World No. 1 Jin Young Ko is Lurking Heading Into Weekend
Jin Young Ko rebounded from an over-par opening round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to shoot 2-under 69 Friday at Baltusrol in difficult, wet conditions for most of the morning. She sits at 1-over total and is within three shots of Xiyu Lin’s lead as the afternoon wave was starting.
“I checked all the research before starting this event, and best finish was top 11 for the KPMG,” Ko said. “I just wanted to finish top 10.”
Now, after two rounds, the two-time major champion has set her sights higher.
Ko, 27, was dissecting beefy Baltusrol early in Round 2 in the tough conditions and quickly jumped to 4 under with birdies at the second hole followed by three consecutively at Nos. 5, 6 and 7. On the par-4 fifth she muscled an approach from the gnarly rough to 2 feet for a tap-in and then drained an 18-footer for birdie on the sixth hole.
After making the turn 3 under on the day, Ko quickly birdied the 10th from 12 feet to get back to 4 under. Her best swing of the round came on the 214-yard, par-3 16th hole where she hit 3-wood long of the pin, the ball checked up and rolled back down a swale to within 2 feet for another easy birdie.
Three of Ko’s four bogeys came via three putts, including on the final hole from just outside 30 feet. She hit eight of 14 fairways but 15 of 18 greens.
“This golf course is not easy,” she said. “We needed extra focus.”
Ko arrived at Baltusrol on Saturday to begin preparations for the second major of the year. She didn’t say that the early arrival wasn’t helpful, but the course and the conditions have changed so dramatically each day that some of the knowledge she gained earlier does not apply now.
“The course changed so quick,” Ko said.
Ko was grouped with Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko in the Championship’s featured group with the top-three ranked players in the world although Korda (76-77) and Lydia Ko (74-73) were never in contention. Jin Young Ko entered the week as the top-ranked player, holding the top spot on four different occasions for a record-tying 158 weeks. She will break Lorena Ochoa’s record alone after this event is completed.
But there is plenty of work to be done before then. Ko has won two majors but both of those came four years ago at the Chevron Championship and Evian Championship in 2019. She has won nine times on the LPGA since her last major victory, including twice this year, at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and the Cognizant Founders Cup last month at nearby Upper Montclair Country Club.
Rest was in the near future for Ko when she finished her round, saying that it was the most important thing to manage over the next two days of the weekend, which are likely to bring similar conditions as on Friday.
Midway through, Ko is pleased with her position and knows the major championship-winning formula as well as anyone else in contention.
“If my shot is getting better and putter is still like the first couple days, yeah,” she said, “I think I can chance to get win this week.”