Defending champ Cristie Kerr leads a strong field as the LPGA Tour returns to action this week in Hawaii with the LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey. Four of the top five players in the world Rolex Rankings will join Kerr, as will the LOTTE event winners from the three years prior to Kerr’s victory last year.
Of special note to golf fans, the LOTTE is an event that is staged from Wednesday through Saturday for the benefit of live television back to South Korea. So the South Korean contingent on the tour will be very well-represented, while incentive to perform well for fans that are watching also is not a problem at this event for Hawaii native Michelle Wie, the 2014 LOTTE champion.
As we do each week, here’s a round up of information about what to expect this week in Hawaii.
Tournament: LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey
Dates: April 11-14, 2018
Where: Kapolei, Hawaii
Course: Ko Olina Golf Club
Distance: Par 72, 6,397 yards
Architect: Ted Robinson
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $300,000
Defending Champion: Cristie Kerr
Marquee Players: Kerr, Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Minjee Lee, Sei Young Kim, Michelle Wie, Pernilla Lindberg, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Lydia Ko.
TV AND ONLINE
The LOTTE Championship is a relatively new event on the LPGA Tour, having been inaugurated during the 2012 season. Cristie Kerr made history last year with a fantastic weekend effort, leading to the lowest overall score, 20-under par 268, in the six years the event had been played to that point.
Past winners include Kerr, Minjee Lee, Kim Sei-young, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Ai Miyazato.
The title sponsor is LOTTE, a South Korean-Japanese conglomerate most recognized as one of the leading confectionary companies in Asia. With Hershey as a presenting partner, it makes for one of the sweetest weeks in golf for those who make the trip to the tournament.
2016-18: LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey
2015: LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey
2012-14: LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
2017: Cristie Kerr (-20)
2016: Minjee Lee (-16)
2015: Sei Young Kim (-11)
2014: Michelle Wie (-14)
2013: Suzann Pettersen (-19)
2012: Ai Miyazato (-12)
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 62 (-10), Lizette Salas (2013); Cristie Kerr (2017)
36 holes: 134 (-10), Five tied; Su-Yeon Jang (2017)
54 holes: 199 (-17), Su-Yeon Jang (2017)
72 holes: 268 (-20), Cristie Kerr (2017)
Cristie Kerr overcame a five-shot deficit with terrific play on the weekend, leading to a three-shot victory and tournament scoring record at the 2017 LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey.
Kerr tied the course record with a 10-under par round of 62 on Saturday, then backed it with a final round 6-under 66. It was Kerr’s 19th win on the LPGA Tour and first since the 2015 Tour Championship. Kerr finished her final 52 holes in Oahu without a single bogey.
Su-Yeon Jang, the 54-hole leader, shot an even-par 72 and finished at 17-under, three strokes behind Kerr.
In Gee Chun and Lydia Ko, who had Sunday’s best round with an 8-under par 64, tied with Jang for second place at -17.
Rounding out the top-5 was Canada’s Alena Sharp, who shot a final-round 2-under-par 70 final to finish solo-fifth at 16-under par.
FINAL TOP 5
1 Cristie Kerr -20
2 Su-Yeon Jang -17
2 In Gee Chun -17
2 Lydia Ko -17
5 Alena Sharp -16
If Cristie Kerr wants to become the first repeat champion in the history of the LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey, she is going to have to overcome a strong international field to claim the crown.
Kerr has shown few signs of slowing down in reaching age 40 and in her 23rd season of LPGA competition, having finished in the top 30 in five of her six starts this season. Her best showing was less than a month ago, when she finished tied for second in the Kia Classic.
Altogether, 14 of the top 20 players in the world Rolex Rankings will be in the field this week, led by four out of the current world top five — No. 1 Shanshan Feng, No. 3 Inbee Park, No. 4 Sung Hyun Park and No. 5 So Yeon Ryu.
In Gee Chun, the current world No. 12 player, and Lydia Ko, currently at world No. 16, are also back after being part of a three-way tie for second at last year’s LOTTE.
Returning to Hawaii, you can expect an extra kick of adrenaline for world No. 13 Michelle Wie, who will be playing on Oahu, the island where she grew up. Hawaiian golf fans have always greeted her with enthusiasm, so she could have home vibe advantage should she get into the mix this week.
Wie was the 2014 winner of the LOTTE event, and has some momentum going this year, with her victory last month in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
Credits: LPGA Tour Media, Getty Images