LPGA heads to Carlsbad for Kia Classic

March 21, 2018

The LPGA Tour makes the second stop of 16 consecutive tournaments in the United States this week for the ninth playing of the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif. at Aviara Golf Club.

17 of the top 20 players in the world highlight what is routinely one of the strongest fields of the LPGA season. Four of the five tournament winners in 2018 are in the field (Brittany Lincicome, Jin Young Ko, Michelle Wie, Inbee Park) along with seven of the eight previous winners of the Kia Classic, including 2017 champion Mirim Lee.

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In 2017, Lee turned a one-shot lead after 54 holes into a six-shot win over So Yeon Ryu and Austin Ernst after a final round seven-under par 65. The margin of victory tied for the largest of any tournament last year along with Eun-Hee Ji’s win at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship.

With the addition of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in Los Angeles and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in San Francisco, the LPGA Tour now boasts a true West-Coast swing, starting in Phoenix and making six stops before heading east to Texas for the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic in May. Golf Channel will air the six LPGA tournaments LIVE in primetime, dubbing the LPGA’s West-Coast swing the #ShowtimeInPrimetime.

What you need to know about defending champion Mirim Lee

Lee’s 2017 victory in Carlsbad was the third of her LPGA career after winning twice in her rookie season in 2014 (Meijer LPGA Classic, Reignwood LPGA Classic)

At 27 years old, Lee has 21 career top-10 finishes on the LPGA including her three wins and six runner-ups

Lee has also tallied three victories on the Korea LPGA (KLPGA)

Lee finished second in the 2014 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings behind Lydia Ko, who won three times that season

Lee is the 24th ranked player in the Rolex Rankings, and one of 11 Korean players ranked inside the top 25

A year older, a year wiser

Arcadia, Calif. native Angel Yin already has a year under her belt on the LPGA Tour and a Solheim Cup victory to her name. Going into her sophomore season after finishing as the runner-up in the 2017 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings, you might think that LPGA newcomers would come to Yin for advice this season.

“No. I’m 19,” Yin said when asked the question. “I don’t think anyone should come up to me for any advice.”

With all of her success, it can be easy to forget Yin is still in her teens. She put together five top-10 finishes on the LPGA in her rookie campaign and ranked fourth on Tour in driving distance last season (272.45 yards). Yin was selected by Team USA Captain Juli Inkster as a captain’s pick for the Solheim Cup and posted a 1-1-1 record as the youngest competitor in the competition. In December, she claimed her maiden professional title at the Ladies European Tour (LET) season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Classic in a playoff over In-Kyung Kim and Celine Herbin.

A new year for the teenager means new goals, and Yin, who ‘likes a good challenge,’ has set some lofty ones.

“I’ve set a few goals, two to be exact. Win an LPGA event, because I feel like my game is there, and play International Crown. Yeah, so that’s my two goals. International Crown it’s harder. I think it’s only four people. But I like a good challenge and I really want to represent my country in Korea this year.”

Carlsbad is lap six in Race to the CME Globe

This week’s Kia Classic marks the sixth lap of the 2018 Race to the CME Globe. With her win at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and two additional top-seven finishes, 2018 LPGA rookie Jin Young Ko has the early lead in the Race to CME Globe with 715 points. HSBC Women’s World Championship winner Michelle Wie is close behind Ko with 679 points, followed by Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic champion Brittany Lincicome with 645 points.

Throughout the season’s 33 official events, LPGA Members will battle for position, with the top 12 players after the Blue Bay LPGA heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with the opportunity to take home a $1 million bonus, the biggest prize in women’s golf.

All tournaments have the same point values except for the five major championships, which carry 25 percent more value. For all events with a cut, points are awarded to members who make the cut, while for events without a cut, points are awarded to members who finish in the top 40 and ties.

Points will be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship following the Blue Bay LPGA, with the top 72 LPGA Members, as well as any non-Member winners and alternates, seeded into the championship field. For the top five players, it’s easy – win the CME Group Tour Championship and take home $1 million. However, the top 12 in the points race all have a mathematical chance to take the title of Race to the CME Globe Champion and win the coveted check.

In 2017, Lexi Thompson became the first American winner of the Race to the CME Globe and the accompanying $1 million prize. She joined Lydia Ko (2014, 2015) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2016) as the only players to hoist the crystal trophy.