LPGA Tour finally reaches US with Kia Classic


CARLSBAD, Calif. – It’s almost Easter, and the LPGA Tour is finally getting around to holding its first tournament in the United States.

The tour began with stops in Thailand and Singapore, took a break of nearly a month and will resume with the inaugural Kia Classic at La Costa starting Thursday.

The first regular-season LPGA stop in the San Diego area since 1993 will feature a field worthy of a major, which makes sense since the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, will be played next week in Rancho Mirage.

The field includes the top 10 players in the rankings, led by No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, and 49 of the top 50 players from the LPGA’s 2009 money list.

Among the top 10 are No. 3 Ai Miyazato of Japan, whose back-to-back victories made her the first player since 1966 to win the first two official events of the year, and Michelle Wie, who won her first professional tournament at the end of last season.

While glad to be back in the United States, Brittany Lincicome understands why the LPGA has gone global.

“My thing is, it’s wherever the money is, really. Whoever’s going to believe in us and give us a sponsorship, I mean, that’s where we’ve got to go,” she said.

Most players had a long stretch overseas because the first two tour events were followed by the Australian Ladies Masters.

“Obviously we’d like to see more tournaments in the United States,” Lincicome said. “But I am not opposed at all to going to Singapore, Thailand, Australia. I fed kangaroos out of the palm of my hand. Like, who does that? There’s a lot of cool things you can do in a lot of cool places, but obviously we’d like to see more tournaments here in the states.”

The LPGA Tour will make its debut at La Costa, which formerly hosted the Mercedes Championships and the Accenture Match Play Championship before those tournaments moved elsewhere.

“It just makes sense to have a golf tournament in such a beautiful area,” Lincicome said. “The weather is absolutely perfect 90 percent of the time.”

Most of those in the field haven’t played La Costa before, but the elite 20-player Samsung World Championship was played in September just down the freeway at Torrey Pines’ challenging South Course.

“I’m sure it’s going to kind of be set up the same,” Lincicome said. “It’s long, which is good. I’m sure the greens are going to be super fast, so just kind of keep it in play is your No. 1 goal. If you keep it in play and have a short iron to the greens, you’re going to score well.”

Then again, there’s Wie’s way of looking at it.

“A golf course is a golf course, and it depends on how well you play that week,” she said. “When you’re playing great, every golf course seems exactly fit for you, and when you’re not, everything is wrong. I think it’s a really fun golf course. It’s a great track and in good condition and one I want to play on.”

Wie earned her elusive first professional win at the end of last season at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, which has her more motivated than ever.

“It just felt so rewarding that I wanted to do it over again,” she said. “It was such a high that I want to do even better and just keep winning. I could see what I could do and what I could become. It was really motivating. I feel like this past offseason I’ve been more determined and more motivated than I’ve ever really been.”

So far this year she’s had a tie for 22nd and a tie for 15th.