In this week's column, Joy Chakravarty looks at Lydia Ko's decision to dump coach David Leadbetter and Bryson DeChambeau's trademark side-saddle putting stroke.
During the Franklin Templeton Shootout last week, American Bryson DeChambeau unveiled his much talked about ‘side-saddle’ putting stroke.
For those who haven’t yet seen the video, DeChambeau stands facing the hole with the ball slightly right in front of his body. He then swings the putter forward.
Of course, what you’ve got to take care of during putting is that you are not straddling the line of
the putt. That would make it illegal.
The purists can close their eyes in horror, but ‘The Scientist’ made it work for him. He drained short putts consistently and poured in a few 15-20 footers.
But I bring DeChambeau up, just to segue into what’s happening with ladies world No1 Lydia Ko. Most people who watched DeChambeau putt had just one question – why? It’s not as if he was struggling massively on the greens.
At 1.757 average putts, he would have finished tied 38th on the PGA Tour. However, DeChambeau’s big change is nothing compared to what Ko has done towards the end of the season.
It started with the 19-year-old not having the best of finishes to the year. Despite ending as No1, her last of four wins in 2016 came way back in the Marathon Classic in mid-July.
In October, she fired long-time caddie Jason Hamilton. She did not even wait for the season to end, doing it with just three tournaments remaining.
In November, she reportedly agreed to a deal with new equipment manufacturers Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG). She will therefore end her relationship with Callaway, who have been a part of her ascent to the top right from her amateur days.
And then came the biggest shocker last week when she dumped coach David Leadbetter. They have worked together since 2013 and the partnership resulted in 12 LPGA victories, including two majors.
People close to Ko say she believes Leadbetter’s decision to change her swing – so that she hits more draws and increases her distance – has led to the loss of form.
If that is the real reason, the sacking of Hamilton seems inexplicable. And if she feels that she is struggling with her golf, this isn’t the best time either to change her clubs.
Leadbetter has another theory – he believes the problem is Ko’s interfering parents. In an interview, Leadbetter said: “Her parents are lovely people but I think they’re a little bit naive.
Lydia’s not a machine — she can’t play well week-in and week-out. She’s not going to win every week.”
Whatever the reasons for the split, it will be extremely interesting to see what decisions Ko takes
next. The spotlight will be firmly on her in 2017, and her being the world No1 won’t be the only reason.
The putting genius
Talking of putting, Harold Swash, famously known as ‘Britain’s Putting Doctor’ passed away last week aged 83.
Swash was one of the first coaches to focus solely on putting. A production engineer by trade, he was fascinated by the art and science of putting. Not only was he a coach, he also designed putters, and established the Harold Swash Putting School of Excellence (HSPSE).
During his time, Swash coached several European greats, including Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
The HSPSE is now owned by Phil Kenyon, one of the foremost putting experts in the game who
works with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson.
The ranking game
With just one tournament remaining in the year that will count towards the world ranking – the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour – all eyes will be on who finishes the year inside the top-50.
It’s important because it guarantees a start at the Masters and the first couple of World Golf Championship events.
There is only one player who can make a difference – Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee – who is currently ranked 52nd and will probably improve to 50 if he wins the tournament, which is scheduled for December 22-25.
The three biggest jumps in the elite group of world rankings have all been achieved by European Tour players – Alex Noren moved from 96 at the start of the year to nine, Tyrrell Hatton jumped from 104 to 24 and Rafael Cabrera-Bello from 114 to 27.
Stat of the Week
308 – yards, the drive of Lexi Thompson while playing the 17th hole during first round of Franklin Templeton Shootout. She then hit a 5-iron from 200 yards to seven feet for an eagle.
Earlier this year, Thompson recorded a 359-yard drive on the LPGA Tour’s Lotte Championship.