Players to Watch
Jin Young Ko
The new No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings headlines the field at the LOTTE Championship, where eight of the top 10 in the world will compete this week. Jin Young Ko is currently one of the hottest players on the planet with two wins in her last three starts, including her first major victory at the ANA Inspiration. Plus, Ko hasn’t finished outside the top 5 in five of her last six starts. But how she’ll perform this week in Hawaii is a mystery, as Ko is making her debut this week at Ko Olina Golf Club.
There’s something about playing on the island of Hawaii that brings out the best in this Thai player’s game. It could provide the spark Ariya Jutanugarn is looking for in what has been a slow start for the Thai to the 2019 season. The No. 3 ranked player in the world arrives in Hawaii off a T61 finish at the season’s first major championship and hasn’t finished better than T8. But Jutanugarn has three top 10s in Hawaii, including a T3 in 2018, to lean on as she looks to return to the winner’s circle in 2019.
When it comes to windy, island venues, Minjee Lee is a player to watch. Both her victories in 2016 came on islands at the Blue Bay LPGA and the LOTTE Championship. The comfort and familiarity she’s found playing in challenging conditions could be the key to lifting Lee to the winner’s circle for the first time in 2019. She’s coming off a T21 in her last start at the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.
“I would love to win a few more times out here. I know it's extremely tough. Every single week there are so many talented players. I'm just happy that I'm one of them. Hopefully I can contend a little bit more. The sky is the limit.” – Brooke Henderson following her victory at the 2018 LOTTE Championship
Brooke Henderson Defends
In 2018, Brooke Henderson bounced back from a third round 73 to win the LOTTE Championship for her sixth victory on the LPGA Tour. Henderson opened with rounds of 68-66 to take a five-stroke lead into moving day. But Henderson struggled on day three, which cut her lead to one heading into the final round, where the Canadian fired a 69 to win by four strokes. Windy conditions were once a nemesis for the Canadian, who put in extra practice to develop the shots she needs to combat Mother Nature and it has paid off. Henderson also won in extreme winds in New Zealand prior to her victory in Hawaii. Expect Henderson to be motivated to defend her title as she’s in the hunt for her first win of 2019. She’s had a solid start to the year, only once has she finished outside the top 20 in 2019, which was a missed cut at the Kia Classic where she opened with rounds of 69-77.
Aon Risk Reward Challenge Hole
Numbers to Know
5 – The number of former champions of the LOTTE Championship who are in the field. (2018 – Brooke Henderson, 2017 – Cristie Kerr, 2016 – Minjee Lee, 2015 – Sei Young Kim, 2014 – Michelle Wie)
4 - The number of tournament invitees from Korea and Japan.
1 – The number of multiple winners so far in 2019. (Jin Young Ko became the first with her victories at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and ANA Inspiration)
About the Week
Paula Creamer returns to action at the LOTTE Championship, where she’ll make her first start since the Honda LPGA Thailand. Creamer withdrew ahead of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and announced her decision on social media but did not provide a reason.
The LOTTE Championship is a Wednesday – Saturday event, which begins Wednesday April 17, 2019 and wraps up on Saturday, April 20, 2019.
All four rounds of the LOTTE Championship will be broadcast on Golf Channel from 7:00 p.m - 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.