A win by 17-year-old Lydia Ko and a four-way tie for 2nd or worse by Stacy Lewis, and the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings will be Ko’s this week. Lewis further distanced herself a week ago with a win, while Ko finished in a tie for second, but Ko’s right on her heels and could potentially overtake her with her first major win. Ko would be right at 5 years younger than Yani Tseng and Jiyai Shin, who both held the No. 1 spot as 22-year-olds.
COLIN CALLANDER: We have Lydia Ko here with the interview area. Leading amateur last year and subsequently turned professional and won on the LPGA Tour. There’s been a lot going on in your life recently.
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I turned pro and I’m playing on the LPGA Tour full‑time, so I guess a lot of changes.
CALLANDER: How different is it playing as a professional from playing as an amateur? Does it feel different to you?
LYDIA KO: I think the biggest difference is playing full‑time and playing three or four weeks in a row and managing the schedule and not over doing or underdog, so I’ve been having lots of fun.
CALLANDER: This week you’ve had your first chance to see Royal Birkdale. What are your thoughts about the course?
LYDIA KO: It’s a true links, right by the water and lots of long grass and tight fairways, so it’s going to be a test in all areas for bunker shots and long game also.
CALLANDER: How do you feel you’re playing coming into this championship?
LYDIA KO: I think I’m playing well. I played well in Arkansas. That was my last tournament. I’m coming in with confidence and hopefully I’ll enjoy the week.
Q. Last year I think at this time you still had a school essay to finish. Did you ever finish it?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I managed to get all my exams done and I passed. So that’s always good. I’m still in high school. It’s my last year this year.
Q. Are you actually attending it this year?
LYDIA KO: I live in Orlando now so it’s hard for me to go back. But talking to some of my teachers, trying to do the most I can while not being at school.
Q. Are you doing things online?
LYDIA KO: I still take photography again, so it’s a lot of like portfolio work and I actually had to interview one of the photographers that came out to the tournament. It was fun being the interviewing, not the person that was being interviewed.
Q. And where was that?
LYDIA KO: Kingsmill Championship.
Q. And where you get some kind of certificate at the end?
LYDIA KO: It’s part of the course work we have to do. I still haven’t handed it in yet.
CALLANDER: Is that something you intend to finish, you want to finish?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I want to graduate high school and then go to university afterwards.
Q. Has there been one aspect from the transition to amateur to professional ranks that you found hardest, and is there one thing that you noticed in the last year that is a big improvement in your game?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I guess just being away and even if I have an off‑week, I’m going back to Orlando where I see a lot of golfers again, and I don’t know that many people outside. I think I definitely miss New Zealand and that was kind of one of the hard things. But my family, my parents are over here, so it’s been okay.
I’ve been enjoying it and I wouldn’t say it was really hard to make that kind of transition.
Q. Where do you think you’ll go to university? Have you chosen one?
LYDIA KO: I haven’t chosen it yet. I’m not too sure.
Q. Do you have a time line for when you would like to go to school in terms of college?
LYDIA KO: I mean, New Zealand, we normally graduate around I think September, November, I’m not exactly sure. But I think earliest I could possibly go back to New Zealand is maybe September. So to me I’m just concentrating on high school and getting it all finished and then worry about what’s going to go on with university and all that. Because I can go to university at any age really but with high school, you’ve got to do it at that time.
Q. In terms of earlier in the year, we talked about David talking to you about burnout and trying to avoid that. Can you talk about what you do in an off‑week, last week you had some time off; how do you balance having some fun?
LYDIA KO: I had a couple of days off, travel days, again, it’s not oh where I’m totally resting and I do get tired after traveling for a couple hours. But no, I don’t like to go out and do things, and most of the time I’ll stay home and watch TV and just lay around in the bed I think.
CALLANDER: Your decision to go to university, was that influenced in any way by what Michelle Wie did?
LYDIA KO: Well, I’ve always wanted to go to university. I mean, she graduated from Stanford and everything, which is pretty awesome because not many players do that, and especially at a school like Stanford.
Yeah, I think she does have a little influence. I’ve always wanted to attend university.
Q. Can you just talk about your preparation for this week, when you arrived, how many practise rounds you played, whether you’re going to be using any different clubs, maybe putting some longer irons in the bag?
LYDIA KO: I played a couple practise rounds. I played last week where I probably got the worst weather where it was raining and windy. I got to experience what it was like if it was raining a lot. It’s been windy the last couple days. I’ve been getting these different types of weather and trying to learn more about the course, as it is my first time here. Ass week goes on, hopefully I’ll learn more about it.
Hopefully I’m prepared for what’s coming up tomorrow.
Q. You said you played last week. When did you get here?
LYDIA KO: I got in on Thursday night and I played Friday. That’s the only day I played.
Q. Is that normal for you to arrive so early?
LYDIA KO: I sort of was jet‑lagged and I had friends in London and we visited them and just came over. Thought I might as well get used to the weather over here than if I’m resting anyway.
Q. Did you play golf in London?
LYDIA KO: No, I didn’t. We just saw our friends.
Q. And you’ve said the reason you switched to work coach was you don’t want somebody who is on the road would you. David is here with you, do you chat with him about your golf swing or do you just stay away?
LYDIA KO: He was checking my swing today. Neither one of my coaches had saw it in a couple weeks, so it’s good to get David to check my swing and see if it was okay, and the response was okay. That’s good. I asked some questions about hitting a lot of shots and all the different types of shots we need to hit out here because high shots into the wind, they are not going to be working as well as they would be.
Q. You’ve shown yourself to be comfortable playing links golf; how does Birkdale compare to other links that you’ve played?
LYDIA KO: Liverpool and Hoylake, I remember a lot of rain, especially the last 36 holes was probably insane. I don’t remember much of the course anymore apart from the rain.
It was fun because it was my first British Open and last year at St. Andrews, they had some double fairways, so even if you were a little wayward, you could kind of get away with it. But here if you’re not in the fairway, you’re in the bunker or the deep rough. So it’s going to be tough and I definitely need to hit a lot of fairways to give myself opportunities.
Q. Laura was in earlier and saying the youngsters work so hard and do so much, she wonders how long you’ll be playing. Do you think you’ll still be playing when you’re 50?
LYDIA KO: When I’m 50? (Laughter). There’s my answer. No, I don’t think I would want to play until I’m 50. Maybe when I’m 30 I’ll want to play until I’m 35 and I think that’s probably what’s going to happen.
Yeah, no, I’m just going to enjoy the moment and this year has gone by really fast. So I think it’s going to be like that for a while. And hopefully I’m not playing until I’m 50.
Q. Doing photography and things like that, are you looking at a media career after golf?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, maybe. When I think about what I would be doing if I wasn’t playing golf, I don’t really know exactly, because I’m so passionate about playing and that. I mean, it would be pretty awesome if I’m standing on there and not here for once. But I really don’t know. I think there are a lot of fun aspects about media.
Q. I was just wondering how being so young, how comfortable you are now on the Tour, and are there moments where you still feel ‑‑ whether being so young shows up and you realise the pros have been doing this for a little bit longer and things like that.
LYDIA KO: No, I don’t feel like I’m so young because I’m not the first one that came out here as a 17‑year‑old. I mean, Lexi turned pro when she was 15 and I think she was on the Tour when she was 17, 18, also. It’s really good for me that I’m not the first one and that there are other players that have been like that, like Michelle and Paula and Lexi.
In that aspect, I’m very lucky to kind of be there and I’m very fortunate to be playing on the Tour as a 17‑year‑old. I don’t feel too young, after meeting Lucy at the U.S. Open, she is six years younger than me and made me feel old. It’s good to know that I’m not the youngest one out here.
Q. How badly do you want to win a major championship?
LYDIA KO: I’m trying to think of every tournament as just being another tournament, because last year when I thought about all the majors, oh, this is a major, I need to play well, you need to play well in majors. That’s why I didn’t play as good as I wanted to and that’s kind of putting pressure on myself.
So this year, I’m trying to like think of it as just another tournament and having fun, and every major is different. There is different parts to it, so just going to have fun but if that moment comes, I’d be happy to hold a major trophy.
Q. Is there more of a cool factor that you’re ranked No. 2 in the world or is it more of you really want to be No. 1? Where do you stand on that?
LYDIA KO: I mean, it’s great to be world No. 2, but I never really think about my rankings when I’m playing or when I’m around. I just feel like another golfer or another professional that’s just playing and having lots of fun and going out to win. I mean, rankings, they are great.
Stacy is doing really well at the moment and so are the other players, so I try not to think about the rankings and if I get a chance to be world No. 1, that’s great.
Q. Did it amaze you to see someone so young and do you think she should be out there or not?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I think she shot 78, 78, and I mean, I think those two scores are pretty good. I mean, it’s a tough course, Pinehurst, and you can get yourself on the wrong side of the green and it’s going to be tough, and triples and doubles, they can come just like that.
Yes, I think she played pretty awesome breaking 80, and I definitely had a tough time out there. You know, she’s playing well, so she really deserves to be in that position.
Q. Do you think she’s going to be pulled this way and that with people saying, you need to be playing full‑time and come to this tournament and that tournament; will she have a lot of temptation put in her way?
LYDIA KO: I’m not too sure. Obviously there is going to be a lot of spotlight on her and I think she’s just got to be just her and just be herself and I’m sure she’ll do really well.
Q. Since you turned professional and you’ve got lot of money now, what’s the best thing you’ve bought?
LYDIA KO: Best thing I’ve bought, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve bought, just like after my first win in San Francisco, you get a Rolex for winning, for being a first‑time winner on the Tour. I decided to get my dad that watch.
So it’s kind of cool to be able to present it to my dad, a nice Rolex watch which I probably wouldn’t buy. It’s such a precious and very expensive watch. Just being able to look at it, it’s a piece of artwork and to be able to give that to my dad, I’m very grateful for the opportunity.