World's best Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn team up ... sort of

Michael Dodge/Getty Images

World's best Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn team up ... sort of

LPGA Tour

World's best Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn team up ... sort of

Lydia Ko begins her 2017 season in Australia and at least one question already has been answered.

How will Gary Gilchrist juggle so many top players? They’ll work together.

The top two players in the world – Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn – played a practice round together on Tuesday at the ISPS Handa Australia Women’s Open.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” said Ariya of what could be become a common occurrence.

It’s not unusual for players who employ the same instructor to play together early week at events. But it is unusual that three of the top four players in the world use the same teacher. Not to mention the fact that Gilchrist isn’t even in Australia to watch their practice round.

“Back when we grew up, pros helped pros get better,” said Gilchrist. “You didn’t get a lesson from a coach. You got a lesson from another pro.”

He has encouraged that type of mindset among his players. Ko said they’ve already worked out a good match for the Orlando-based friends: Yani Tseng and Ariya vs. Ko and Moriya Jutanugarn.  

“Actually, when I was in Orlando, I played with Paula (Creamer), Yani and Shanshan (Feng) and we are all with Gary,” said Ko. “I think it’s great. I think it just shows what kind of a coach Gary is and at the same time it gives trust to me, trying to see what he’s done with these girls.”

One of the reasons Creamer became one of the world’s best at a young age, Gilchrist said, was that she came to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as a teenager and trained alongside the best. 

“I think life goes on and you get successful and then you go to Isleworth and you practice and you play and you don’t really play with other girls. It’s like Mark O’Meara getting to play and practice with Tiger Woods. It helped him win two majors.

“This young generation, you can let them intimidate you or you can use them and learn from them and actually learn to beat them.”

Ko said Gilchrist changed her setup, her club position at the top of the backswing and the speed of her hips. She has gained distance with her new PXG clubs and feels the irons are “really forgiving.”

“Even though there’s been a lot of changes,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to come back off of a break off December and get back into training and get back into preparing for the season.”

As for Aryia Jutanugarn, who had a pedestrian start to the year in the Bahamas, her main goal for the year centers around her mental approach.

“I have to be more focused,” she said. “I have to be more committed with every shot I hit the ball.”

Gilchrist runs an academy in central Florida with 60 students from around the world, so most of his time spent with LPGA pros will be during their off-weeks. He will be at the majors, the Solheim Cup and a sprinkling of regular events.

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