Ko: It’s just a number

Ko poses with the ANA Inspiration championship trophy after her victory. (Reuters/USA TODAY Sports pic)

LOS ANGELES: World No 1 Ko Jin-young, with five top-three finishes in seven starts this season, seeks her third LPGA title of the year when the Los Angeles Open starts Thursday.

The 23-year-old South Korean won last month’s LPGA Founders Cup, captured her first Major crown earlier this month at the ANA Inspiration and could claim her third title in five starts this week at par-71 Wilshire Country Club.

Ko jumped atop the rankings with her Major win at Rancho Mirage, but is philosophical about her breakthrough.

“It’s really an honor to be No 1,” Ko said. “But anyone can climb to top position, so that’s just a number.”

Some chase the dream of world No 1 from childhood, but Ko was not among them even as she idolised such South Korean stars as Park In-bee and Ryu So-yeon and practiced with her father.

“I grew up, maybe 10, 11 years old, and I’m looking at Grace Park or Jiyai Shin and Hee Kyung Seo or So Yeon, Inbee as well,” Ko said. “They are the players. I’m just amateur, so I want to try. I need a little bit more practice.

“So I had lots of practice with my father. My father was boxer, so hard always.”

Ko stresses being happy as a key to her recent success, calling golf “a really small thing in my life” but adding “and then out of my personal life always happy.”

Asked what makes her happy, Ko said, “family and my dog and God and friends and food,” in that order. Her dog Daebak remains in South Korea, so wasn’t with her when she took a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon after her Inspiration title.

“After ANA I go to Grand Canyon and then some canyons. I don’t know names. A lot,” she said. “Monument Valley something and then a lot. But I was able to confirm that there was a God. Really amazing in Grand Canyon. Really amazing.”

Ko was a runner-up defending her title at the Women’s Australian Open in February and last month’s Kia Classic and third in the HSBC Women’s World Championship but only shared 17th at last week’s Lotte Championship in Hawaii.

Her best US finish last year was second at LA and she’s glad to be back.

“I’m happy always playing in LA – lots of Korean fans and then lots of Korean food,” she said. “Also weather is really perfect. Course condition is amazing. Everything is good. I’m looking for good position in the tournament.”