After winning the 2024 LPGA season opener at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Lydia Ko talks about shifting her mindset following a frustrating 2023

Did you learn a lot about yourself from your 2023 season?

I cry a lot would be something that I learned. I'm like, man, I got to get the faucet to stop crying! My mom says that, too, you cry a lot. Last year was hard because I won in Saudi, which was my first event of the season, and then I thought I would ride the high and hit a top 10 in Thailand.

My ball striking started not being as solid from there onwards. I think missing the cut at Chevron, yeah, it sucks to not play the weekend, but I took it as too big of a deal. I think so many great things happened that hit me a lot harder. Maybe it might have been better if I had just been a little bit more level headed and been like, hey, this is just not my week. I just got to focus on what are the things I need to get better at.

I think I was so impacted just by the result and that's what led me to a few months of struggling, feeling like I'm walking on quicksand. But having a one-under-par round and then backing it up with another under-par round the next day, those small things really mattered.

Taking small wins is an important thing when we're out there.

You have mentioned previously that you weren't sure if you were going to win again. What gets you to that point and how do you pull back from that?

I don't think it takes much to get you to a point where you are unsure if you'll win. I'm playing alongside the best female golfers week in, week out. You know that your B Game is probably not going to cut it. You need to put four solid rounds, and then, hey, you might be in contention or around the top of the leaderboard.

It's just when things don't go your way and you feel like you put in the right work but the results don't show, then you kind of start to wonder, like is my time ever going to come? That thought has come across my mind before. I guess winning in Hawaii, it was my first win in three years. I'm pretty sure in those three years and even in 2020 where I had a lot of Top 10s, I still wondered, oh, maybe I'm only going to have Top 10s. That might be the highest place I get to.

When you win I think it definitely gives you a sense of relief then just to say, hey, I can do it. But there is no way around thinking that it's easy to win. I think golf is one of the random sports, the only sport where random people think, oh, I could totally beat her, or if I played on tour I would win like three times in a season.

I say nobody is probably doing that about hitting home runs or being champion in other things. Golf in a way, because it is so relatable, people think it's easy, but it's not. In my 11 years, I've seen the Tour grow so much and the level of play is so high that to be able to win a week like today, is just pretty cool. But you know that you’ve got to keep pushing yourself to your limits and working hard, because none of it comes easy.

What was the lowest point last year for you?

I played really well in the first round of Arkansas last year, and then I put myself in good position and on the second day. I went to like the 13th hole or something and it took me three or four chips to get on the green. I struggled that day. I think I came back to the room and I was like, I have no idea why I can't back up one good round after another. I don't feel like my game is miles off. Why can't I put the score together?

Sometimes it might be an ugly looking two-under-par and might like, oh, could have been a five, six under, but you shot two-under. There are very different ways of doing it.

I was honestly crying in my little room at Stay Bridge Suites thinking, hey, what's going to be at the end of this tunnel? But I talked to my husband and he was like, why are you putting those expectations on yourself? In a way I was like, of course I’ve got to put those expectation on myself. I'm not going to go out there feeling like I'm not going to play well.

At the same time, it's true. He's right. I can't connect my identity to golf all the time and feel like not as good of a person if I don't shoot a good score. If I'm honestly crying after every single bad round, then that's just a lot of energy burnt. So I think I should have taken a much more positive mindset, but because I had been struggling, I think I was affected by the little things more.

Does it take a win to pull you out of that I'm-never-going-to-win-again mindset, or is there middle ground somewhere?

For me, I don't think there is a middle ground. If you have ten second-place finishes that's awesome. To even finish second that many times or even like second place, two, three times, that shows the level of golf you're playing. But to win, I think there is a different notch. To be able to finish strong when there is stuff on the line is different.

For me personally, winning gives me a different realization to say I can win and be back in the winner's circle.

This week Lydia Ko will be teeing it up at the Drive On Championship at Bradenton Country Club in Bradenton, Florida where Celine Boutier will be back to defend her title.