Ko tries to recapture winning form at new LPGA event

Washington (AFP) –

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New Zealand's Lydia Ko, a two-time major champion who hasn't won in two and a half years, is happy just to be playing at this week's LPGA Drive On Championship.

The event, which starts Thursday at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, was created to help ease the gap on players who would usually be playing in Asia at this time of year, the Covid-19 pandemic having shut down those opportunities for 2020.

"We would have all loved to have been in Asia," Ko said Wednesday. "I've not been in the US in October before.

"Obviously right now the best option for all of us was to stay within the US. I think it's nice that we still get another playing opportunity.

"It's going to be good golf -- 2020 has been a pretty tough year for a lot of people all around the world, and I think for us to have another playing opportunity is something that we're very grateful and thankful for."

That's true for world number 39 Ko.

"The first little while where I wasn't competing at the level when I was playing at my best, I think I compared myself a lot to then," she said.

"I just got to try my 100% when I'm out there, grind my butt out there and just do the best that I can and the results happen.

"A lot of those things are out of my control, so hopefully I'll be able to keep playing consistently well and put myself more in contention and in those positions."

Ko has been doing that lately. She shared second at the Marathon Classic in the LPGA's second return event from the pandemic shutdown and was sixth in last month's ANA inspiration major.

"I'm doing pretty good," Ko said. "I feel like after quarantine, the time I spent practicing and recovering and training, it was good to see the results kind of show some of that time. Hopefully I'll be able to keep working hard to have more of those moments."

The 23-year-old former world number one likes the layout but knows lifting a 16th career LPGA trophy will be a difficult task.

"It's definitely not easy to win," Ko said. "I've just got to, in my off weeks, try my best, keep working on the areas I feel like need to be worked on and at a tournament just being focused and hopefully have a good week."

Ko said she had pondered returning to New Zealand at one stage but decided to remain in her Florida home for now.

"I did think about maybe going home, but at that time it was also a little bit of a risk for me to get on a long haul flight, especially as I'm not on the west coast. Makes it a little bit tougher to go home," Ko said.

"Even though I would've loved to have been home, luckily the golf courses and all that in our community back in Orlando was very safe. I just opted for that option. Hopefully I'll be back home in New Zealand very soon."