AS USUAL, PARK IN THE MIX ON SUNDAY
LPGA Hall of Fame member Inbee Park doesn’t play much, but when she does, she’s usually in the hunt. The former World No. 1 tied for second at the 2019 Kia Classic, just missing a putt on No. 18 that would have given her solo possession of the runner-up spot.
“Just unfortunate day with the putter. Never wanted to go in,” said Park, who is known for her prowess on the greens. “Just that kind of day. I just have to take it. I think it's still a very good momentum going into next week.”
Since qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2016, Park has gradually cut down on her tournaments in the United States. In 2017-19, she played in a combined 31 events with 22 top-25 finishes, including wins at the 2017 HSBC Women’s World Championship and the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She is also active on the KLPGA Tour, with five top-five finishes in that same time span. Even with her limited playing schedule, she still sits No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, the fourth-ranked Korean player behind Sung Hyun Park (No. 1), Jin Young Ko (No. 4) and So Yeon Ryu (No. 5).
MUNOZ HAPPY WITH UPWARD TREND
A year after going public with her battle with Hashimoto’s Disease, Azahara Munoz is happy to finally find her game on the right track. The Spanish star, who won the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship for her only LPGA victory, finished tied for second at the Kia Classic, her fourth top-six finish of the 2019 season.
“I think I'm maybe working on the right things. Now I'm like I have a goal on things I want to work on and I don't move away from that,” said Munoz, a veteran of three European Solheim Cup Teams. “Just making things simple. I'm also feeling much better, which really helps. Things have been clicking. My attitude has been a bit better as well. I think everything is adding up.”
Munoz has more than 40 top-10 finishes to her name but is still looking to capture that elusive second win. But while most players would understandably be frustrated with that drought, Munoz maintains that she’s happy with the direction of her game and is keeping her eyes focused on the future rather than the past.
“Obviously the goal is winning and I would love to hold that trophy again, but I think I'm doing the right things,” said Munoz. “The more I put myself in that situation, the more chances I'm going to give myself, and I believe eventually it's going to happen.”
HYO JOO KIM SHOOTS LOW ROUND ON SUNDAY
Three-time LPGA Tour winner Hyo Joo Kim tied the Kia Classic’s 18-hole scoring record set on Saturday by Mi Jung Hur, shooting a bogey-free 10-under 62 on Sunday to finish tied for seventh at -14 overall.
“I had a bit of a rocky start today; from holes 1 to 5 I missed a couple of putts,” said Kim, who made six birdies in a seven-hole stretch mid-round. “My birdies on No. 10 and 11 were probably the most important ones for the round. After making those, I just felt like I had more confidence to continue with that streak.”
The 23-year-old went on to birdie No. 15, eagle the par-4 16th and make one final birdie at No. 18, giving her a good rhythm to carry with her to next week’s major.
“Playing well today in my last round, I felt like I had a really great rhythm, and I want to continue that going into next week's major, the ANA Inspiration,” said Kim, who already has a major victory at the 2015 Evian Championship. “If I can play well like I did today, that's going to give me a lot of confidence. That's the hope and the expectation.”
Rolex Rankings No. 7 Nasa Hataoka (69-70-64-67)
- In 2019, Hataoka has played four events with four cuts made, with one victory and two top-20 finishes
- Hataoka is the seventh different winner of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; the season’s first winner from Japan
- This is Hataoka’s first win of a 72-hole event; her previous wins at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G and the 2018 TOTO Classic were both 54-hole events
- Hataoka is in her third season on the LPGA Tour; she is a three-time winner—her last win was at the 2018 TOTO Japan Classic
- This is Hataoka’s fourth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T16 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America
- Hataoka competed in her third Kia Classic this week; prior to her win, her best finish is T58 in 2018, with a T59 finish in 2017
CME GROUP CARES CHALLENGE – SCORE 1 FOR ST. JUDE
The CME Group Cares Challenge is a season-long charitable giving program that turns aces into donations. CME Group will donate $20,000 for each hole-in-one made on the LPGA Tour in 2019, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $500,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Cristie Kerr and Jodi Ewart Shadoff had aces this week at the 2019 Kia Classic. There have been five made prior to the week and a total to $140,000 has been donated thus far in 2019.
LEADERS TOP 10 COMPETITION
The LEADERS Top 10 competition awards a $100,000 bonus to the LPGA player with the most top-10 finishes through the completion of the event held immediately prior to the CME Group Tour Championship. In the event of a tie in total top-10 finishes, the award will go to the player with the most official wins, followed by most second-place finishes, third-place finishes, etc., until the tie is broken.
Through the first five events of the LPGA season, Nelly Korda is leading the competition with five top-10 finishes and in second, Azahara Munoz and Jin Young Koand with four top-10s each.