She’s already the youngest player in history to win 10 professional events. And over the next four days, Lydia Ko can close in on her 10 millionth dollar.
She’s still three years from legal drinking age in America, but yesterday at the press table, on the eve of beginning the LPGA Tour’s season-ending tournament, forever-young Lydia Ko gave a rare insight into her life as an adult.
Well, that and her life as a multimillionaire global megastar.
“It’s great to come back, the best part was I pulled out my yardage book from last year, and I had to kind of rip the pages apart because of the Champagne, the pages stuck together. So that’s not a bad thing to happen,” Ko said.
This morning in Florida, 18-year-old Ko began a four-day tilt at a $2.3million prize, trying to close the LPGA Tour season by winning the last event – the CME Group Tour Championship – and bringing home her lead in the season-long Race to the CME Globe, which carries a $1.5m bonus.
While the money being won by Ko is not the benchmark the smiling assassin should be measured, it’s nevertheless fascinating – and inescapable. A golfing elephant hacking around the room in Dr Martens.
Before even getting to endorsements and management contracts, Ko has racked up $7.48m in “career earnings” so far. Career being a precarious word in this context, as it’s only in reference to two full years on the LPGA Tour.
This year has been particularly good too, primarily because she achieved five wins, including the first major championship of her career, the world number one ranking and the vast majority of her on-course earnings at $4.25m.
If she can repeat last year’s Champagne-soaked feats and win both the Tour Championship and the Race to the CME Globe come Monday morning (NZT), Ko will be within a whisker of breaching the $10m mark.
And in another insight into her life these days, she has also admitted money, and winning these two events last year, had a significant impact on her life.
“It did impact my mom, because she finally got the purse she wanted,” Ko said. “No, I mean it would have been cool if we had that million dollar box itself. Yeah, that would have been really cool. That’s what a lot of people ask me, hey, did you get that box full of cash, and I was like no. I remember last year they had a security guard for the money, not for us.”
In the aftermath, Ko took a month off – her longest break from the game – and came back chopping around like a weekend warrior. Well, once every 20 balls anyway.
“I was eating, going to the mall, watching a movie, and I was just doing that teenager life. And then when I came back, David [Leadbetter, coach] looked at my swing and he said ‘whoa, that doesn’t look too good’,” she said.
“I was shanking maybe one out of 20. Like, it was not pretty. It’s not something that I would recommend be on Golf Channel or anything. It wasn’t nice.”
Conceding her season has been an extreme success already, Ko is still eager to press home her advantage in the race to the CME Globe and get one over Korean rival and world number two, Inbee Park.
In the last week Ko has been caught in the points rankings by Park – who hunts consecutive wins this week to pip her at the finish line. Park’s win last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has added spice to this week’s high-stakes event where a swathe of players can still earn enough points to land the big one.
“I’m going to try and concentrate on my game and I think that’s what Inbee is going to do, and I think that’s what every other player is going to do,” Ko said. “The top nine have a chance to win the race, so it necessarily doesn’t mean it’s going to be Inbee or me or Stacy [Lewis], it could be somebody else. So you just never know.
“It’s been a really fun season, had a lot of great things happening and things that really surprised me along the way, too.
“Even if the season doesn’t end the way exactly I want it to, I can’t do much about it, and I feel like there’s still a lot of positives from this year that I can take.”
*Coverage of Lydia Ko in the CME Group Tour Championship and Race to the CME Globe is live and on demand all week on WorldGolfPass.com.