Lydia Ko pushes to the brink of Hall of Fame status after season-opening victory

lydia ko smiles in celebration wearing black shirt and white visor

Lydia Ko won her first solo event in more than a year on Sunday at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

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It’d been a while since we’d seen Lydia Ko in Sunday form.

And then Sunday arrived at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

Ko, still 26, wrote the latest chapter in a fascinating career atop the women’s golf world on Sunday in Lake Nona, Fla. — ending a yearlong winning drought on the LPGA and winning by two strokes in her first start of the 2024 season. Ko, who was competing on her home course in Orlando, shot 14 under for the week, winning by two strokes over a shortened field that featured last year’s 35 winners on the LPGA.

It was not the first victory for Ko since 2022 — she grabbed a win at the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational last month alongside PGA Tour star (and fellow Commonwealther) Jason Day — but it was the first victory in a solo event since the CME Group Tour Championship late in 2022. Sunday marked another notable high for Ko in a career that has featured plenty of turbulence since Ko was the youngest player ever to reach a No. 1 World Ranking back in the late 2010s — and her 20th as an LPGA Tour pro.

“I think the finish that I had last year, not only winning Grant Thornton but I played really well in Korea and in Malaysia. Maybe if I had found the keys that I found then a little earlier, maybe I could have had a better season,” Ko said, reflecting on the 13 months that preceded Sunday’s victory. “I think if you keep going down a spiral of thinking like what if, it’s endless. I worked hard in the two weeks leading up to this event. To win at home has been nice.”

The victory puts Ko at 26 career “points” — LPGA shorthand for the scoring system used to determine hall of fame eligibility — leaving her one point shy of automatic entry into the LPGA hall of fame. (Players are afforded one point for LPGA victories, Olympic gold medals, scoring titles or player of the year awards, and two points for major championships.)

“I thought two was really close and now one is really, really close. I’m literally right in front of the door,” Ko said with a chuckle. “No, I think my mindset was, hey, I’m going to do all the things I can do and try and do a good job of that. If it happens, it happens. If not, just not meant to be mine to be in the Hall of Fame.”

It seems likely that Ko, still just 26 years old, will eventually knock down the door into the Hall. It would be a fitting feat for a player who remains one of the LPGA’s most compelling characters (and gifted players).

In either case, though, she won’t have much time to reflect on what’s at stake: she’s in the field at next week’s Drive On Championship.

“I won my first event [in 2022] and kind of went sideways very quickly, so to not get too cocky,” Ko said. “I’m playing next week in Bradenton and that’s a new golf course for me. I’m excited to go out there.”

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