How Lydia Ko rediscovered her game — and herself — in 2022
Remember when we thought a pandemic season two years ago was crazy? Man, 2022 had it all. The return of Tiger Woods, the formation of a controversial golf league(!), the disappearance (and reappearance) of one of golf’s most beloved figures and so, so much more. But now let’s take a breath. Here, we’ll look back (and look ahead) at the 10 most memorable moments of 2022.
No. 8: How Lydia Ko rediscovered her game in 2022
The year 2022 was supposed to be the year of the Tiger, but it turned out to be the year of Lydia Ko.
Ko won three times in 2022. She earned over $4 million on the course and won LPGA Player of the Year. She returned to world No. 1 and won the scoring title. She fell in love and got engaged.
Most importantly, though, Ko rediscovered what it means to be truly happy.
“I love my life right now,” Ko told GOLF Magazine this spring. “I feel like this may be the happiest point of my life.”
It hasn’t always been so easy.
Ko got off to a fast start in her pro golf career. She made history in 2012 as the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history at the age of 15. Three years later, she ascended to world No. 1 and became the youngest player to hoist a major trophy since Young Tom Morris.
Golf is never simple, but Ko made it look that way at times. She won four more times the following year (including a major) and by the age of 20 it looked like she would rewrite the record books. Could she be the GOAT? Is she the next global superstar?
It didn’t take long for those illusions to be shattered. At the end of 2016, Ko parted ways with her caddie and her swing coach, David Leadbetter. The next season, she failed to win for the first time in her career. What once seemed so simple was now a slog. As the wins dried up, so too did her confidence.
Ko won just one tournament over the next three years, and her star power slowly faded. Other superstars made their names known in women’s golf, and the former prodigy became just another name.
As the one-time can’t-miss prospect, Ko continually dealt with pressure. Pressure from herself to get back to her winning ways. And pressure from others and the outsized expectations they levied on her young career. The experiences dealing with that pressure weren’t always easy, but they did shape her world view in new ways.
“A lot of experiences have changed my perspective, the way I look at things,” Ko said. “But mostly it’s because I’m not trying to be who I was. I’m just striving to be the best person and best player I can be right now, so I don’t want to compare myself to my past.”
The method of not comparing herself to the past did not come easy. Not only was Ko contending with a different swing than the one that won her so many titles, she was also contending with a different mindset. By the end of 2020, things hit rock bottom.
With her world rank outside the top 50, and no wins in over two years, Ko’s game was in shambles. The former golden child was now just another name on Tour. So she enlisted the help of GOLF Top 100 Teacher Sean Foley.
Under Foley’s tutelage, Ko transformed. Not only as a golfer, but as a person.
“A great coach is a friend and a mentor,” Foley told GOLF.com. “It’s not all just technical.”
That was just the type of coaching Ko needed. The technical aspects of Ko’s swing weren’t terrible, but her mental game needed some work. Foley stresses the holistic nature of golf — a marriage of mind and body — and those teachings helped Ko slowly build herself back up.
“He’s more than just a swing coach,” Ko said. “Sometimes I talk about life things with him. He’s worked with and met so many people, so his perspective is different. It’s nice to talk to him about golf things and non-golf things. There is no b.s. He’s very straightforward and gives grounded advice.”
Within six months of teaming up, Foley had Ko back in the winner’s circle — and back in the top 10 in the world ranking. With the winless-drought monkey off her back, Ko played with a newfound freedom. The wins and the losses did not matter. What mattered was her happiness.
Those good vibes carried into 2022. Ko teed it up 22 times this season and won three titles. Her scoring average of 68.9 led the Tour. She got engaged to her boyfriend, Chung Jun, and the couple will marry at the end of December. And, at long last, she has returned to the No. 1 spot in the world ranking.
“Some days I know I don’t have a good day on the golf course, but I come back and my family and friends are there to support me,” Ko said of her newfound mindset. “Yeah. I’m happy right now.”