After attending and watching so many LPGA and PGA tournaments closely this year, it’s easy to see that golfers on both rounds have personal challenges with their game that change from week to week. Like any other sport, golf offers a different course every week and every day. Although the positional landscape does not change during events, the hole position, playing order and daily weather present new challenges for athletes. These rules are the same for both rounds.
What should impress any golf fan who watches it week to week is how individual players deal with these challenges and is there a difference between how an athlete or an athlete confronts the game’s weaknesses as they grow with their sport?
Lydia Koe and Jordan Spieth have careers in golf with surprising comparisons starting from their rising years a decade ago.
Koe became the first player from New Zealand to win an LPGA Tour event when she was named a sponsor of the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open. At the age of fifteen, she was the youngest winner of a 72-hole event. And the fifth Howie to win after Paulie Riley, Pat O’Sullivan, Catherine Lacoste and Joan Karner. Koe successfully defended her title a year later and was granted tour membership in 2014.
That year, she won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year by collecting the highest Novice score ever in history (1,720 points), a record that stands today. It came in her stats streak: three wins, two second place finishes, 15 top ten places, and 23 top 40 finals in the 26 events played.
Spieth became the youngest PGA Tour winner since 1931 when he won the 2013 John Deer Classic in the Junior season. At 19, he was the fifth under-20 player to win a Tour after John McDermott, Harry Cooper, Ralph Goldal and Charles Coxes. Spieth won the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in a year in which he scored one win, three runner-up positions, nine top ten spots, and 14 out of 40 events in the 23 events played.
Both players established themselves on a tour of a scene that was heading towards the game getting younger.
|Top 10 finishes||15th||9|
While Coe and Spieth had success during their early years on the tour—Coe with 12 wins in three years and Spieth with 11 wins in four years—they each had a stint without getting into the winner’s circle.
For Coe, it was two years and 11 months to go from 15 to 16 wins after winning in 2018 compared to Spit in three years and eight months to score his twelfth win after his third win at the 2017 Open. Gains occurred in a two-week period in 2021 with Spieth first on April 4, followed by Koo less than two weeks later on April 17.
“I know there have been times when I’ve wondered…I don’t know if I’ll ever get back into the winner’s circle,” Coe said. “I think with Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama winning and I know it’s been a while since they won as well, it has given me kind of a little hope of saying maybe I can follow that trend.”
Coe continued, “When you play alongside the best golfers, it’s not easy. I’m proud of the way I’ve stayed patient all the way.”
One of the performance stats that Spieth noticed was challenging for him during this time was his status. In 2018, he ranked 3rd amongst the Tour players in strokes earned (123). The following season, he improved to second place, but a year later dropped into the middle of the group at 105th.
He described his situation and stroke as two such essential parts of a great performance that he was sometimes out of his way during the tours. When Spieth reads the throw, he looks at where the shot starts and how fast the ball is laid. The routine helps him stand ready to start the hit followed by a focus on speeding through the ball and seeing it come in from the start. The goal of stepping in and making the strike trajectory was the difference.
On the other hand, Coe’s performance that puts him on the Greens has always stood out as a strength. She has led the Tour in average status in four years since 2014 and has ranked in the top six in seven of the nine years.
|2015||First: 1.74||First: 1.70|
|2018||Thirteenth: 1.77||48th place: 1.76|
|2021||First: 1.72||Third: 1.71|
|2022||First: 1.73||53rd place: 1.75|
While poses are necessary to lower scores, increasing the length off the tee helped Coe and Speth reach the greens more effectively. Coe’s focus on technique, simplifying her swing and removing doubts in her head helped push the ball further.
In 2014, Ko averaged at just under 250 yards per drive, ranking 66th on the tour. Her distance has remained constant in the following years except that her ranking drops – to as low as 152 out of 158 players in 2019 – as players hit the ball farther. In 2020, her work on getting stronger as an athlete and gaining muscle provided an average increase of 10 yards per drive and ranked her 57th, returning to a similar position for her early years.
Spieth has also gotten off the tee in his career, going from averaging under 290 yards per ride in 2013 to over 300 yards by 2020. In 2022, he averaged 308 yards per ride, the highest distance Recorded him in 10 years on tour.
Spieth qualified for the TOUR and had a good season hitting the ball really well. His approach performance is rated in the top 15% of players on the tour, but his situation could have been more consistent.
“For me, it’s about getting better every day, and making a little bit of progress,” said Speth.
Ko currently ranks in the top two percent of players on tour in 2022 in earned strokes and closeness, averaging more than one stroke on the field in these shots. Her performance resulted in her being ranked in the top 25 in 16 of 17 events, the best player of any tour. Coe is looking to win the race to the CME Globe for the third time in her career after winning in 2014 and 2015.
|short drive||255 yards||308 yards|
|Strokes gained approach||1.18||0.42|
As both Ko and Spieth take on golf challenges from week to week on tour, spectators are impressed with their determination and focus as they observe some of the most beautiful courses in the world.