Round 4 - Cristie Kerr wins LOTTE ChampionshipApril 15, 2017
Cristie Kee fired a final round 6-under 66 to win capping a string of 52 holes without a bogey.
“It feels amazing,” she said of her win. “You know, on Friday morning I wasn't playing too well and then I just found something and was able to turn it on and I just kept it going. I can't remember two and a half days after I struggled with my swing feel, and then made so many birdies in my life. It was an unbelievable run.”
Kerr's 268, 20-under total broke the tournament record and moves her into fifth on the LPGA Money list. She is the second American to win on Tour this year after Brittany Lincicome won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Kerr finished three shots ahead of Lydia Ko, Su-Yeon Jang and In Gee Chun.
Ko's 8-under 64 was the round of the day Saturday in spite of having put a ball in the water on the second hole and bogeying as a result. She made up for it with eight birdies in the last 12 holes.
“Going into the day eight shots behind, there is a huge difference between eight and five, for example,” she said. “With how the girls are playing, it's just really hard to mend the gap. Considering where I was after the first day, I'm pleased with where I finished.”
“I've been playing solid, but not a lot has come together the last few events,” she explained. “Even my top 10 finishes I had earlier in the season I was struggling with the putter. It was definitely nice to be able to putt a lot better this week, even though I wasn't hitting the ball as good. It helps when you know you're able to make the par and birdie putts, and have the opportunities.”
Round 3 - Su-Yeon Jang still leading in HawaiiApril 14, 2017
After further rain delays, Su-Yeon Jang is in position to become the first sponsor invite since Lydia Ko to win on the LPGA. She is currently three shots ahead of Cristie Kee and Alena Sharp after firing a 7-under par 65 with no bogeys.
“I had a great feeling for my shots and putting today. Because I had to finish up the second round this morning and playing another 18 I was a little bit tired, but I know I'm so far away from home and I traveled so long to play this tournament, so I try to tell myself just to suck if up and have a good time and play a good round today.”
Kerr played the course and tournament record with a 10-under 62 on Friday and is hoping for her first LPGA win since 2015.
“Everybody says about being in the zone (but) I just kind of stayed out of my own way, which is what I have to do to have a chance tomorrow,” said Kerr. “I hit it fine. I stayed out of my own way and I had a good time with my caddy, Brady. It was a lot of fun today.”
Round 2 - Sponsor invite Jang takes lead in LOTTEApril 13, 2017
Su-Yeong Jang finished her second round in the lead after play was suspended due to darkness.
“Overall, my shots didn't feel particularly solid, but my putts fell really well and gave me a number of birdies,” Jang said. “There were some risky moments, but I think a bit of luck during those moments and helped me end with a good score.”
The last sponsor invite to win on the LPGA was Lydia Ko at the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open which was also the last time an amateur won an event.
Round 1 - Play suspended due to heavy rain, Lee and Creamer leadingApril 12, 2017
Mi Hyang Lee and Paula Creamer top a packed leaderboard. They played 6-under 66 to lie one ahead of five players in second place at 5-under.
Play was delayed for 44 minutes due to a heavy rainstorm which left standing water on the greens. Play was suspended at 7:04 local time.
The LPGA returns to the Hawaiian island of Oahu this week for the sixth playing of the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY. The 144-player field includes 80 of the top 100 players in the world and five of the seven tournament winners from this season competing for a $2 million purse at Ko Olina Golf Club.
In 2016, then 19-year-old Minjee Lee shot a bogey-free 64 in the final round to finish at 16-under and secure the second win of her career, and the first of her two wins last season. The Aussie held off American Katie Burnett and the Republic of Korea’s In Gee Chun by a single stroke after both missed long birdie opportunities on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff.
With her win, Lee became the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to capture multiple victories before her 20th birthday joining a list which includes Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge and Sandra Haynie (Brooke Henderson joined this list with her win at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship).
What You Need To Know About the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY
• 3 – HERSHEY is in its third year as the presenting sponsor of this event
What You Need To Know About Defending Champion Minjee Lee
• No. 18 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, and the top-ranked Australian player in the world
Who's In The Field
• Past LOTTE Championship Winners (3):
2017 Winners (5):
Brittany Lincicome (Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic), Amy Yang (Honda LPGA Thailand), Inbee Park (HSBC Women's Champions), Mirim Lee (Kia Classic), So Yeon Ryu (ANA Inspiration)Hawaiians At Home
Two Hawaiian-born players are in the field at the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY - Michelle Wie and Brittany Yada.
Wie was born in Honolulu, HI on Oahu and is a 2007 graduate of Punahou School. She is currently ranked No. 75 in the world (has been as high as No. 2 in her career) and is a four-time LPGA winner, with her last win coming at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Wie has played in this event every year since 2012 and is the only American to win the LOTTE Championship (2014).
Yada was born in Hilo, HI and is a 2009 graduate of Waiakea High School. She has competed primarily on the Symetra Tour where she has one career top-10 finish at the Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay. Yada will be making her second career LPGA start this week (played in the 2016 Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC) and her first ever appearance in the LOTTE Championship.
Ko Olina Is Lap Eight of Race to CME Globe
This week’s LOTTE Championship will mark the eighth event in the season-long Race to CME Globe. Thanks to five top-10 finishes in her five starts in 2017 including a win at the ANA Inspiration, So Yeon Ryu is atop of the current standings with 1,425 points.
In 2017, the reset points for the Race to the CME Globe will be modified slightly. As a result of these modifications:
Every Week Counts For Solheim Hopefuls
The Solheim Cup will return to U.S. soil at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 18-20, 2017. With just four months to go, the battle for a berth on Team USA will intensify given that Solheim Cup points are worth double for each of the five majors (ANA Inspiration, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship).
Throughout the 2017 LPGA season, Solheim Cup points, which determine eight of the 12 American golfers who make the team, will double and increase by one-third during the year’s other LPGA tournaments. The increase in awarded points means players can make big moves in a hurry by carding a top-20 finish this week at the season’s first major.
Juli Inkster will return as captain for the U.S. squad while LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam will lead the European team which will be looking to bring the cup back across the pond.
As of April 3, Rolex Rankings No. 5 Lexi Thompson leads the USA team standings with 484.5 points, followed by No. 15 Stacy Lewis with 347.5 points and No. 19 Gerina Piller with 313.
New No. 1 On The Horizon?
Lydia Ko has spent 76 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 player in the world after reclaiming the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in October of 2015. However, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and new World No. 2 and ANA Inspiration champion So Yeon Ryu of the Republic of Korea have emerged as clear challengers and could overtake Ko’s position at the world’s best female golfer in the near future.
A year ago, Ariya was No. 51 and was looking for her first career win on the LPGA Tour. Since March 2016, Ariya has not finished outside of the top 60 in an event and has recorded 5 wins to position herself towards earning the top spot.
Ryu is riding a streak of eight consecutive top-7 finishes dating back to last season and currently holds the longest active cuts made streak on the LPGA, making it to the weekend in 60 consecutive starts.
Jutanugarn had spent 35 consecutive weeks ranked as the No. 2 player in the world before being overtaken by Ryu last week. Seven months ago, the average points differential between No. 1 and No. 2 in the world was 6.57 points. This week, the difference is now 0.91 average points.
Lee Mounts Title Defense
Minjee Lee returns to Ko Olina this week looking to defend the second title of her LPGA career. At the age of 19 last year, Lee became the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to capture multiple victories before her 20th birthday joining a list which includes Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge and Sandra Haynie (Brooke Henderson joined this list with her win at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship).
Her final round 64 matched the best round of her career and allowed her to hoist the first of two trophies she would claim in 2016 (also won the 2016 Blue Bay LPGA) and perform her first ever hula dance.
“The first nine I wasn’t really thinking about too much,” Lee explained. “I was just playing my game. I think I had like 4-under the front nine, and then the back nine, from 13, I think I had a really good finish.”
There's No Place Like Home
For obvious reasons, the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY ranks as the Honolulu’s own Michelle Wie’s favorite event on Tour. This week, Michelle gets the chance to stay at home, play in front of friends and family on the course she grew up playing and show her fellow Tour players “just what Hawaii is all about.”
“I’m just really excited to be home,” Wie said. “It’s just always I look forward to this event more than any other event just because I get to come home and I get to my friends and eat all the good food and play at Ko Olina.”
Wie has now played in five events without missing a cut, finishing inside the top 35 in each of her last five starts including a sixth place finish at the ANA Inspiration, her best finish in a major since winning the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. 2014 was also the year Wie became the only American to win the LOTTE Championship.
The start to her 2017 has drawn similarities to three years ago - Wie had three top-10s heading into Hawaii in 2014, including a runner-up finish the tournament before at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has two top-10 finishes this year and was again in contention in her last start at ANA.
“There is a lot of great memories to draw upon from that season (2014). You know, coming here, feeling confident, I think it’s always a good thing.”
The last time Wie made the cut in more than five consecutive starts was a streak of seven consecutive tournaments to end her 2015 season.
Inbee Happy To Be Back in Form
A year ago, Inbee Park walked off of the 18th at Ko Olina Golf Club finishing T68. What the golf world would come to learn was that Inbee was dealing with a left thumb injury that would cause her to withdraw from her next couple of events, miss the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and then miss the remainder of the 2016 season.
Miraculously, Inbee was able to capture Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but she didn’t return to LPGA play until the 2017 Honda LPGA Thailand. Then in just her second start since Rio at the HSBC Women’s Champions, the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer captured the 18th career LPGA win. She has three top-5 finishes in five starts so far this season.
Park talked to the media on Tuesday about being able to truly enjoy the game after spending some time off.
“I had some really good times and bad times, but it was a very good time for me to realize what I have to realize and be able to appreciate what I am doing, what I didn’t appreciate before as much as now.”
Brooke Henderson missed the cut for the first time in 20 starts at the Kia Classic and nearly missed making the weekend at the ANA Inspiration, but made the cut right on the 2-over line. The 19-year-old Canadian rebounded by playing Saturday and Sunday in Rancho Mirage at 7-under par and will look to carry some momentum from those final rounds into Ko Olina where she finished T10 in her lone LOTTE Championship appearance last year.
Henderson only has one top-10 finish in 2017 after ranking second in that category in 2016 (15 top-10s in 31 starts).
“I feel like I gave myself a lot of good momentum for the rest of the season by coming here to Hawaii, so hopefully kick start something again in my season this year,” Henderson said.
What Does It Take To Be No. 1?
This week at the LOTTE Championship presented by HERSHEY So Yeon Ryu can become the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings if she wins AND Lydia Ko finishes 5th or worse. Ryu must win for a chance at the top spot. If Ryu wins, Ko remains No. 1 with a second, third or fourth place finish.
Ariya Jutanugarn cannot become No. 1 this week even with a win.
There are several scenarios for Ariya to become No. 2 again depending on the finish position of Ariya and So Yeon this week, which will be something to monitor as the rounds progress, but Ariya must finish ahead of So Yeon to pass her. Ko does not play a factor in Jutanugarn returning to No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings.
“It’s the paradise. Once you come here you forget about all the worries.”
- In Gee Chun on playing in Hawaii this week
• Minjee Lee was one of nine players with multiple wins on the LPGA Tour in 2016, and one of three teenagers to win last season (Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson).