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Jin Young Ko sidelined with wrist injury, leaving World No. 1 spot up for grabs

September 12, 2022

Sarah Stier

A nagging injury to the left wrist of Jin Young Ko is leaving the door open for a change atop the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings for the first time since January.

A member of the World No. 1's team told Golf Digest on Monday that Ko is not defending her title at this week’s AmazingCre Portland Classic nor will she make another start on the LPGA Tour until the BMW Ladies Championship in late October as she rests her wrist. It’s the same injury that bothered her significantly last season. Ko’s manager confirmed to Golf Digest that Ko is taking a break "to take medical treatments on her overworked wrist, as suggested by her doctor."

The LPGA said that Ko is entered in only three of the remaining eight tournaments this year. Alongside the BMW in South Korea, Ko currently is in the Pelican Women’s Championship and the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida to close the season in November.

It's been three years since Ko played a full season on the LPGA. In 2021, she missed the AIG Women's Open following the Olympics. In 2020, the two-time major champion only made four starts, staying in South Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nelly Korda, No. 2 in the world rankings, is in the field for the next three events in the U.S. Without needing to fend Ko off, Korda has a prime opportunity to recapture the No. 1 spot.

Since Korda’s return at the U.S. Open in June from her four-month layoff due to a blood clot in her arm, she’s posted four top-10s in six starts, including a pair of runners-up at the Meijer LPGA Classic and the CP Women's Open. Korda's trimmed Ko's 1.74 average ranking point edge when she returned down to a narrow margin of .29, a surpassable gap with one strong performance.

Ko passing on the AmazingCre Portland Classic prevents her the chance to turn her season around as she did in 2021 at the same tournament.

Ko entered the then-Cambia Portland Classic with only a lone win under her belt at the Volunteers of America Classic in July. She took the AIG Women’s Open off following the Olympics for a six-week break and worked on her swing. Ko returned at The Oregon Golf Club to win in Portland, sparking a torrid season-ending run of four victories over her final seven starts.

Ko’s wrist injury dominated coverage at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, where Ko could only hit wedges to warm up all week to close a challenging year. On top of managing her injury, the 27-year-old lost her grandmother and couldn’t travel back home in time to say farewell due to South Korean COVID-19 travel restrictions. Despite that, she won the year's final event, besting Korda for the Rolex Player of the Year award for the second time in three seasons and claiming her third consecutive money title.

Ko began her 2022 season in March after a boot camp with her coach in Palm Springs and said she felt no restrictions with her wrist at the HSBC Women's Championship. She maintained dominant form to begin the year, winning in Singapore to make it six consecutive years with at least a victory on tour. In addition, Ko set a tour record with 16 straight rounds in the 60s from the second round of the 2021 BMW Ladies championship through the first round of the 2022 JTBC Classic.

Since then, it's been a muted season by the 13-time winner's standards. Ko finished runner-up at the Palos Verdes Championship, along with three other top-10s over 12 starts. Further, her last three events have been the worst three consecutive results of her career on tour: a T-71 at the Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open and missed cuts at the AIG Women's Open and CP Women's Open. It’s the first time Ko’s missed consecutive cuts in her five-year LPGA career across 94 starts.

Korda overtaking Ko would put another chance at history for the South Korean's career resume on hold. Ko has been the World No. 1 for a combined 147 weeks, the second most in Rolex ranking's history. The two-time major champion is 11 shy of tying recently anointed LPGA Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa for the most weeks atop the world at 158.