The LPGA Tour is saying ‘Aloha’ to Hawaii as 144 players tee off in the third-annual LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf today, battling for a $1.7 million purse, 500 Race to the CME Globe points, and for a chance to do the celebratory hula dance on the 18th green at Ko Olina Golf Club. Tee times begin at 7am local time, 1pm on the East Coast and 10am in San Francisco. You can follow the live leaderboard at www.lpga.com and get the delayed broadcast on Golf Channel beginning at 6:30pm ET.
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen is missing her third consecutive event with a back injury but this week’s field has plenty of star power to put on a show. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park headlines the group and is still searching for her first win of the 2014 season. Park, who has held the top spot in the world for 53-consecutive weeks, has played well in Hawaii with a tied for fourth finish last year and T12 in 2012.
Hawaii native Michelle Wie will be having a homecoming this week as the 24-year old from Honolulu returns to the island of Oahu. Wie is coming off a runner-up finish at the season’s first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and has yet to finish worse than T16 this season. Rolex Rankings No. 4 Lydia Ko will make her second appearance at the LOTTE Championship and will try to improve on her T9 finish from a year ago.
American Lizette Salas returns to Hawaii with some extra motivation after her career-best runner up finish last season. She carved up Ko Olina in the final round last year and shot an incredible 29 on the back nine to force a playoff with Pettersen. Even after hitting her second shot on the first playoff hole into the greenside water, Salas has said that she’s taken the positives from her course record 62 on Saturday.
Group 9: 7:40 am (Tee 1): Inbee Park, Azahara Munoz, Morgan Pressel
The No. 1 player in the world is still playing for her first win in 2014 and is grouped with Spain’s Azahara Munoz who has four top-10 finishes in seven starts this year including two runner-ups and American Morgan Pressel who is coming off a T11 finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Munoz looks good to lead this threesome.
Group 34: 12:30 pm (Tee 10): Anna Nordqvist, Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng
Nordqvist is one of only two players with two victories already this season and is playing the best golf of her career; Wie will be the hometown favorite all week and has truly found her form in 2014; Feng did not get off to a strong start this season but the three-time LPGA Tour winner and major champ finished T6 at Kraft two weeks ago. The race will be tight in this threesome, but Wie may be able to edge out in front.
Group 36: 12:40 pm (Tee 10): Cristie Kerr, Lydia Ko, Lizette Salas
Kerr has had three top-10’s in her last three starts including a tie for fourth at the Kraft; Ko has been struggling as of late and will look to get back on track during her second appearance at Ko Olina. She finished tied for ninth here last year; Salas made some serious noise on Oahu a year ago with her final round 62 to force a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. Salas will fight hard to lead this group but Kerr may have the edge.