Lydia Ko may be the only LPGA follower on the planet not mulling her date with destiny should she win the tour’s season-opening event and become the youngest golfer — woman or man — to ascend to the world No. 1 ranking.
“I really haven’t thought about it,” Ko said after firing a 7-under 65 in Friday’s third round of the inaugural Coates Golf Championship to take a one-shot lead heading into Saturday’s finale. “Like I always say, the rankings come after the results in each tournament, so it would be great and it would be a huge honor to be in that position, but we’ve still got another long 18 holes to go and you just never know what’s going to happen in those holes.”
The 17-year-old who has smashed just about every other age-related mark on her way to a Rookie of the Year 2014 season wasted no time in cementing her lead with two straight birdies to start her round and get to 16-under for the week. Playing partner Na Yeon Choi, however, answered back quickly, with birdies on Nos. 3 and 4, to keep pace with Ko.
A victory for Ko would be her sixth tour title, fourth since she turned professional in October 2013, and would propel her past Inbee Park to the top of the Rolex Rankings. No one, not Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, or Annika Sorenstam, has held the No. 1 spot at so tender an age.
Then again, laying waste to records is nothing new for the Kiwi golfer who assigned Lexi Thompson to a footnote by becoming, at 15, the youngest player to win on tour when she captured the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open. Her W at the 2014 season-ending CME Tour Championship not only netted Ko the $500,000 winner’s share but the $1 million bonus that came with grabbing the inaugural Race to the CME Globe.
In her surge toward history, the tour’s youngest player to win Rookie of the Year honors was leaving superstars like Park, Michelle Wie, and Stacy Lewis in her wake.
”There are so many great players that are like one to four shots [back], you just never know what’s going to happen,” said Ko. I’m just going to concentrate on my game, stay really positive and if somebody else shoots a much bigger score than I do, I can’t really do much about it. I’m just going to focus and hopefully I’ll be able to shoot a good score [on Saturday].”
Should she falter down the stretch, Ko would still leapfrog Park to the top spot if she finishes solo second and the current No. 1 places no higher than in a three-way tie for third.
Still, Ko was taking nothing for granted.
”It’s never over until you pull the glove out of your pocket and put it in your bag,” Ko said. ”You’ve just got to concentrate until the last moment.”
You may follow Ko’s march into the history books starting at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on Golf Channel.