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Kia Classic Preview, Pairings, and More

A huge congratulations goes out to Inbee Park for winning the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She did it quite easily playing conservative the front nine and then turning it on down the stretch. For Inbee it was the 19th win of her Hall of Fame career.

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This week the LPGA moves to the state of California for the playing of the Kia Classic. In 2017 most of the tournaments went down to the final hole or to a playoff before the winner was determined. This tournament was not one of them. Mirim Lee blew away the field, shooting a record tying -20 under par score. She won the tournament by 6 strokes over runners-up So Yeon Ryu and Austin Ernst.

Image result for Mirim Lee wins Kia classic
Mirim Lee won the Kia Classic in 2017 with a record tying score of -20 under par.

This will be tournament #6 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the Key Details:

Course:  Aviara Golf Club

Location: Carlsbad, California
Defending Champion: Mirim Lee
Winning Score:  68-68-67-65 = 268 (-20)

Final Field: 144 players
Par 36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,593 yards
Purse:  $1,800,000

My strength of field rating is a very strong 80% (down from 88% last year), making it the strongest field of the year so far. The past three years this tournament had the strongest field of any non major championship. It will probably have it again this year in spite of the small drop off. Sixty-eight of the top 75 players from the LPGA Priority List, and 43 of the top 50 from the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Key players missing from this week's field include: In Gee Chun, Jessica and Nelly Korda, Stacy Lewis, and Amy Yang.

The first round pairings have now been posted.

Here are the television times:
Mar 22 - GC 8:30 PM-10:30 PM ET (Tape)
Mar 23 - GC 8:30 PM-10:30 PM ET (Tape)
Mar 24 - GC 6:00 PM-9:00 PM ET
Mar 25 - GC 6:00 PM-9:00 PM ET

Players Most Likely to Win: (Top players in the field)
1- Shanshan Feng - Holding on to the #1 spot by the narrowest of margins.
2- Lexi Thompson - A win here would put her #1 in rankings.
3- So Yeon Ryu - A win and some help would put her on top.

Players to Watch Out For: (I'm feeling it this week)
1- Brooke Henderson - Loves park-land courses.
2- Inbee Park - Always plays well here.
3- Lydia Ko - Has won here before, and also has a third place finish.

Longshot Picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
1- M.J. Hur - Just a hunch.
2- Hyo Joo Kim - It's time she started playing well again.
3- Moriya Jutanugarn - Will bounce back after missed cut.

Other Tidbits:
This past week's Founders Cup field may not have been as strong as it had been in the past, but don't tell that to Brooke Henderson, Sei Young Park, Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda, Mirim Lee, Jenny Shin or Moriya Jutanugarn who all missed the cut. For Moriya, it was her first missed cut in her last 25 starts. On the other hand P.K. Kongkraphan, who had missed nine cuts in a row, made the cut.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Ariya Jutanugarn jumps back into the top five. She jumps 2 spots from #7 to #5. Inbee Park leaps up from #19 to #9. Marina Alex continues her surge jumping from #48 to #37.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)
Jin Young Ko continues to lead with 715 points. She is followed closely by Michelle Wie with 679 and Brittany Lincicome with 645. Jessica Korda (620) and Ariya Jutanugarn (572) round out the top five.

Who's Hot:
Ariya Jutanugarn's 2nd place finish was her third top ten finish of the year. She joins Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee, and Jin Young Ko for the tour lead.

Amy Yang, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Austin Ernst are the only tour members to have four top 25 finishes.

Who's Not:

Mirim Lee has failed to register a top 25 finish in her four starts this year.

Alison Lee has not finished better than 68th in her four starts this year.

This Week's Trivia Question: 

In the eight previous years that this tournament has been played, we have had winners from seven different countries (let's see if you can go two for two).
A) Can you name the only country whose players have won this event twice?
B) Who is the only American to win this title? 

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

Here are the final results:

1 Eun-Hee Ji -16 F
2 Cristie Kerr -14 F
2 Lizette Salas -14 F
4 Jane Park -13 F
4 Kris Tamulis -13 F
4 In-Kyung Kim -13 F
7 Jeong Eun Lee -12 F
7 Anna Nordqvist -12 F
7 Wei Ling Hsu -12 F
10 Brittany Lincicome -11 F
10 Caroline Masson -11 F
10 Jin Young Ko -11 F
10 Hye Jin Choi -11 F
14 Aditi Ashok -10 F
14 Bronte Law -10 F
14 Hee Young Park -10 F
14 Carlota Ciganda -10 F
18 Charley Hull -9 F
18 Inbee Park -9 F
18 Cindy LaCrosse -9 F
18 Caroline Hedwall -9 F
22 Mi Jung Hur -8 F
22 Brooke Henderson -8 F
22 Michelle Wie -8 F
22 Pernilla Lindberg -8 F

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.  They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog. 
Tournament results will be posted here at the end of each round. Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found on the right side of this page 
(or on pull down menu on mobile website).


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