Spotlight on top seeds Ko, Jutanugarn, Chun, Park at Ochoa Match Play

By Randall MellMay 2, 2017, 9:20 pm

Who are the match-play dynamos in the LPGA ranks today?

We get a chance to see beginning in Thursday’s start of the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Match Play in Mexico City with match play making its return to the LPGA.

It’s the first time the tour has featured a match play tournament since the Sybase Championship folded up following the 2012 season.

Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun and Inbee Park are the top four seeds at Club de Golf Mexico.

The field of 64 was based off the LPGA money list, with the world rankings used to determine seeding.

Three of the top 10 in the world rankings won’t be playing. Lexi Thompson is defending her title at the Salonpas Cup in Japan. So Yeon Ryu and Amy Yang also aren’t scheduled to play.

There is still a lot of firepower, however, with Ko the top seed in the Lorena Ochoa bracket, Jutanugarn in the Annika Sorenstam bracket, Chun in the Juli Inkster bracket and Park in the Se Ri Pak bracket.

Ko’s bracket is formidable, featuring Shanshan Feng, Brooke Henderson, Suzann Pettersen and M.J. Hur as the next best seeds. Ko opens Thursday against Mexico’s Ana Menendez, who is one of two sponsor exemptions into the field.

Chun’s bracket includes Sung Hyun Park, Stacy Lewis, Jessica Korda and Mo Martin as the next best seeds. Michelle Wie is also in that bracket. Chun opens against Mexico’s Laura Gonzalez Escallon, an LPGA rookie.

Inbee Park’s bracket features Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull, Carlota Ciganda and Karine Icher as the next best seeds. Ciganda won Ochoa’s event as a stroke-play tournament last year. Park opens against China’s Peiyun Chien.

The best first round matchup might be the young and younger matchup of Hull, 21, and Nelly Korda, 18, who is off to a strong start in her rookie season.

The 64-player format features single elimination with the finals scheduled for Sunday.

Ochoa, Inkster, Sorenstam and Pak won’t just be enjoying having their names atop brackets in this week’s competition. They’ll be playing each other in exhibition matches on Saturday and Sunday. 

For Inkster and Sorenstam, the American and European Solheim Cup captains, respectively, this week also offers a chance to see how potential team members fare in match play. The Solheim Cup is still almost four months away, but there are impressions to be made.

Wie opens against fellow Solheim Cup hopeful Lizette Salas. They’re both Solheim veterans currently sitting outside the current point qualifying. Wie is 12th in points, Salas is 14th. The top eight in points following the conclusion of the Ricoh Women’s British Open in August automatically qualify.

Morgan Pressel, an American Solheim veteran, has thrived in match play formats. She’s a U.S. Women’s Amateur champ with a 10-7-2 record in five Solheim Cups. She will be looking to make an impression this week as she takes on European Solheim Cup veteran Caroline Masson in a first-round match.

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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.