The LPGA Tour returns to Golden Ocala for the first time since 2016 this week. Can the back-in-form Lydia Ko make the most of a layout she clearly enjoys and capture her first victory since 2018?
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
COURSE: The course at Golden Ocala, in Florida, opened in 1987 and was designed by Ron Garl and incorporates eight tribute holes from Augusta National, Royal Troon, Baltusrol, Muirfield and the Old Course at St Andrews. It previously hosted the LPGA Tour’s now defunct Coates Golf Championship in 2015 and 2016.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Lydia Ko became World No.1 at Golden Ocala at the age of 17 when she finished joint runner-up at the Coates Golf Championship in 2015.
The New Zealander, who is currently 20th in the world rankings, also finished third here during the final staging of the aforementioned event.
“The two times I played there I think I had chances to win both, but I think I came second or something, and I still became the No.1 player, so a lot of good memories,” Ko told LPGA Communications.
Ko hasn’t added to her 15 LPGA Tour titles since winning the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in 2018. But she is in great form, sharing second place with Lexi Thompson behind Nelly Korda last week in her first appearance of the New Year.
The 23-year-old also closed out 2020 with shares of fifth, 13th, fourth and eighth.
RIGHT: Ko enjoys the layout at Golden Ocala, finishing T3rd at the Coates Golf Championship in 2016 (pictured) and runner-up in 2015. PHOTO: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
Brooke Henderson was runner-up to Ha Na Jang at Golden Ocala during the final staging of the Coates Golf Championship five years ago, finishing two shots behind the South Korean.
Henderson, still only 23, has enjoyed some positive results since the LPGA Tour returned from its coronavirus hiatus last July, finishing the season with five top-10s from eight appearances, including her runner-up finish to Mirim Lee at the ANA Inspiration.
The Canadian, who owns nine LPGA Tour titles, has started 2021 in good fashion, too, finishing ninth at the Tournament of Champions and sharing 16th at the Gainbridge LPGA last week from her only two starts.
72-HOLE RECORD: Inaugural event. However, South Korean Na Yeon Choi won the Coates Golf Championship here with 16-under-par 272 in 2015.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No previous Australian winners.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Sarah Kemp, Katherine Kirk and Sarah Jane Smith.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 2am – 5am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 2am – 5am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 507 LIVE 4:30am – 6:30am)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 507 LIVE 6am – 9am)
*AEDT, check local guides