Ko has narrowed the gap with Korda thanks to her recent run. Korda, who won’t play in Busan, has 9.48 points, and Ko is sitting at 8.93 points.

Ko admitted regaining the top spot with a win on home soil would be “the perfect scenario” but once again put on her thinker’s hat.

“Things never go the way you want them to in golf,” Ko said. “If that had been the case, I’d probably be retired by now and enjoying a different life somewhere. But that’s part of what makes golf so great. I am only trying to control what I can control.”

She is more focused on the process of getting there and of trying to stay there.

“When I first reached No. 1, I could see how much I’d grown as a golfer and how much more I had to do,” Ko said. “I learned a great deal from the experience of being the top-ranked golfer. So being No. 1 again is not an end goal in and of itself. I just want to keep improving my game while also trying to find ways to become wiser and enjoy my life as a golfer even more.”