If you looked up consistent in the dictionary, you would see So Yeon Ryu.
She continues to shine on the course adding another top 10 in Hawaii to an already impressive list, having amassed 25 top-10s including one win in 50 LPGA Tour events.
Ryu recently picked up her first win since 2014 at the ANA Inspiration and has been the picture of consistency, with an active streak of 61 consecutive cuts made dating back to the 2014 Reignwood LPGA Classic. Ryu’s last LPGA victory came in 2014 when she took home the title at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, and it had been nearly six years since she won her first major title, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.
“She is a very solid player,” Annika Sorenstam told LPGA.com. “She makes very few mistakes and has very few weaknesses in her game. Consistency is what drives that stat.”
Ryu had been waiting, saying she was even “desperate to win” again. Between Ryu’s last win in August 2014 and her victory at the 2017 ANA Inspiration, she played in 61 LPGA Tour events resulting in 42 top 20 finishes, including six times a runner-up (two each year in 2015, 2016 and 2017). The elusive win finally came with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Lexi Thompson for her first win in nearly three years.
How does a player stay motivated between long periods without a win?
“In this case, it seems like So Yeon is continuing to get better as a player every year. She has probably been the most consistent player this year so far with one victory and 5 top 10 finishes,” Sorenstam said. “That is a motivating factor in and of itself. Other players work hard to achieve their goals and winning is not always the driving force. Even if it is the driving force, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You can have an amazing week, but someone just plays one shot better.”
It’s difficult to maintain the kind of consistency Ryu has maintained throughout her career, but doing so has earned her the title of No. 2 in the world. She’s been ranked in the top 10 in the Rolex Rankings for 22 consecutive weeks and has been ranked inside the top 13 for the last five years.
“As a player, you have to pace yourself, physically and mentally. Finding balance in training and competition and rest is crucial,” explained Sorenstam. “When I had long streaks of made cuts, I was never worried about making cuts. I was trying to win and making cuts was a byproduct of that.”
During the final round of the ANA Inspiration, a viewer submitted feedback via LPGA.com that they believed Thompson had incurred a penalty during the third round. Ryu was notified about the ruling involving Lexi Thompson; she was playing a few groups ahead.
For a player to receive this kind of news during tournament play, it can affect not only their mindset but also how they finish out the day. Ryu was able to birdie the par-5 18th hole in regulation to take the clubhouse lead.
“It has a huge effect, especially in a major championship. This particular situation is very rare, but of course, it affects all the players one way or the other,” said Sorenstam. “It can either affect a player’s strategic approach, or it can be a mental setback. It certainly changes the dynamics, but you have to stay focused and keep playing your game. That is exactly what So Yeon Ryu did. It was an unfortunate incident, but not So Yeon’s fault. She did what she needed to do.”
Ryu’s victory at the ANA Inspiration makes her the first player in 2017 eligible for the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which will be presented at the Evian Championship, the season’s final major, to the player with the best performance in the majors throughout the year.
Ryu’s performance in majors since 2015 includes seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts. In 2016, Ryu finished tied for fourth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, tied for eighth at the RICOH Women’s British Open and in a tie for second at the Evian Championship.