The defending 2018 Kia Classic Champion sits at (-3), T18 and trailing leader Chella Choi by four shots. She has found the winner’s circle three times in the last three seasons. Her victory at Diamond Resorts to open this season, her Kia Classic victory, and Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship in 2017. The victory in Taiwan broke an eight-year winless streak for Ji, who joined the LPGA Tour in 2007.
Today, Ji turned to her irons to carry her, highlighted by four birdies in a row on the 5th through 8th holes. It’s been a focal point of Ji’s practice.
“Focusing on my putting and my ball striking, just keep focusing on it,” the 32-year-old described the reasoning for her career renaissance.
The stats back up her persistence to improve. She averaged 51st in putts per round during her eight winless seasons, improving to averaging 14th over the last three years. Her greens in regulation also improved from averaging 52nd up to 33rd over the past three seasons.
Those focuses have kept Ji in the mix on Sunday more than ever this season. In 2017 and 2018, she was within five shots of the lead twice each season. In four events this year, she’s done that three times already. The five-time winner is at the top of a game aging like fine wine, with an opportunity to become the first two-time winner of the Kia Classic this weekend.
Another important aspect for Ji is keeping it fun during her thirteen-year career. She was ecstatic when groupmate Cristie Kerr hit a hole in one at the 14th hole during the opening round. It was the same hole Ji hit a hole in one on to help close out her 2018 victory. Describing Kerr’s shot with a smile, “She hit it great, a little bit short, but just bouncing to the hole. It was great seeing that.”
Ji tees off the second round at 7:55 A.M. on the 10th hole, continuing to improve and continuing to enjoy the Tour she’s been a part of for 13 years.