NAPLES, Fla. – Jin Young Ko walked out onto the lawn behind Tiburon Golf Club’s clubhouse about 30 minutes before her 10:05 a.m. tee time Friday morning. She linked up with her caddie, David Brooker, and headed straight for the practice area that abuts the first tee, bypassing the range. There she hit 10 chips, four bunker shots, struck a few putts and off she went.
Neither the abbreviated warmup nor a nagging left-wrist injury seemed to bother Ko much on this day, as she fired a bogey-free, 7-under 65 to move inside the top 10 through 36 holes of the CME Group Tour Championship.
“Not perfect,” she said afterward, “but I hit a lot of fairways and greens, as well, and I made a lot of putts.”
Ko entered this week’s LPGA season finale with much on the line. Not only can she make $1.5 million by winning, but she also can capture Rolex Player of the Year honors. She needs to win or finish second and hope that Nelly Korda finished 10th or worse to achieve the latter.
But she also hasn’t been in the best of health. Ko said Friday that she has been battling the wrist injury since May, and her practice has been limited at times. Her second-round playing competitor, Lydia Ko, said Jin Young told her that she hasn’t done a single warmup since last week.
“Golf is hard enough playing with 100% health and beautiful weather,” Lydia Ko said, “but to have lingering injury, it's one thing to just feel pain, but when you know at the back of your mind that you could feel pain, you kind of back out of it, so the level of golf she's been playing with that shows she's a grinder.”
At one point Thursday, with Jin Young on the 11th hole, Brooker told his player that she could withdraw. “There is no point if you have a really bad injury,” Jin Young said, recalling the message.
“But I said, ‘Yeah, I'm sick right now, but I don't want to withdraw from the tournament. … The prize money is $1.5 million. I am not going to withdraw.’”
After gutting out an opening 69 Thursday, Jin Young declined to speak to the media, instead heading straight to get treatment. She iced the wrist Thursday night and then heavily wrapped it for Friday’s round.
There is still pain during both her backswing and downswing, and hitting driver is most painful, but she’s managing.
“This tournament is the last tournament of the year, so everybody is injured a little bit, little things, but same as the other person,” said Jin Young, who is six shots off of Celine Boutier's lead and a shot back of Korda. “I hope it gets better.”