…Jin-young Ko, the Player of the Year on the LPGA. Her swing is an amalgam of skill, grace, connection, and consistency with a good measure of repeatability. She may be one the best putters on any tour. She takes full advantage of the green reading skills of her caddie David Brooker, but it’s Jin-young who performs the magic. Tee to green there’s no one better. Her drives are near automatic. Her approach shots set up her up for looks at birdie almost every time. Her chipping we rarely see since she’s almost always on in regulation. And she sets her opponents knees to shaking when approaching any birdie or eagle putt. She intimidates her opponents, not as Tiger once did with monster drives and fist pumps, but with just about every club in bag. Her clubs literally do the talking.
At 26, she turned pro in 2013, winning 12 times on the Korean LPGA Tour and once on the LPGA in 2017 after which she joined the LPGA in 2018. That year she won Rookie of the Year honors on the LPGA, followed by 12 wins since then including a major. She has 23 wins worldwide, including the CMA Race to the Globe this year, netting her $1.5 million, the largest winner’s purse in LPGA history.
Plus, she took the time to learn conversational English, not the easiest language for a South Korean to learn. She comes across quite well in interviews, needing only occasional translation.
So how does Jin-young do it? In a word, this young woman has mastered the fundamentals of the swing and the game. She sizes up the tee shot, assesses what she wants to accomplish, and starts everything in motion with a little half practice swing to establish her takeaway plane, similar to Justin Thomas. Then she has a subtle and slight bending of her knees as a kind of forward press trigger. Never fails. Every swing through the bag she does this bend, starting with her knees quite straight. Her backswing is a connected one piece movement with everything starting in unison. Going back, she keeps her hands in front of her core, creating good extension and a wider swing arc up to the top. Wrists are cocked. Head is steady, where it remains well past impact. And, showing her wonderful flexibility, her back is facing the target at the top, creating coiled spring action that will see her well into impact, producing 250+ yard drives. She starts the transition with a slight forward move of her left hip, closely followed by her upper body, arms, and hands, creating superb lag with her wrists as she descends towards impact. Her head remains behind the ball, where it should be into and beyond impact. Her momentum brings her into a picture follow through that looks more like ballet than anything else, with her right heel completely open and revealed for inspection by any spectator behind her.
Her irons and hybrids are the same, the only difference being ball position to allow for the downward blow these clubs require.
I’ll jump to putting since that’s what Jin-young usually does next. After a read that takes less time than many other pros I’ve observed, she sets herself with a fairly wide stance, a left hand low grip, and a straight back straight through stroke that never varies except for length of stroke. If I were present, I expect I’d be hearing that solid sweet spot strike as well, as the ball rolls true and smooth.
She has an obviously high golf IQ as well. Her course management is smart and efficient, knowing when to take chances and when to just get the ball back in play. She knows how to score even when she may not have her “A” game, much like Tiger did in his prime.
I really do love the way Jin-young plays golf, and try to emulate her when I play. I borrow from others as well, like Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, and Brooke Henderson. But overall, I get my inspiration from Jin-young Ko, one of the best I’ve ever seen. She’s a Hall of Famer in the making!
Rumor has it that Tiger might play in the PNC Father/Child event coming up. A hit and giggle event, he called it. Carts allowed. Fairly short course. And after a near death car crash, the GOAT and his swing look good, amazingly so. From what I hear in his recent press conference, he seems to be using Ben Hogan as an inspiration and model. And Bantam Ben didn’t do too badly after his near fatal crash. Anyway, we’re fortunate to still have Tiger with us.
With gift giving season approaching, you might consider my recent offering, Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Considering the Game. It covers many key elements of this great game and is a good complement to my previous book The Mindful Golfer.