WASHINGTON: Top-ranked teen Lydia Ko, world number two Park In-Bee and third-ranked Lexi Thompson will play alongside one another when the LPGA Kingsmill Championship opens on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
New Zealand’s Ko won her second major title in a row in March at the ANA Inspiration and the 19-year-old Seoul-born Kiwi has also captured the Kia Classic and New Zealand Women’s Open crowns this year, but she has not played since sharing sixth at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic last month.
South Korea’s Park has struggled with a left thumb injury for the past month while Thompson, an American, is coming off a victory last week at the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, a major on the Japan LPGA Tour.
The all-star threesome tees off Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. In all, eight of the world’s top 10 players and 15 of the top 20 are in the field of 144 at Williamsburg, Virginia.
Ko leads the LPGA money list and Player of the Year standings and tops this list in putting average, scoring average, under-par rounds and rounds in the 60s.
“I’ve been trying to be a little bit more consistent in all aspects, so even during the season if we’re working on things with my coaches or putting, long game, we’re trying to make it as in, hey, even though I have not my average days, can still be playable,” Ko said.
“Consistency is not something that you can go, ‘OK, I’ve mastered it,’ because even until the last moment I play on tour, I know I want to be more and more consistent.”
She comes off a break in which she rested at her Florida home.
“It was definitely time for me to go home. I missed it,” Ko said.
“I normally don’t get homesick, but I felt like it was time to get out of living out of a suitcase. So it was definitely good to go back to Orlando. The second week I just kind of chilled out. It was almost like I was hibernating, sleeping until like 3 p.m.”
Park, a 17-time LPGA winner, seeks her first title of the season, her best showing a runner-up effort to Ko at the Kia Classic. But she is still nagged by thumb pain.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent right now,” Park said. “I took three weeks off thinking that it’s going to be much better, but unfortunately it wasn’t like a big change, and I still feel the pain.
“Just got to take it easy. I thought about taking a couple more weeks off, but I’d really like to get myself ready for the coming weeks. There’s so many important tournaments coming up.”
Thompson, the 2014 Kingsmill runner-up, also has a victory in Thailand this year.
Australia’s 12th-ranked Minjee Lee defends her first career title at Kingsmill. The 19-year-old from Perth won her second career LPGA crown last month in Hawaii.
Youth reigns in LPGA
The average age of LPGA winners through the first 12 events of the 2016 campaign is 21, with no player over 23 having taken a title.
“That’s a pretty amazing stat,” Ko said. “The top players like Lexi and Stacy and In-Bee, everyone has been playing great.”
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Thompson added. “It’s getting younger and younger. I thought I was the young one out here. Now I’m a veteran it seems like, so it’s pretty crazy.”
South Korean veteran Pak Se Ri, who says she will retire after this season, makes her final appearance at Kingsmill, where her 10th LPGA victory in 2004 ensured she would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.