The 20-year-old Thai remains leader in the player of the year award and the Race to CME Globe although she could only claim a joint 43rd finish at the LPGA Malaysia last Sunday (Oct 30).
However, Ko regained the top spot in the money race with earnings of US$2,451,642 (B85.8 million) – just $3,744 (B131,150) ahead of the Thai – following her tied 12th place in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is possible for sure for Ariya to topple Lydia,” Leadbetter told the Bangkok Post.
“She is a great player and a long hitter.”
The Englishman, who is Ko’s coach, said a powerful and young player like Ariya could be the one to beat in women's golf.
“She seems to get over an injury now. She is young and when you have somebody with that sort of power, it is amazing.
“She can be very dominant. Lydia has to keep working hard to stay as No.1.”
Ariya has won five tournaments this season including the Women’s British Open, while Ko has won four including the ANA Inspiration.
Leadbetter added that a golfer is not a machine and Ariya could become fatigued in the closing stages of the season.
“Players need rest to be fresh,”' he said.
Ariya has played 26 tournaments this year, four more than Ko.
In an interview with www.lpga.com, the 19-year-old Ko said that she and Ariya are likely to fight for the season-ending awards until the last tournament.
“I think we both have two events left. We are going to go to the very end,” said the New Zealander, who has won 14 LPGA titles.
“But whatever happens, I think it’s a year and a season that I'm proud of. I am going to hope for a good finish the next two weeks.” Both will join the 54-hole, $1.5 million Toto Japan Classic this week and then skip the Lorena Ochoa Invitational to prepare for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship to be held in Florida from Nov 17-20.
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