(Reuters) – World number one Lydia Ko, who clinched the most recent of her 14 LPGA titles in July before enduring the first barren spell of her young but already stellar career, has split from her coach David Leadbetter after three years working together. Ko and Leadbetter joined forces shortly after she turned professional in late 2013, with the then 16-year-old leaving her New Zealand-based coach Guy Wilson after 11 years in tandem. “These things happen in the world of coaching,” Leadbetter said on his website (www.davidleadbetter.com). “We as a team want to thank Lydia for the privilege of helping her develop her game over the past three years.
“Lydia is not only an exceptional player, but also an exceptional person … we wish Lydia the very best for the future.” Ko’s decision to leave Leadbetter came just two months after she fired her former caddie Jason Hamilton.
The 19-year-old, who was born in South Korea, has not tasted victory since the Marathon Classic in July and has finished outside the top 40 in three of her last six LPGA starts.
Already a double major champion, Ko ended the 2016 LPGA season in second place behind Ariya Jutanugarn in both the official money list and the Race to the CME Globe, and was also pipped by the Thai in the hunt for Player of the Year honours.
In addition, the New Zealander had to settle for second best for lowest scoring average as Rookie of the Year Chun In-gee of South Korea narrowly edged her out to win the Vare Trophy with 69.583 to 69.596.
After Ko fired her caddie in mid-October, Leadbetter cited fatigue as a possible reason for her drop in form.
“Scheduling is one of those things that she’s really got to look at because she has really been burning the candle at both ends,” Leadbetter told Radio New Zealand.
“It’s tough. I mean the way the LPGA tour is set out, they have a lot of their tournaments in a row and a lot of good ones.
“She doesn’t want to disappoint the sponsors and tries to play as many tournaments as she can, but longevity-wise she has really got to pace herself.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)