The LPGA Tour returns to La Costa Resort and Spa this week for the third-annual Kia Classic.
Defending champion Sandra Gal will test her game on a new golf course after defeating Jiyai Shin by one stroke last season at Pacific Palms outside of Los Angeles. Gal, who fired rounds of 67-68-70-71, captured the victory with one of the season’s most dramatic shots, a clutch wedge from 83 yards to three feet for a birdie and the victory. She went on to earn five additional top 10 finishes in 2011.
Yani Tseng is in the field this week after earning her 14th LPGA career victory at the RR Donnelley Founders Cup on Sunday. She became the fastest to reach the $8 million mark in career earnings, taking 4 years, 1 month and 2 days to reach the mark and accomplishing it in 99 events. The previous record had been held by Lorena Ochoa, who reached the $8 million mark in 4 years, 4 months, 16 days. It took Ochoa 115 events to pass the mark.
Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu, each of whom finished in the top five last week, are all hungry for a victory to kick-start their 2012 season.
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Choi has recorded two second place finishes this season, finishing just one stroke off Angela Stanford’s pace at the HSBC Women’s Champions and behind Tseng at the Founders Cup.
Miyazato bumps up to Rolex Rankings No. 7 after her second place finish last weekend. She has also posted two second place finishes this season, both falling short to Tseng by one stroke. She has placed in the top 10 in three starts so far.
Ryu tops the Rolex Rookie of the Year charts with 198 points after a fourth place finish last weekend. She opened the 2012 season with a tie for second at the ISPS Handa Australian Open after a playoff with five others to fall just behind Jessica Korda. Ryu finished tied for 11th two weeks later at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.
The Kia Classic debuted at La Costa Resort and Spa in 2010, when sponsor exemption Hee Kyung Seo won the event as a member of the Korea LPGA (KLPGA). Seo went on to join the LPGA Tour in 2011, winning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2011, the tournament moved north on I-5 due to renovations at La Costa. The 2012 edition of the Kia Classic will be played on the South Course at La Costa Resort and Spa.