The LPGA Tour goes next to Carlsbad, California and the Kia Classic. Spain’s Beatriz Recari is the defending champion at this 72-hole event that will be played at the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club. With a $1.7 million purse and 500 Race to the CME Globe points on the line, the Kia Classic is the last event before the LPGA International Crown teams are finalized. The field is full and there’s a long list of players who are hitting long, putting straight and coming in hot. Any number of players could end up Sunday on the top of the leaderboard.
Recari, who’s Rolex Ranked No. 22, is the highest ranked Spanish player on the Tour and will likely lead Spain’s team to the LPGA International Crown in June. Recari won the 2013 Kia Classic in a two-hole playoff over I.K. Kim. Recari made an 18-foot birdie putt from the fringe just before dark, to capture the tournament in dramatic fashion earning first prize of $255,000 and a Kia Cadenza. Known as the “Iron Woman” on the LPGA Tour for her consistency, on the final day of the tournament, she used a gritty performance to hold off Kim and win her second-career LPGA victory. Could she repeat her 2013 performance?
Recari’s had a slow start to the 2014 season. She missed the cut at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, finished well down the leaderboard at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the Honda LPGA Thailand, and withdrew from the HSBC Womens Champions.
Recari’s challengers are lined up and waiting. Rolex Ranked No. 13 I.K. Kim, who lost the 2013 Kia Classic to Recari in a playoff, is on the top of the challenger list.
Right behind Kim, all of the top-10 Rolex Ranked players are in the Kia Classic field, which includes two 2014 winners, Rolex Ranked No. 5 Karrie Webb, who has already claimed two victories this year, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the JTBC Founders Cup, andRolex Ranked No. 8 Paula Creamer, 2014 HSBC Womens Champion winner.
Anna Nordqvist, 2014 Honda LPGA Thailand champ, is also playing in the Kia Classic. Nordqvist ended a long winless spell in Thailand and the victory has infused her game with a fresh vitality. She looks good for another win.
Several lower-ranked players are coming into the Kia Classic very hot. Americans Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller are both playing strong golf and will bear watching. They’re both due a win, as is Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum. She’s playing a consistently competitive game and seems headed for a victory soon, as does South Korean Chella Choi.
Recari’s countrywoman, Azahara Munoz has come close to a win twice this year, at the HSBC Womens Champions and last weekend at the JTBC Founders Cup. She’s primed to take this one. So is rookie South Korean Mirim Lee, who surprised everybody with a stunning performance last weekend.
Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club was named by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the best resort golf courses in America, and has been rated the No.1 golf resort in San Diego according to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. Mid-way between Los Angeles and San Diego, the Aviara overlooks the beautiful Batiquitos Lagoon ecological reserve and is the only San Diego-area golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.
Aviara features a memorable par-72 coastal layout that stretches 7,007 yards and is uniquely sculpted through rolling hillsides, native wildflowers and plenty of bunker and water challenges. It’s a lovely setting for the fifth playing of the Kia Classic and the weather promises temperatures in the high 60s, a bit cooler than Phoenix and, predictably, a bit more humid, with a light sea breeze.
Golf Channel will provide daily coverage of the Kia Classic: Thursday, March 27 & Friday, March 28, 6:30-9pm; Saturday, March 29 & Sunday, March 30, 7-9pm, all times ET.