New Jersey is a place of welcome for World No. 1 Jin Young Ko. In 2021, Ko tied for second at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Atlantic City and then traveled north to West Caldwell where Ko was technically the defending champion of the Cognizant Founders Cup. Ko had won the event the last time it was played in 2019 in Arizona but did not immediately defending her title after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ko went out and secured a wire-to-wire victory to secure another title, her third of five wins last season.
“Last year before the Founders I finished second at the ShopRite. I three-putted on last hole so I couldn't get in the playoff, so I was a little sad, so I didn't practice on Monday in New Jersey, and I went to New York City, and then I had great food with my family,” said Ko. “In the first round I got seven or eight birdies, so a little help to set emotions, so that's the good memories in New Jersey last year.”
Since last July, Ko has made 14 starts, where she’s won a total of six times and has finished sixth or better in 11 of those appearance. Her total score to par is -168 during that period, with 73.6% of her rounds in the 60s. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Ko ranks currently in the top 15 on Tour in strokes gained ball striking (15th) and strokes gained short game (ninth), and is the only player ranked in the top 15 in both statistical categories. Coming off a solo second finish at the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America, where she recorded a final-round 66 to finish just one stroke back of victor Marina Alex, Ko said she took advantage of the off-week to reset heading into her week in Clifton.
“I practiced just two days in off week, so when I got here, I forgot how to play golf. It feels weird. I practiced a lot on Monday, Tuesday, and I play pro-am today. It's coming a little bit better for tomorrow,” said Ko.
The 13-time LPGA Tour winner, who set the Tour’s record for most consecutive rounds in the 60s (16) as well as the record for most consecutive sub-par rounds (34) earlier this season, is now aiming to be the first player to record a three-peat in an LPGA Tour event since Inbee Park at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship from 2013-2015.
“Fairways are really hard, but it depends on the windy. If downwind maybe I will get sand wedge or 52, but if into the breeze and the pin on the back pin, maybe or 6- or a 5-iron, so it's going to depend on the wind,” said Ko. “I love this golf course. It's tough. Greens are fast, and the rough is thicker, and a lot of bunkers greenside, so I practiced a lot of bunkers on the practice area.”