2019 KIA CLASSIC CELEBRATES 10 YEARS
The LPGA Tour makes its second stop on the West Coast Swing in Carlsbad, Calif., for the 2019 Kia Classic. In its 10-year run, this marks the seventh consecutive time the tournament will be held at Aviara Golf Club. Boasting one of the Tour’s strongest fields, the Kia Classic precedes the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club.
This week sees 74 of the top 80 players in the world teeing it up at Aviara, including nine of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Headlining the 144-player field is No. 1 Sung Hyun Park, who is heading into her fourth consecutive week in the top spot, along with No. 2Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Minjee Lee.
Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji returns to Aviara to defend her title, with the confidence of an early 2019 win at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Joining Ji are seven other past Kia Classic champions— Mirim Lee (2017), Lydia Ko (2016),Cristie Kerr (2015), Anna Nordqvist (2014), Beatriz Recari (2013), Yani Tseng (2012) and Sandra Gal (2011).
The Kia Classic, part of golf’s most global tour, features 94 international players from 27 different countries outside of the United States in the tournament field.
WHO’S IN THE KIA CLASSIC FIELD
- Past Champions (8 of 9): Eun-Hee Ji (2018), Mirim Lee (2017), Lydia Ko (2016), Cristie Kerr (2015), Anna Nordqvist (2014), Beatriz Recari (2013), Yani Tseng (2012), Sandra Gal (2011)
- 2019 Tournament Winners (5 of 6): Jin Young Ko (Bank of Hope Founders Cup), Sung Hyun Park (HSBC Women’s World Championship), Amy Yang(Honda LPGA Thailand), Celine Boutier(ISPS Handa Vic Open), Eun-Hee Ji(Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions)
- 2018 LPGA Rookies (17 of 27):Youngin Chun, Isi Gabsa, Kristen Gillman, Clariss Guce, Jenny Haglund,Becca Huffer, Jaclyn Lee, Jeongeun Lee, Ruixin Liu, Sarah Schmelzel, Klara Spilkova, Lauren Stephenson, Linnea Strom, Elizabeth Szokol, Charlotte Thomas, Alana Uriell, Anne Van Dam
- Sponsor Exemptions: Mariel Galdiano(a), Ji Hyun Oh
- Monday Qualifiers: Katherine Perry, Dori Carter
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE KIA CLASSIC
• The Kia Classic debuted as the Kia Classic presented by J Golf in Carlsbad at La Costa Resort & Spa in 2010, moved north to Pacific Palms Resort & Spa in City of Industry in 2011, went back to La Costa in 2012 and has been held at Aviara Golf Club since 2013
• The Kia Classic has had nine winners from seven countries – Hee Kyung Seo, Mirim Lee, Eun-Hee Ji (Republic of Korea), Sandra Gal (Germany), Yani Tseng (Chinese Taipei), Beatriz Recari (Spain), Anna Nordqvist (Sweden), Cristie Kerr (United States) and Lydia Ko (New Zealand)
• Players from Republic of Korea have the most Kia Classic victories with three (2010, 2017 and 2018)
LYDIA KO READY FOR AVIARA, PREPPING FOR ANA INSPIRATION
Fifteen-time winner Lydia Ko looks forward to making a stop in Carlsbad because of the sunny weather and the friendly crowds. It’s a fun trip down memory lane thanks to her win at the 2016 Kia Classic, but oddly, Ko’s memories from the win aren’t all positive.
“It’s probably not the best thing to remember, but on the final day, on the 10th hole, I double hit my putt, which is not good. I made the next for six or whatever it was, double,” said the 21-year-old Ko. “It was kind of in a little pitch mark just short of the green. I hit it and it went so high up that it hit I think my shaft. Yeah, so technically I double hit it one on the head and one on the shaft. Luckily I was able to keep it together and still make a few birdies coming in.”
Despite her final-round fluke, Ko closed with a 5-under 67 to win by four strokes over Inbee Park for her 11th LPGA Tour career victory. She went on to win the 2016 ANA Inspiration the following week.
“This is a good golf course to I think lead up to the next week. Yeah, no, I guess we play three on the west coast but they’re all different styles,” explained Ko, whose last major victory was that week in Rancho Mirage. “I think like even from last week to this week it’s a bit different. Last week you’re kind of going out for the birdies, trying to make as many putts as you can. This one there are I think a few more tougher holes. Having par is not really you may finish having pars, and that is just not really the end of the world. Pars are going to be good on quite a few holes.”
GREAT MEMORIES FOR BEATRIZ RECARI AT AVIARA GC
2013 was a very good year for Beatriz Recari. The Spaniard took two LPGA Tour wins, the first at the Kia Classic and the second at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I. However, the LPGA veteran has yet to visit the winner’s circle since that year, a streak she can’t wait to break.
“I’m definitely I am really chasing that fourth win. It’s been six years since 2013. You know, I’m patient, but obviously every week I step it up or tee it up I am looking for that next win,” said Recari, who is playing in her 10th Kia Classic. “Coming here it’s definitely a plus for me because I’ve had good results obviously. I won here. Gives me that little extra positive vibe for me to say like, Okay, I can do it. I did it here so I can do it again.”
Recari withdrew from last week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup during the first round because of a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, she is gearing up for a good week at Aviara and is very happy with the direction of her game.
“You know, I’m really excited with where my game is going,” said Recari. “I also tinkered a lot with my game because that’s where it started. The problem started with some poor technique. I feel like my best years are still to come because of all that experience that I’ve gone through and all those years that I feel like — I’m telling, it you feels more than double. Six years feels like, my God. Feels like emotionally 15 years.”
DESIGNATED HOLE FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge will highlight the world’s best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour on top of the Aon leaderboard at the end of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize. The scoring system is identical on both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR, and players will take their best two scores from each Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the season. Players must play a minimum of 40 rounds throughout the season. The Challenge runs across regular season tournaments (29 LPGA Tour; 36 PGA TOUR).
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the Kia Classic is the 16th, a reachable but challenging par 4 where risk and reward lurk in equal measure on and around the green, which is hourglass-shaped with water lying in wait to the left. This hole, a dogleg left, has a generous landing area off the tee but can become especially tricky because of its sloping fairway and uneven lies. Accurate club selection for an approach into an exceptionally deep green is critical, and care must be taken when the pin is cut left.
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
After six weeks of the 2019 Race to the CME Globe, Nelly Korda continues to lead the 2019 Race to the CME Globe with 1,155 points, followed by last week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup champion Jin Young Ko with 1,032 and Eun-Hee Ji in third with 724 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 63 (-9), Shi Hyun Ahn, final round, 2017
36 holes: 134 (-10), Cristie Kerr, 2018
54 holes: 200 (-16), Mirim Lee, 2015
72 holes: 268 (-20), Mirim Lee, 2017; Cristie Kerr, 2015
No. 16, par 4
Tournament: @LPGAKiaClassic, #KiaClassic
LPGA: @LPGA, @LPGAMedia (Twitter), @lpga_tour (Instagram)
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Thursday, Mar. 28 – 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., Golf Channel
Friday, Mar. 29 – 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Golf Channel
Saturday, Mar. 30 – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golf Channel
Sunday, Mar. 31 – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golf Channel