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
- -19 – Tournament record 72-hole score set by Suzann Pettersen in 2013
- 62 – Tournament-low score (-10), shot by Lizette Salas in the final round in 2013
- 3 – Defending champion Minjee Lee is one of three past champions in the field
- 5 – Five different countries have been featured in the winner’s circle in the event’s five-year history
- 2012 - The LPGA Tour returned to Hawaii for this event in 2012 after a three-year absence from playing in the state (last played the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Oahu in 2009)
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
- Three-time LPGA winner including two in 2016 (also won the 2016 Blue Bay LPGA) - she was one of nine players last season with multiple wins
- One of three teenagers to win on the LPGA Tour in 2016 (Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson)
- One of 15 players to exceed $1 million in season earnings in 2016 (12th on money list with $1,213,902)
- Represented Australia in the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing T7
- Won the Oates Victorian Open on the ALPG Tour as an amateur in 2014
- A two-time member of Team Australia at the UL International Crown (2014, 2016) with a 1-4-1 overall record
- Member of the victorious Australian team at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship
- Has two top-10 finishes so far in 2017, finishing T3 at both the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the ANA Inspiration (her best career finish in a major championship)
Who's In The Field
- Past LOTTE Championship Winners (3):
- Minjee Lee (2016), Michelle Wie (2014), Ai Miyazato (2012)
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:
- The top five finishers entering Naples will control their own destiny at the CME Group Tour Championship
- - - meaning if they win in Naples, they will also win the $1M CME Globe.
- The top 12 finishers entering Naples will have a mathematical chance to win the $1M CME Globe.
- Please note that previously, the top three controlled their destiny and top nine had a mathematical chance
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.