LPGA primer: L.A. Open and Palos Verdes Championship to feature world’s best golfers
Los Angeles will host consecutive LPGA events for the first time during the next two weeks. Here are the top story lines to watch during the DIO Implant L.A. Open at Wilshire Country Club and Palos Verdes Championship at the Palos Verdes Golf Club.
World No. 1 Jin Young Ko strives to stay there
Ko recently set an LPGA tour record with 34 consecutive rounds under par and has recorded six wins in her last 12 starts since July. She most recently won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore in March.
Ko and No. 2 ranked Nelly Korda have gone back and forth occupying the top spot in the women’s world golf rankings. Ko reclaimed the top spot in the middle of the 2021 season, and the two have swapped the ranking ever since.
Korda tweeted in early April that she had recently undergone surgery for a blood clot in her arm. She is a gold medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour and was ranked No. 1 earlier this year, passing two-time major winner Stacy Lewis for the most time spent at world No. 1 by an American women’s golfer.
It’s become the most heated rivalry in the LPGA, but Ko will compete with her top spot intact in L.A.
Deep field of the world’s best
This year’s L.A. Open field is one of the most decorated, featuring 17 of the top 25 in the world and nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Highlighted by Ko and major champion Lexi Thompson, the Open will also feature 2019 L.A. champion Minjee Lee (4), Atthaya Thitikul (5), Inbee Park (6), Danielle Kang (7), Sei Young Kim (8) and Nasa Hataoka (9). This year’s Chevron Championship winner Jennifer Kupcho (16) will also compete.
Brooke Henderson on the defense
The winningest Canadian golfer of all time is returning to defend her 2021 L.A. Open title. She shot 16-under par for her 10th all-time win.
Henderson withdrew in the second round at the Lotte Championship last week due to an unspecified illness. She has defended a title twice before in her career and is slated to play in Los Angeles without issue.
Some state lawmakers are asking why there is enough space for golf but not more housing in Southern California.
“Super excited to get back to the L.A. Open,” Henderson said. “Last year, getting my 10th win on tour there was really special. I definitely did miss the fans, the energy and kind of the adrenaline rush that they do bring. I’m really looking forward to having them back for both weeks coming up in L.A. I think that will be really cool.”
The Canadian star won the 2021 event after she had gone winless in 2020, the only year she went a season without a victory. In 2021, Henderson carded a final-round 67 to pull out a one-stroke victory.
Lots of local ties
The L.A. Open will feature eight USC alums and seven UCLA alums.
USC: Jennifer Chang, Allisen Corpuz, Muni He, Annie Park, Sophia Popov, Robyn Ree, Lizette Salas and Jennifer Song.
UCLA: Bronte Law, Alison Lee, Sydnee Michaels, Ryann O’Toole, Patty Tavatanakit, Mariajo Uribe and Lilia Vu.
Lee, Salas, and Angel Yin are also Los Angeles-area residents. Michaels, a Murrieta resident, was granted a sponsor exemption.
“To see firsthand how the Los Angeles area and the golf course or golf here has impacted my career and now being at the world-class level of the LPGA, I’m just grateful to be part of this area, to have these golf courses as part of my journey,” Salas said. “And these are hidden gems that the world doesn’t quite grasp the magnitude of what they’re capable of.”
Inbee Park a dark horse
Park last won at the Kia Classic in March 2021, but has earned seven majors and 31 professional wins, 21 of them in the LPGA. Park has been the world No. 1-ranked player four separate times, but not since 2018.
In 2013, she became the fourth LPGA Tour player to win three majors in a calendar year when she won three in a row.
Black youths in South L.A. are learning how to play golf with help from their families and friends at Chester Washington Golf Course.
Behind Ko and Thompson and Korda, Park might get lost in the shuffle a bit, especially in an Open touting so many of the top-ranked players. But Park should be considered a threat.
The L.A. Open features a field of 144 competing for a $1.5-million purse. The Palos Verdes Championship will take place the following week at the Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates.
The LPGA is offering an “L.A. LPGA Dual Ticket,” a weekly grounds pass that provides access to both Palos Verdes and the DIO Implant L.A. Open at Wilshire Country Club.
The city will soon add a major to the list, with the U.S. Women’s Open slated to be played in Los Angeles in 2026.
“We see the city bring great championships, like the L.A. Rams, the Lakers and the Dodgers, and now to focus on women’s golf, I think it’s a great transition,” Salas said. “And this city brings champions. So hopefully I can add the name to one of those championships and just kind of put that stamp on L.A. and to the rest of the world.”
Anna Davis’ debut coming
High school sophomore Anna Davis made noise in the Augusta National Women’s Am when she won with a 3-under-par 69. That was enough to earn a sponsor exemption to Los Angeles for the Palos Verdes Championship, where she will make her LPGA debut.
Davis, from the San Diego area, was the youngest-ever winner of the Women’s Am. She rallied from two shots behind 36-hole leader Latanna Stone to win by one stroke. She now ranks 47th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The 16-year-old Davis took part in Monday’s qualifier for the final spots in the L.A. Open, but Jillian Hollis — ranked No. 16 in the world — and Kaitlyn Papp won those spots at 4-under 68.
UCLA alumnus Sydnee Michaels, South Korea’s Youngin Chun and former Duke All-American Gina Kim landed sponsor exemptions for the L.A. Open.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.