Lydia Ko said she’s having one of, if not the, best season of her career. Here’s why she’s right
When Lydia Ko won the BMW Ladies Championship two weeks ago, it marked her second LPGA Tour victory of 2022 and the 18th of her impressive career. After the victory, Ko, ranked No. 3 in the world, said, “I think people underestimate what the level of the LPGA is and what the level of women's golf is right now. I think this is probably one of my best seasons or the best season I've had.” This is a big statement from a player who has spent 104 weeks as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
And if you take a dive into the stats, Ko’s not wrong.
If one was to make an argument for Ko’s “best” season, they’d likely look back to either 2015 or 2016. In 2015, Ko first reached World No. 1, the youngest ever to do so at age 17. She won five times that year and recorded 11 other top-10 finishes. In 2016, she had four wins and seven more top-10s. In both seasons she also won a major.
When Ko says 2022 might be better than those years, however, it’s a reminder that wins aren’t the only measure of success. She has made a point that the level of play is higher on the tour now than it was then, which is how she could be “playing better” in 2022 and winning less often.
Douglas P. DeFelice
And here are some stats that back up that notion. This year, Ko’s scoring average is 69.051. That’s lower than both her 2015 and 2016 scoring averages, which were 69.44 and 69.6, respectively. It’s also .372 better than Hyo Joo Kim, who is second on tour in scoring average. That’s a significant difference when you consider that there are seven golfers within .372 of Kim’s average.
Additionally, on the LPGA Tour in 2022 there are 14 players who have sub-70 scoring averages with just three events left on the schedule. In 2015, there were three for the entire season, and in 2016, there were five.
Let’s consider another stat, greens in regulation. In 2022, Ko has a GIR average of 73.15 percent. Though that’s lower than the 77 percent she hit in 2015, it’s higher than the 70.39 percent she hit in 2016.
Meanwhile, when Ko does hit a green in regulation, her putting average is close to what it was in those two banner years. In 2022, she’s averaging 1.72 putts per green in regulation. In 2015 that number was 1.74 and in 2016 it was 1.71.
One other incredible stat for 2022 is Ko’s strokes gained/total number: 2.49. That means on average throughout the season, Ko has been 2.49 strokes better than the field every time she’s teed it up, which is the best of any player on tour. Unfortunately, strokes gained wasn’t available on the LPGA Tour until 2021, so we can’t compare this stat to her earlier seasons. But again, let’s compare Ko to other players this year. Second in SG/total for 2022 is Brooke Henderson at 2.030. Third is Hye-Jin Choi at 2.00
Just because she’s won twice instead of four or five times doesn’t mean Ko isn’t playing some of the best golf of her life.