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Kia Classic Preview, Pairings, and More

A Huge congratulations goes out this week to Jin Young Ko  for winning the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Ko's final round 65 was good enough to come out on top by one stroke over Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Carlota Ciganda, and Yu Liu. For Ko, it was her 3rd victory on the LPGA Tour (second as an LPGA member).
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This week the LPGA moves to the state of California for the playing of the Kia Classic. Eun-Hee Ji will be trying to defend the title she won last year when she fired a final round sixty-seven to win by two strokes over Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas.

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Eun-Hee Ji holds up her winning trophy.

This will be tournament #7 of 33 on the 2019 LPGA schedule.

Here are the Key Details:
Course:  Aviara Golf Club
Location: Carlsbad, California
Defending Champion: Eun-Hee Ji
Winning Score:  70-68-67-67 = 272 (-16)
History: This is the 10th year for this tournament

Final Field: 144 players
Par 36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,558 yards
Purse:  $1,800,000
Race to the CME Globe: 500 points
Aon Risk Reward Challenge Hole: 16th (par four)

My strength of field rating is a very solid 80% (the same as last year). It ties the Bank of Hope Founders Cup as the strongest field this year. Sixty-nine of the top 75 players from the LPGA Priority List, and twenty of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings will be in attendance. The field will be led by top five ranked players: Sung Hyun Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee, Jin-Young Ko, and So Yeon Ryu. Players skipping the event this week include: Nelly and Jessica Korda, Charley Hull, and Georgia Hall.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
Mar 28 - GC 9:00 PM-11:00 PM ET (Tape)
Mar 29 - GC 8:30 PM-10:30 PM ET (Tape)
Mar 30 - GC 7:00 PM-9:00 PM ET
Mar 31 - GC 7:00 PM-9:00 PM ET

Players Most Likely to Win: (Top players in the field)
1- Sung Hyun Park - World's number 1, by a very small margin.
2- Ariya Jutanugarn - A win here should put her back on top.
3- Minjee Lee - Had a rare poor result at the Founders Cup.

Players to Watch Out For: (I'm feeling it this week)
1- Danielle Kang - Well rested.
2- Cristie Kerr - Always plays well here.
3- So Yeon Ryu - Needs to play well or lose her top 5 ranking.

Longshot Picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
1- Charlotte Thomas - Biggest surprise of the year so far.
2- Bronte Law - Finishes in the top twenty every week.
3- Marina Alex - Due for a real good one.

Other Tidbits:
Nelly Korda's 2nd place finish was her 5th top ten finish of the year (5 for 5). Nobody else on the LPGA Tour has more than three. She is in the midst of one of the best streaks in recent memory, as her last starts in 2018 resulted in finishes of 1st, 19th and 2nd place. She now has six consecutive top ten finishes, and eight straight top twenties. 

Charlotte Thomas' 6th place finish this week (she also finished 2nd at the ISPS Handa Vic Open)  surprisingly puts her on top of the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year standings.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Jin Young Ko makes the most important move this week, jumping up five spots to #4. Nelly Korda continues her assault to the top, climbing up two more spots to #6. She is now the #1 American player in the world. Yu Liu leaps up from #71 to #47. Emma Talley jumps into the top 100 (and becomes part of my strength of field rating) leaping up from #104 to #97.

Race to the CME Globe:   (Top 60 point earners to compete for $1.5 million first place prize).
1- Nelly Korda continues to lead with 1,155 points. She is followed by Jin Young Ko with 1,032, and Eun-Hee Ji with 724.

Aon Risk Reward Challenge:   (1 million dollars)
Jessica Korda, Hee Young Park, and Na Yeon Choi, are all tied for the lead with a score of -1.50. They are followed by Mirim Lee -1.167, and Carlota Ciganda -1.125.

Who's Hot:
Brooke Henderson's 8th place finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup was her 3rd top ten of the year. She finished 15th in her only other start.

Who's Not:
Lizette Salas has failed to register a top twenty finish in any of her four starts this year.
Pernilla Lindberg has already missed three cuts.

This Week's Trivia Question:
The first two years that the Kia Classic was held (2010, 2011), both winners won their first and only LPGA event. Can you name them?


Here are the final results:

1 Nasa Hataoka -18
2 Jin Young Ko -15
2 Danielle Kang -15
2 Azahara Munoz -15
2 Sung Hyun Park -15
2 Inbee Park -15
7 Hyo Joo Kim -14
7 Chella Choi -14
7 Gaby Lopez -14
7 Mi Jung Hur -14
7 Thidapa Suwannapura -14
12 Stacy Lewis -13
13 Katherine Kirk -12
13 Lydia Ko -12
13 Jing Yan -12
16 Jeongeun6 Lee -11
16 Mariajo Uribe -11
18 Jenny Shin -10
19 Moriya Jutanugarn -8
19 Xi Yu Lin -8
19 Shanshan Feng -8
19 In-Kyung Kim -8
23 Eun-Hee Ji -7
23 Kristen Gillman -7
23 Jodi Ewart Shadoff -7
23 Pernilla Lindberg -7
23 Haru Nomura -7


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).

Comments

  1. I notice that you studiously avoid picking Lydia Ko as a potential tournament winner.
    Looking at your "Players to Watch Out For" and 'Longshot picks' this week you seem to have once again selected players with much poorer 2019 form than Lydia. Do you have a problem with Lydia?

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    2. Thanks for the comment Roger. No I don't have a "problem" with Lydia. I just don't think she is a favorite to win anymore. She ranked 134th in driving distance in 2018. The LPGA ranks only 158 players. The rest of her game has to be perfect for her to win. Its hard to win when other players are hitting wedges into the green, and you are hitting 4 and 5 irons. Do I think she will win again? I think so. But she isn't the threat she was 3 years ago. She has won only once in her last 63 starts dating back to the end of the 2016 season. She was #1 in the world rankings in 2016, she is currently #15.

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