The LPGA Tour returns for the first time since early March with its annual stop at Aviara Golf Club for the Kia Classic. Can one of the six Aussies in the field claim their nation’s first Tour title for the year?
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Japan’s Nasa Hataoka shot 18-under-par 270 here last year to defeat five players by three shots.
COURSE: The Kia Classic moved to the Arnold Palmer-designed Aviara Golf Club in 2013 and hasn’t left since. Aviara, located in Carlsbad, California, opened for play in 2010 and will measure 6,043 metres (par-72) this week. The course overlooks the Batiquitos Lagoon nature preserve and is the only Palmer-designed layout in coastal California.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Three-time LPGA Tour winner Katherine Kirk has the best record of any Aussie at this event for the past five years, sharing 13th place in 2019 and finishing T39th in 2018.
The 39-year-old hasn’t been able to play frequently enough to really gauge her current form. But the Queenslander was excellent between August and October last year, posting four top-10s and suggesting her best golf is still good enough to compete for titles.
Kirk last won on Tour at the inaugural Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in July, 2017 and will be eager to reenter the winner’s circle.
RIGHT: Hataoka defeated five players at Aviara in 2019 to claim her third LPGA Tour title. PHOTO: Steve Dykes/Getty Images.
World No.1 Jin Young Ko, like Kirk, hasn’t been able to play many competitive rounds throughout the year. But she finished runner-up at Aviara in 2019 and shared 10th place in 2018.
The 25-year-old South Korean, who owns seven LPGA Tour titles and 31 top-10s, was named Rookie of the Year in 2018 and was Player of the Year the following season.
Ko had posted four consecutive top-five results – including her victory over Hannah Green and Sei Young Kim at the CME Group Tour Championship last December – prior to missing the cut in her most recent start at the Drive On Championship earlier this month.
72-HOLE RECORD: Mirim Lee (2017) and Cristie Kerr (2015) both fired 20-under-par 268s to win their respective titles.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No previous Australian winners.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Hannah Green, Sarah Kemp, Katherine Kirk, Minjee Lee, Su Oh and Sarah Jane Smith.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9am –11am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7am – 9am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9am – 12pm)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9am – 12pm)
*AEDT, check local guides