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Lydia Ko has had eight top-10 finishes this season. Photo/Getty
Sean Foley can see the day where Lydia Ko won’t need his coaching advice.
For the man who once worked with Tiger Woods, there is little wrong with the world No 4’s game heading into
the final major of the year tonight, the British Open at Muirfield in Scotland.
Foley has good reason to feel optimistic about Ko’s chances of winning a third major championship this week. Her form has been incredibly consistent and the major work-on at the start of the season, the driver, has come good.
“We wanted to improve this year in greens in regulation and I would say in the last 10 events or so she’s done a great job of that,” Foley tells the Herald.
“Lydia is becoming very much to the point where, which is the ultimate goal of any coach, where she can basically do it on her own. I think that’s really the goal, isn’t it?”
The 25-year-old Kiwi has had eight top-10 finishes this season. Most recently she tied for fifth at the Scottish Open after sharing the lead heading into the final round.
A week earlier, Ko finished in a tie for third at the Evian Championship in France. In fact, since the US Women’s Open in early June where she finished fifth, Ko has had just one poor result by her lofty standards, tied for 46th at the PGA Championship.
Foley is thrilled with every aspect of her play and believes bar for a handful of shots she could have won five times on tour this year.
“But we’re not necessarily into results, we’re into progress and we are into a process because one, when someone shoots 10-under to win, it’s hats off to them. Then two, from the US Open all the way in indeed [the margin from] her winning five times this year is probably two good eight-foot putts and two really good bounces.”
Foley has never seen his charge so happy on and off the golf course and it’s reflective in her consistency of performance.
“There’s a difference between the 17-year-old Lydia and the 25-year-old Lydia. She is now sharing her life off the course with her boyfriend and I don’t think she’s ever been happier.
“This girl has given up a great sacrifice in her life to be a great player. To see her enjoying both sides of it, I think it’s fantastic.”
The British Open is being staged at the Muirfield Links course in Scotland for the first time and it’s a course Foley says will suit the US-based Kiwi.
“It’s a fantastic golf course. Links courses are quite simple. Lydia is so creative that I think it really suits her. She’s shot some great low numbers on links courses, and because she is so creative, I think it really benefits her.
“That being said, off the tee, you have the option to either challenge bunkers or make sure you lay back off the bunkers. As soon as you hit any of those bunkers it’s basically a one stroke penalty. The whole goal at a true links course like a Muirfield is you have to stay out of the bunkers.”
Foley describes Ko like a “gunslinger” because she’s so aggressive and makes a lot of birdies. But he feels with plenty of wind forecast this week she will need to take that into consideration with her course management.
“Ideally when it gets to a British Open or a major in the wind, these aren’t the tournaments that end up at 22-under-par. So, I think it’s when you pick passive lines, you have to hit aggressive shots. Then when you get the green light, you have to go for it.
“That’s where she’s been improving in a tournament like the US Open; she’s learned over time to be slightly more conservative, where par is a good score, because she’s normally just a complete gunslinger.”
Lydia Ko tees off tonight at 11.27pm in the first round.