(Reuters) – Lydia Ko needs a break from golf to take stock of her career but if she wants to return to the peak of the women’s game she has to free herself of her parents’ influence, the New Zealander’s former coach David Leadbetter has said.
Ko, who as a 17-year-old became the youngest player to hold the world No. 1 ranking, has slipped to 24th in the world and missed the cut at the women’s British Open this month after finishing with a 12-over-par 156 for her two rounds.
Only 55-year-old Laura Davies, at 13-over, had a worse score after two rounds.
The 22-year-old also missed the cut at last month’s Evian Championship in France, the tournament she won in 2015 to become the youngest woman to win a major. Her last major win came in 2016 at the ANA Inspiration.
“My advice would be look to take a break right now,” Leadbetter, who worked with Ko for three years until 2016, told New Zealand’s Radio Sport. “She doesn’t need to play for the rest of the year.
“Just get her head together, relax, get away from the game and rethink this whole thing.”
Ko has changed virtually every facet of her game in recent years, switching coach, caddy and clubs as well as reconfiguring her swing, which Leadbetter said had contributed to her becoming just an “ordinary” player.
“It really is a very sad situation to observe,” he added. “The problem is when you start changing everything.
“As many changes as she’s made, not only coaching, caddies and equipment, and sports psychologists and trainers, she’s also changed her body type now.
“Who knows what’s going on inside her head right now and obviously her team needs (to get) things together there because the longer it goes on, the tougher it is for her to get out of it.”
Part of the blame, he added, lies with Ko’s parents.
“Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance,” Leadbetter said. “They tell her when to go to bed, what to eat, what to wear, when to practice and what to practice. And they expect her to win every tournament.
“They need to let her go, let her fly, let her leave the nest so to speak and find her own way. If she can do that, we could see Lydia back.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)