NO. 1 LYDIA KO IS BACK
Lydia Ko will make her 2016 debut at the event where she became the youngest Rolex Rankings No. 1 in the history of the LPGA Tour, the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers.
While Ko didn’t walk away with the title in Ocala, her runner-up finish allowed her to overtake Inbee Park and become the youngest player in history to take over the top spot, besting Jiyai Shin’s record by nearly five years.
The strong start at Golden Ocala was just the beginning of a great season for Ko, who went on to win five times in 2015 en route to earning Rolex Player of the Year Honors.
Beginning just her third season on Tour, Ko has rewritten the record books with 11 wins, becoming the youngest player in LPGA Tour history (18y/6m/1d) to reach 10 career wins and besting Nancy Lopez’s record (22y/2m/5d) by more than 3 1⁄2 years. Additionally, Ko won her first major at the 2015 Evian Championship to become the youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history (18y/4m/20d), beating Morgan Pressel’s previous record (18y/10m/9d) and was the youngest male or female major winner in the modern era and youngest since Young Tom Morris (17y/5m/8d) at the 1868 Open Championship.
2015 CHAMPION NA YEON CHOI FUELED BY VICTORY
As the Tour returns to Ocala, Fla., this week for the second edition of the Coates Golf Championship presented by R&L Carriers, no one is feeling quite as good as Na Yeon Choi. Last year Choi ended a two-year winless drought here at Golden Ocala, a span that seemed like an eternity for the nine-time LPGA winner. She then used the momentum of that win to break through again in June of last year at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, joining Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr and Sei Young Kim as the only multiple winners on Tour last year.
In addition to the flood of memories that came back on site, Choi loves this event because of the proximity to her home in Orlando, Fla. She drove the hour and 15 minutes up and has her mom and multiple friends in tow with her this week. She also has the familiarity of playing in Bermuda rough and on Bermuda greens from her time in Orlando.
“I’m very happy to be back, and all the people are so nice, and they all remember last year,” Choi said. “I’m very happy, and my mom is here, all my friends are here from Orlando, so I’m really looking forward to this year, and I played 18 today. The course looks the same as it did last year. I have confidence with this course. It’s not going to change any strategy.”
Choi edged world No. 1 Lydia Ko here a year ago with Choi taking the title and Ko becoming the world’s top ranked player, the youngest in the history of golf to take over No. 1. That Sunday it appeared Ko would take the title from Choi, too. On the 15th hole, Choi hit her approach to six feet for birdie and Ko had 50 feet for birdie, but Choi three putted for bogey and Ko drained a bomb to take the lead. The lead was short lived though as Ko made an uncharacteristic double bogey at the 17th hole and Choi converted a difficult up and down to take a one-shot lead and hold on at the end.
“I think this win lowered all my sorrows really,” Choi said. “I was struggling with my game the last two years, like 2013 and ‘14, and then I started to do well in 2015, and I think that’s why I finished a good season 2015, and also I could win again at Arkansas.”
U.S. OPEN CHAMP IN GEE CHUN MAKES ROOKIE DEBUT IN OCALA
2015 U.S. Women’s Open Champion In Gee Chun will be making her much-anticipated LPGA rookie debut at the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers.
The 22-year-old, who has played in 11 events on the LPGA Tour in her career, is coming off an outstanding season on the LPGA of Korea (KLPGA) where she won five times and earned Player of the Year honors. In her career, Chun has eight KLPGA victories, two wins on the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) to go along with her U.S. Women’s Open victory.
Chun, whose nickname is Dumbo and who has a Korean fan club called “The Flying Dumbos” is one of the most popular players in Korea as she was voted the “Most Popular Player” by the fans and named the “Most Influential Player” by the Korean media.
HYO JOO KIM COMING OFF VICTORY IN LPGA SEASON OPENER
Hyo Joo Kim used a final-round 66 to claim a victory at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic for the third victory of her young career. The 20-year old finished the week at 18-under par and two shots clear of Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis, defending champion Sei Young Kim and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist.
Kim said earlier in the week that she wanted to win twice on the LPGA before the Olympics in August. Now that she already has one under her belt she’s looking for more starting this week in Ocala.
“Yeah, well, I’m going to reevaluate my goal,” said Kim. “I want to win three times before the Olympics, so I’ve got one down, two to go now.”