Golf

No longer a teen, Ko sports new, slimmer blonde look

Lydia Ko made global sporting headlines in 2012 when, as a bespectacled 15-year-old amateur, she triumphed at the Canadian Women's Open, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event.

But spectators in Shanghai, where she finished tied second in the inaugural Buick LPGA event on Sunday, could have been forgiven for failing to recognise the Seoul-born New Zealander.

Now 21 and with the glasses long-since ditched in favour of contact lenses, Ko has dyed her hair blonde and lost weight over the past year.

Is the new look - she first sported the striking hair colour two weeks ago - an attempt to break with the past?

"If I keep comparing myself to when I was Player of the Year or I was doing this, that or other things, it makes it so much harder," the good-natured Ko told AFP in Shanghai.

"Rather than say, 'Hey, oh my god, I did this then, I'm just not up to that standard'... I'm just trying to play the best golf I can currently and I think that's a better mindset to put myself in."

Ko's stunning win in Canada was the start of a run that saw her surge to No. 1 in the world at 17, the youngest to do so in men's or women's golf.

In 2014, Ko was named by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people, and Majors followed in 2015 and 2016, together with a Rio Olympic silver medal.

Then came leaner times.

Last year, Ko endured her first season without an LPGA victory since joining the US-based tour in 2014. There was twice a change of coach and caddie.

But in April this year, she snapped that barren spell, winning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in California.

She was a modest 17th in the world rankings going into Shanghai, where she finished in a seven-way tie for runner-up, two strokes behind the winner Danielle Kang of the US.

"The things that happened when I was a teenager, I was very fortunate about," said Ko, who feels that the level of women's golf is getting higher every year.

"Sometimes you can get too carried away by the things that happened or worry about what's in front of you." - AFP

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