This week at the Kia Classic

Yani Tseng
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Yani Tseng of Taiwan celebrates birdie on the seventh hole during the third round of the Kia Classic at the La Costa Resort and Spa.

Week of March 18, 2013
Kia Classic
Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

Top Storylines

Changing of the guards
It was a storyline all week in Phoenix at the RR Donnelley Founders Cup last week, that Yani Tseng could possibly lose her spot as the No. 1 ranked player in the world, the title she’s claimed for 109 consecutive weeks. Certain scenarios were plotted and both No. 2 Na Yeon Choi and No. 3 Stacy Lewis needed wins in order to reach the pinnacle in women’s golf and take over the top ranking.

After three solid days of play, the Texas native Lewis found herself in contention and with some extra motivation from an event that happened on the 16th hole during her third round. Instead of starting Sunday’s final round two shots behind Japan’s Ai Miyazato, Lewis sat four shots off after incurring a two-stroke penalty for her caddie testing the fairway bunker. A viewer at home called in the infraction on Travis Wilson, who has been on Lewis’ bag since the start of her career on the LPGA Tour in 2009, and also sparked Lewis’ competitive fire for the final 18 holes.

“I’d like to thank them for the extra motivation,” Lewis said.

She went head to head with Miyazato for the most of the first 15 holes until the Japanese star made an uncharacteristic mistake on the 16th where she took an unplayable behind the green to take a double bogey. Lewis birdied the hole for a three-stroke turnaround and took the lead for the first time. She’d finished out birdie-par for a final-round 64 for the win and reached the goal she had her eyes set on since last year. It was Lewis’ seventh-career victory and first time she’s had back-to-back wins in her career. With the win, Lewis became the seventh different player to be ranked No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings since they started in 2006 (Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr and Yani Tseng) and the second American to Cristie Kerr who held the spot for five weeks in 2010.

 

Back to the pursuit
It will be a big week for No. 2 Yani Tseng in Carlsbad as the world will be watching how the Taiwanese star bounces back from losing the No. 1 ranking and if she can successfully defend her title at the Kia Classic. The tournament marks the last event Tseng has won, a drought that has spanned over 23 events.

Tseng has been vocal about the struggles of staying at No. 1 for such an extended period of time and it might just be exactly what the 24-year old needs to get back to her dominating ways. After Lewis clinched her win in Phoenix, Tseng make it obvious she’s ready to do the chasing.

“Congrats Stacy, You deserve this world number 1 Great job !! Happy for you! I am about to start chasing world number 1 now @Stacy_Lewis” –tweet from Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) on Sunday night

 

New course, another new winner?
The Kia Classic will once again host the top stars in women’s golf but will do so at another course this year, the third different course in the event’s four-year history. Aviara Golf Club will be the site of this year’s event after being played at La Costa Resort and Spa in both 2010 and 2012 and Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms in 2011. The tournament has celebrated three different champions and could easily see its fourth this week. Hee Kyung Seo (2010), Sandra Gal (2011) and Yani Tseng (2012) will play in hopes of their second Kia Classic victories.

 

Other players to look out for: “U.S. Solheim Hopefuls”
Jessica Korda- The talented 20-year has had a rock-solid opening to the 2013 season, finishing in the top-20 in all four of her starts including two top-five finishes in her last two events. She’s coming off a tied for fourth finish last week at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and will be a player U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon has her eye on leading into August. Korda currently ranks 8th in U.S. Solheim Cup points and will be making her case to earn a spot on the team for the first time in her career.

Lizette Salas­- The former University of Southern California star has been making her case to make the U.S. squad and has gotten off to a strong start in 2013. Salas has posted three top-15 finishes in four starts and recorded a career-best tied for fourth last week in Phoenix where she carded four sub-70 rounds. She also had a little extra motivation after receiving a putting lesson and having dinner with her idol and mentor Nancy Lopez. Salas says she’s more comfortable on the course since her rookie season a year ago and it would be no surprise if the Azusa, Calif. native has a breakout year in 2013. 

Quick facts

March 21 – March 24
Kia Classic
Aviara Golf Club
Carlsbad, California
Field: 144
Par:  36-36, 72
Yardage: 6,593
Purse: $1,700,000,
Winner:  $255,000
Format: 72-hole stroke play
Defending champion: Yani Tseng
 
TV Times
Golf Channel
March 21     6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
March 22     6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
March 23     7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
March 24     7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
All times Eastern
   
2013 LPGA Tour rookies (18)  

Chie Arimura                                        
Julia Boland                                         
Esther Choe                                                   
Lauren Doughtie                                   
Victoria Elizabeth                                 
Austin Ernst                                         
Daniela Iacobelli                                   
Felicity Johnson                                               
Sara-Maude Juneau                                         

Moriya Jutanugarn
Taylore Karle
Caroline Masson
Lisa McCloskey
Kayla Mortellaro  
Brooke Pancake
Nicole Smith
Marina Stuetz
Ayako Uehara 

This week’s field information: Kia Classic

Rolex Rankings
Top 10/10
Top 22/25

2012 LPGA Official Money List
Top 10: 10/10
Top 20: 20/20
Top 50: 50/50

Past Champions
2012 – Yani Tseng
2011 – Sandra Gal
2010 – Hee Kyung Seo

This week on the Symetra Tour
The Symetra Tour returns to action this week for the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at Lake Region Yacht and Country Club in Winter Haven, Fla. Megan McChrystal (Stuart, Fla.) will set out to defend her title. The top-10 players on the tour’s season-ending money list will earn exempt status on the LPGA Tour.

Topics: Storylines, Kia Classic

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