Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lydia Ko leads Women's PGA with chance to win third major in a row

Lydia Ko has a chance to do something on Sunday that's never been done in LPGA history.

The 19-year-old Kiwi carries a one-shot lead into the final round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in Washington. She's at 2-under 211, ahead of Gerina Piller and two-time major winner Brittany Lincicome. And if Ko can hold on to or expand that edge by the end of play on Sunday, she'll become the youngest player in LPGA history to win three consecutive major championships.

That's a big deal, but Ko didn't build it up that way on Saturday.

“I don't really think about it when I'm out there playing,” Ko said. “I'm just trying to play my best and trying to hit that shot in front of me. I only know about these records after you guys tell me.”

It's that kind of laid-back, one-at-a-time perspective, perhaps, that has gotten Ko this far, this fast. Ko already has 11 LPGA wins, including the last two majors -- becoming the youngest female major winner last September in France at The Evian Championship, then hitting a clutch wedge shot into the 72nd hole of the ANA Inspiration in April to make it two in a row.

She's the clear No. 1 player in the world, and it seems all too evident of late in the most pressure-packed spots. While other players are battling nerves, self-doubt and thinking ahead, Ko is keeping it breezy and making it look easy. 

Ko even let Lincicome, who she played with in the third round, eat some of the snacks she brought in her bag during Saturday's five-and-a-half-hour round. Perhaps Ko just isn't aware these are the nice-person things usually reserved for folks who don't usually win.

Ko isn't intimidating in the traditional sense. She doesn't elicit fear in her peers or make them quiver with worry. Ko is personable and well-liked. However, she is intimidating in that she's a great closer that finishes you off with a smile and a shrug. She's a shooting star -- intending to retire by the time she's 30 -- taking full advantage of her self-imposed window.

Maybe it's because she doesn't see her career, however long it lasts, as a window that will eventually close. Rather, she sees it as a daily reminder to enjoy focusing on the minutiae of greatness.

“It's really cool to obviously have my name in those records amongst those amazing players,” Ko said. “That's the really cool thing about it, but when I'm out there I'm not thinking so much about records and what could happen."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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