Jin Young Ko tees off at the fourth hole during the final round of LPGA's DIO Implant LA Open golf tournament on April 2 in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Having put a nagging wrist injury behind her, South Korean LPGA star Ko Jin-young thinks she couldn't be in a better spot as she gears up for the first major championship of the season.
"Mentally and physically, everything is perfect," Ko said at a press conference ahead of the Chevron Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods, just outside Houston, Texas, on Wednesday. The competition tees off Thursday at the par-72 Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.
"This course is not easy, but I'm ready to enjoy it," Ko continued. "I'm ready to play."
Ko had a particularly difficult stretch in the second half of the 2022 season, missing three cuts and withdrawing from another in a four-tournament span from August to November while struggling with the wrist injury. Ko also fell from the No. 1 spot in the women's world rankings in the process.
The 27-year-old has been in fine form so far in 2023, though. Now world No. 3, Ko successfully defended her title at the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore last month. It is one of three top-10 finishes she has posted in four starts this year.
"I had a tough season last year, but my wrist is getting better," she said, noting that the wrist is "about 80 percent" healed. "It's really good now. I don't need to think about it much."
While recovering from the ailment, Ko said she changed her game a little bit. She used to hit a draw, getting the ball to travel from right to left, but she is now hitting it either straight or with "a little bit of fade," meaning the ball now cuts from left to right. Ko added the new ball flight allows her to put more spin on her approaches.
"That means more chances for birdies," she said. "I think my game has changed a bit over the last year, and I am playing aggressively this year. My game is pretty good now."
But Ko said she will have to pick her spots on the par-72, 6,824-yard course.
"This course is not easy for an aggressive play," she said. "The first few holes are really long, but on par-5s, I have a chance to make birdies. Par-3s are kind of long, but it's OK. This is a major."
Ko won this tournament in 2019, when it was still called the ANA Inspiration and was played at its signature track, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
Under the new corporate sponsor, the tournament has moved outside California for the first time. With that, the annual tradition of the champion jumping into "Poppie's Pond" by the 18th green may have ended too.
The final hole at the Nicklaus course does feature a pond, though defending champion Jennifer Kupcho said earlier she had some misgivings about taking her leap because "I think there might be snakes in the water here."
Ko, on the other hand, is fully committed to jumping into the pond.
"I'm ready, 100 percent," she said. (Yonhap)