She won the ANA Inspiration in 2019, but Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko was not able to defend her title last year because of the coronavirus. Instead, she was a fan, watching from home in her native Republic of Korea and reminiscing on her jump into Poppie’s Pond.
“I couldn’t play last year and it was sad because I missed [it as the] defending champion, but I am happy to be back and looking forward to the next four days,” said Ko, a two-time major champion. “I want to jump in [Poppie’s Pond] again someday. I can see that Mirim is on the picture behind the first tee so [I know] I’m not defending, she is.”
Ko made her season debut in February at the Gainbridge LPGA with a fourth-place finish then missed the cut at Golden Ocala for the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik, her first time not playing the weekend since the 2018 AIG Women’s Open.
When she started the Kia Classic a little slower than her expectations would have liked (1-under par in the first round), she decided to shake things up. Ko took the Callaway Epic driver out of the bag and in went the Titleist TSi3.
“I changed driver last week after the first round,” Ko said. “I went to the Titleist [Performance Institute] center [in Oceanside] and tried a couple drivers, picked a really good one. I used that next three days and hit really good last week. I had good practice [with it] last three days at Mission Hills [Country Club], so can’t wait for tomorrow and all four days.”
Tomorrow, Ko will play her first competitive round on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course since she raised the Dinah Shore Trophy. She heads off the No. 1 tee at 12:33 p.m. PT with Stacy Lewis and last week’s LPGA Tour winner Inbee Park.