LPGA TOUR SAYS ALOHA FOR WEEK NINE OF THE 2019 SEASON
The LPGA Tour travels to the Hawaiian island of Oahu this week for the 2019 LOTTE Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club. This year is the eighth edition of the LOTTE Championship, previously named LPGA LOTTE Championship presented by J Golf (2012 - 2014) and the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey (2015 – 2018).
Hawaii is the fourth state within the United States in which LPGA Tour professionals have traveled to thus far of the 2019 season – Florida, California and Arizona. The LOTTE Championship is the first week of a three-week stretch before the Tour travels back to California for the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City.
Defending champion Brooke Henderson is making her seventh start on the 2019 season, returning to Ko Olina for her title defense just two weeks after a T17 finish at the LPGA’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. Last year, Henderson carded a final-round 3-under-par 69 to win the tournament four strokes ahead of runner-up Azahara Munoz and three former World No. 1’s – Ariya Jutanugarn, Shanshan Feng and Inbee Park, finishing at -7 for a share of third place.
This week marks Henderson’s fourth appearance of the event and is joined by eight of the top-10 in the world including World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, who rose to the top of the Rolex World Golf Rankings for the first time after her win at the ANA Inspiration, along with four past LOTTE Championship winners—Cristie Kerr (2017), Sei Young Kim (2015), Minjee Lee (2016), Michelle Wie (2014).
BROOKE HENDERSON HOPES TO REKINDLE MAGIC AT KO OLINA
“I feel like when you win a tournament on the LPGA Tour everything has to be working for you,” said twenty-one-year-old, defending LOTTE Championship champion Brooke Henderson. Henderson returns to Ko Olina Golf Club for her title defense, still looking for her first win for the 2019 season.
“I feel like on the LPGA Tour I've been really fortunate. I've won every year since 2015 and won twice on tour for the last three seasons. I'm hoping to keep that going this year,” said Henderson, who has claimed a total of seven titles throughout her career. “I'm definitely excited to come back here where I have so many great memories, and hopefully I can rekindle some of the magic I had last year here.”
Henderson will tee off at 1:12 p.m. on the tenth tee with 2018 LPGA winner Gaby Lopez and 2019 Rolex First-Time Winner Celine Boutier for the first round of the LOTTE Championship.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEFENDING CHAMPION BROOKE HENDERSON
Henderson’s victory at Ko Olina Golf Club was the sixth title of her LPGA Tour career and her first of 2018; she went on to become the first Canadian to win the CP Women’s Open since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973
With her seven wins, Henderson is one-win shy of tying Sandra Post’s record for most victories by a Canadian player in LPGA Tour history
In 2019, Henderson has made six starts – her best finish is T6 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and a sixth-place finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand
Henderson is competing in her fourth LOTTE Championship; in addition to her win in 2018, she has one T10 finish in 2016 and a T11 finish in 2017
Henderson was named the 2017 and 2018 Female Athlete of the Year by the Canadian Press
MICHELLE WIE EMBRACES THE ALOHA SPIRIT ON THE LPGA TOUR
Hawaiian native and 2014 LOTTE Championship champion Michelle Wie, has had some ups and downs at the start of 2019—only having made three starts prior to the week, which include a T23 finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand, a WD from the HSBC Women’s World Championship and a missed cut at the ANA Inspiration. However, the past champion is happy and relieved to play in front of home crowds at Ko Olina.
“It's the event that I always look forward to,” said Wie, who is making her eighth start of the LOTTE Championship this week. “I think this is my third tournament of the year, so obviously [my health] is still coming back slowly, and every day getting stronger, more confident. So hopefully my game will be in good shape this week. Excited to be back at a golf course where I know it so well, so that feels good to me.”
Wie has also utilized her homecoming to carry out her personal charitable efforts by organizing Wie Love Ping Pong, a charity event that raises funds for college scholarships in partnership with the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, April 20th at the Four Seasons Ko Olina.
“I feel very lucky to be from Oahu, Hawaii, so hopefully I can make the state proud,” said Wie. “I'm very proud to be from Hawaii, so every day I try to live out those values. Even when I'm on the mainland I try to bring the Aloha Spirit everywhere I go.”
WORLD NO. 1 JIN YOUNG KO AIMS TO BE HAPPIEST GOLFER ON THE COURSE
Reaching No. 1 in the world for 23-year-old Jin Young Ko was always a dream of hers but she didn’t believe it would come so fast in her LPGA career. Ko rose four spots from No. 5 to No. 1 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings after her performance at the 2019 ANA Inspiration, a dream come true for the South Korean golfer.
“I still can't believe what I did two weeks ago, but many, many people have said 'congrats' and 'good job,' so it's starting to sink it,” said Ko. “I can't reply to all the fans because a lot, so my DM's-- it was almost like an explosion.”
But for the four-time LPGA winner, although she’s reached the top, she still plans to maintain her goals set previously to her major win: to be the happiest golfer on the course.
“I'm just happy about I won, about ANA Inspiration, not ranking No. 1. So I will just keep going, too. Happy golfer, and then find about what is my little things about problem on my swing, find about my swing key or putting key with my coaches, and then just keep going,” said Ko.
Ko will tee off at 12:39 p.m. with 2019 LPGA winner Nelly Korda and Amy Olson on No. 1 for the first round of the LOTTE Championship.
DESIGNATED HOLE FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge will highlight the world’s best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour on top of the Aon leaderboard at the end of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize. The scoring system is identical on both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR, and players will take their best two scores from each Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the season. Players must play a minimum of 40 rounds throughout the season. The Challenge runs across regular season tournaments (29 LPGA Tour; 36 PGA TOUR).
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the LOTTE Championship is the 13th, a picturesque par 5 where an elevated tee box overlooks the entire hole but the prevailing wind here can play havoc with the tee shot, which can easily drift right toward a water feature unless the ball is kept low. The water is bordered by a fairway sand bunker, and that can provide some safety if the player opts for the bold strategy of trying to reach the green in two. Success on this three-tiered green requires a skilled putter.
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge.
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
After her ANA Inspiration victory, Jin Young Ko now leads the 2019 Race to the CME Globe with 1,957 points, followed by 2019 winner Nelly Korda with 1,179 points and Sung Hyun Park in third with 931 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.