LPGA RETURNS TO SAN FRANCISCO FOR WEST COAST FINALE
This week, the LPGA Tour returns to the Bay Area and Lake Merced Golf Club for the second staging of the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. The tournament marks the finale of the 2019 LPGA West Coast swing, which started in Phoenix at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March and included six stops out west. In two weeks, the LPGA will head east for the Pure Silk Championship in Virginia.
The 144-player field boasts seven of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, led by newly minted No. 2 Minjee Lee, No. 4 Ariya Jutanugarn and top American No. 8 Lexi Thompson, competing for a $1.8 million purse. Five of the 2019 season’s winners are also in the field, including Lee, who won the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open, and No. 7 Brooke Henderson, who won the LOTTE Championship.
The inaugural tournament in 2018 saw Lydia Ko win in dramatic fashion. Ko made a birdie on the final hole of regulation to get into a playoff with Minjee Lee. Then, on the first extra hole (No. 18), Ko hit a 3-wood from 230 yards over a tree to inside 3 feet for an eagle to win her 15th career LPGA title.
NO PLACE LIKE LAKE MERCED FOR LYDIA KO
It was the 3-wood heard around the world. After making a birdie on the final hole of regulation at the 2018 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship to force a playoff with Minjee Lee, Lydia Ko hit her 3-wood 230 yards over a tree to set up an eagle for the win. In Daly City on Tuesday, Lake Merced Golf Club unveiled a permanent plaque at the spot of her 3-wood shot, and Ko reflected on both the shot and the victory.
“That tree in front of the green was pretty high so I knew that I needed to hit it absolutely perfect, and I said, you know what, this is probably my only chance, so I'm going to go for it,” Ko said. “In the playoff, it was kind of a match play format where we're really playing against one other player. So it's hands down probably the best - definitely the best 3 wood I've ever hit and top three of the best shots I've hit in my life, and I'm sure that will still be the case even at the end of my career.”
Ko named the 3-wood, the ace she made in the Rio Olympics and the birdie putt she made on the 72nd hole to win the 2015 Evian Championship as her most memorable shots. Ko’s memories at Lake Merced Golf Club go deeper than her 2018 win, as she also won the 2014 and 2015 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic here and made it to the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
“This is a place where I had my first win as a Tour member. I even have a tattoo of the date here that I won,” said Ko. “It's something that I'm going to remember a lot of. Just come back here and I always get good vibes, and I love seeing familiar faces and seeing the volunteers and the members I've seen, you know, in the years that I've come. It's kind of I feel like they're family.”
Ko’s first Lake Merced title in 2014 kickstarted a record-setting rookie campaign where she ultimately won three tournaments and became the youngest Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year at age 17. She’s still drawing confidence from her past success at Lake Merced Golf Club, saying, “I just love coming back to places where I've played well at. It just gives me good vibes.”
Ko will tee off her title defense on Thursday at 12:59 p.m. off No. 1 alongside Jessica Korda and Shanshan Feng.
RYU WORKING ON BUILDING PERSONAL CONFIDENCE
Former Rolex Rankings No. 1 So Yeon Ryu is known as one of the most introspective players on the LPGA Tour. From journaling to ballet classes to wine nights with her friends, the 28-year-old Korean star makes her personal and mental well-being just as much of a priority as her athletic capabilities. While her 2019 season has not been markedly bad, her average finish of 24th across six starts caused her to assess the state of both her game and her life in general.
“I was thinking about my life, I was thinking about my behavior and then I realized I wasn't really fully confident,” sad Ryu, who referenced Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” as one she found particularly inspirational. “These days I'm really telling myself you're a great player instead of like what can I do better. So I try to be very polite to myself.”
Since making a dedicated focus on improving her mental conditioning following a missed cut at the Kia Classic, Ryu tied for 39th at the ANA Inspiration, tied for ninth at the LOTTE Championship and finished T19 at last week’s HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open. Ryu has seen previous success at Lake Merced Golf Club, finishing T18 at the inaugural LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in 2018. She finished fifth at the 2016 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, held at Lake Merced, and notched two other top-35 finishes at that tournament.
“I know how to play this golf course, so I don't need to worry about any kind of conditions,” said Ryu, who shot a 63 in the first round in 2016, a mark which still stands as the low LPGA Tour round at Lake Merced. “What I need to do is just focus and I know I'm capable to make a lot of birdies out here.”
Ryu will tee off the first round on Thursday at 8:10 a.m. off the 10th tee alongside Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE LPGA MEDIHEAL CHAMPIONSHIP
- The LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship is the final of four LPGA tournaments in California in 2019
- The 2019 tournament purse was elevated to $1.8 million, up from $1.5 million last year; in 2020 the purse will increase to $2 million
- The LPGA played the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club in 2014, 2015 and 2016; Swinging Skirts now sponsors the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship which is being held Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2019, in Taoyuan City, Taiwan
- In addition to hosting an LPGA tournament from 2014-2016, numerous championship events have taken place at Lake Merced Golf Club, including U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifiers, an NCAA West Regional Championship, a U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and a U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship
- Tournament officials flipped the front nine and back nines at Lake Merced Golf Club, so the event ends with the holes normally played as No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
Heading into the LPGA’s West Coast swing finale and the 11th week of the 2019 Race to the GME Globe, two-time 2019 winner Jin Young Ko holds a commanding lead over fellow 2019 winner Minjee Lee in the standings at 2,121 points and 1,492 points respectively. Rolex Rankings No. 11 Nelly Korda is in third with 1,264 points followed by fellow 2019 winner Eun-Hee Ji with 1,144 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 66 (-6) Brittany Altomare, final round, 2018; Annie Park, second round, 2018
36 holes: 135 (-9), Jessica Korda, 2018
54 holes: 205 (-11), Lydia Ko, 2018
72 holes: 276 (-12), Lydia Ko, 2018; Minjee Lee, 2018