If ever there was a player who demonstrates the art of focusing simply on the club and the ball in front of her, it’s Jin Young-Ko.
It’s this focus that has taken the 27-year-old to the point of undisputed world number one female golfer; yet as if proving the point of game management and a focus on the intricacies, rather than the bigger picture, this is someone who has risen to the peak of the game despite having not won a major in three years.
In 2019 she went 114 consecutive holes without a bogey – an achievement that saw her surpass Tiger Woods’ total. Yet when she let a relatively straightforward simple par putt slip to the left of the green at the Cambia Portland Classic in Oregon, the South Korean star responded two holes later with a sensational 20-footer.
As she tells RSNG in this interview, not placing any single shot above another in importance is the secret to her composure…
RSNG How have you remained at the top of golf’s ratings for so long?
JIN YOUNG-KO “To say the answer is ‘consistency’ perhaps sounds like I am being too simplistic, but my route to playing well is to move everything back to the center.
“The process has served me well for many years, and I now can’t play any other way.”
RSNG Specifically, what does that entail?
JIN YOUNG-KO “For me it’s not getting too involved in the detail. I will play a guest event like I’ll play a major; I’ll play hole 1 like I play hole 18.
“In my early years I worked very hard. I had a lot of good advice along the way, and that helped me take a lot of emotion out of golf. I used to get too energetic, or angry, or irrational about bad shots or unlucky lies, and that was no good.
“My game management now is focused around acceptance.”
RSNG Acceptance as in ‘what will be will be’?
JIN YOUNG-KO “Not really, because I don’t think that’s true. I feel the life of a golfer has to be about knowing you have the ability or a plan to change a situation.
“Acceptance, for me, is in knowing good and bad luck will come along the way. It’s in knowing it is in the human condition to sometimes play shots that are miscalculated or just lazy.
“I can forgive myself that because I’m human; just like when opposite human traits, the good ones, are what bring me success and happiness on a course.”
I think we beat ourselves up unfairly for a missed putt, but excuse a tee shot that ends up in the rough – yet they cost you the same.
RSNG So when you say you come back to the center, you mean you are resetting on every shot?
JIN YOUNG-KO “Yes and it’s about trying to get to a place in your head where no single shot is any more valuable than another.
“When we play a round of golf, every shot counts in equal quantity. Missing a putt does not cost you any more in real terms than missing the fairway.
“So while I try to make sure the pressure is on for every approach shot to the green, I tell myself that the pressure is off for every putt, because it’s all the same thing.
“I think we beat ourselves up unfairly for a missed putt, but excuse a tee shot that ends up in the rough; yet they cost you the same. In fact, a bad tee shot may well cost you a lot more than a bad putt.”
RSNG What is most likely to derail you from being in such a place of concentration?
JIN YOUNG-KO “I can handle most things on a course. Perhaps the weather is the thing that can affect me most – changing weather, or very hot conditions.
“Sometimes my concentration moves to a different place where there is so much going on around me, but that is a good thing to admit because it keeps me trying to change and improve who I am and how I play golf.”
RSNG Is it realistic to carry through that mindset over several hours though?
JIN YOUNG-KO “I think if you work hard at taking the emotion out of something, you can get so good at it that it can last for hours, days, and maybe even a whole career.
“Of course I love playing golf and I enjoy winning, and I take real pleasure out of every single moment, but pleasure and pressure are very close, so calming both, right up until I hole out on the 18th, is a great tool for me.”
Focus should only really ever be on the game, not the statistics away from the course when everyone has gone home
RSNG Are you saying though that winning a small tournament means equating it in just the same way as winning a major?
JIN YOUNG-KO “Of course, the big tournaments are the ones we all want to win, but I believe that will come over time, and if I have a period where I am only winning a certain type of tournament, that’s fine, because I am winning.
“It’s the same reason I don’t pay much attention to world rankings. They are only a reflection of what you are doing on the course, so surely the focus should only really be on the game, not the statistics away from the course when everyone has packed up and gone home.”
IMAGE Jin Young Ko bb68.jpg
RSNG What is your post-round routine? Do you find it hard to move out of a place of such focus?
JIN YOUNG-KO “It is tiring, and of course that is the same for everyone. My post-round routine is really just about eating, sleeping, relaxing, stretching, and catching up with friends. I think every golfer will tell you they need downtime, and that is no different for me.”
WHAT NEXT? Find out how US LPGA star Lexi Thompson used muscle and fitness to power up her game in [this RSNG interview[(https://uk.rsng.com/categories/sport/building-power-and-muscle-in-the-gym-has-helped-lexi-thompson-develop-subtle-strengths).