The holidays are a time to be thankful, maintain perspective, and appreciate the little things. Lydia Ko tried to do all of this on Saturday, realizing that her 72 in the third round of the 75th U.S. Women’s Open certainly wasn’t Christmas-lights flashy, but it’s also not something to bemoan consider the conditions players were facing.
In fact, while many in the pack struggled with soggy fairways at Champions Golf Club — for example, Stacy Lewis, who is a member here, shot a 77 on Saturday — Ko just kept making pars. She finished the day with 15 alongside a pair of bogeys and a single birdie, and she’s still within range of the leaders heading into Sunday, sitting at even par through three rounds of play.
She’s thankful to be in a tie for fifth with Yealimi Noh, Megan Khang and amateur Kaitlyn Papp.
“Everyone’s playing in pretty much the same course conditions, as the tee time spans are pretty tight, so it’s just trying to grind my way out there,” Ko said. “Obviously, I feel like I could have shot a lower score, but at the same time I think it could have been a lot worse, so I’ll take what I have today.”
What she had was consistency. Ko, who has two major victories under her belt, has not fared well in U.S. Women’s Opens outside of a T-3 at CordeValle Golf Club in 2016. But she putted well on Saturday and remained in contention.
And speaking of consistency, that’s exactly what Ko used to describe the greens at Champions, despite the varying conditions. Thursday was warm and sunny, Friday saw hard rain and Saturday brought a chill, yet the greens remained stable, she said.
“I think that they have been pretty consistent. I really struggled with my green speed, the control on the first day and I was like, man, I can’t putt this way because it’s just, there’s too much grinding out there,” she said. “Sometimes you’re going to have those longer putts, so it’s really important to kind of dial in the green speed and distance control.
“But I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot better the last couple of days, so I’ve been trying to putt a little bit more downhill putts and just stay patient. Sometimes, you keep kind of going on the par train and you’re like, OK, when is there going to be like a good turnaround? But, no, around a course like this and especially at majors, par’s sometimes not a bad score.”
Aside from being thankful for her even-keeled round, Ko is happy with the season she’s had concerning the majors. She finished in the top 20 in the three previous majors this season, including a sixth-place finish at the ANA Inspiration.
“I think this is probably the best stretch I’ve had in the majors, outside of probably in 2016,” she said. “But I think the more times you put yourself in that position and in those kinds of pressure conditions I think the more you get used to it and things go your way you could be the one that’s hosting the trophy at the end of the Sunday.
“I think it is really important, not only in majors, but in other events, to just keep playing consistently and if you keep putting yourself in that position, I feel like at some point if it is your time it’s going to fall your way.”
Of course, Ko will need to play well on Sunday and hope that leader Hinako Shibuno comes back to the pack. As for the leader — who always seems to be happy and even has the nickname “Smiling Cinderella” — Ko said she keeps using her cheerful disposition for positive results.
“I feel like it’s either a great poker face or she’s that smiling assassin. I feel like I smile quite a lot out there, but I’m like pretty grumpy compared to her,” Ko said of Shibuno. “I think she’s stayed pretty calm and you saw her at the British Open, I’m sure, going into that Sunday there were, there might have been doubts, because not many people have heard of her compared to some other players.
“But she showed them who is boss and she’s clearly doing that right now.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/lydia-ko-patient-us-womens-open/