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David Leadbetter has launched an extraordinary broadside at the parents of Lydia Ko, blaming them for the former world No.1’s slump in form.

Former child prodigy Ko, 22, has won 15 times on the LPGA – but only once in the last three years. She also missed the cut in the last two major championships and has fallen to 24th on the women’s world rankings.

At the time of writing, she’s 39th on the LPGA’s Race To CME, with only three top-10 finishes to show for her 16 starts this season.

The root of the problem? According to her former coach Leadbetter, it’s her parents.

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“It really is a very sad situation to observe,” Leadbetter told a radio station in Ko’s native New Zealand. “Her team have to be thinking that they have made some huge mistakes taking an unbelievably talented player and turning her into ordinary.

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“I hope she gets it back but restoring confidence is never the easiest thing to do.

“Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance.

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“I’m angry, I’m sad because to me I know what she’s capable of doing. And to see her play like this, it’s just very sad to see.”

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After three successful years together, Ko fired Leadbetter in December 2016 at the end of a season in which the Kiwi won four times. He blamed her parents for the surprise sacking then and doesn’t appear to have changed his view in the near three years since.

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“I think her parents need to sort of let her go and do her thing. She’s 22 years of age now,” added Leadbetter. “She could control her own career. She should know what’s best for her.

“She’s not a 12-year-old anymore. They need to let her go, let her fly, let her leave the nest so to speak and find her own way. If she can do that, I mean yeah we could see Lydia back.”


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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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