July 19, 2017: Aditi Ashok is in Ohio this week playing in the Marathon Classic. World No. 4 Lydia Ko returns this week to the site of her last LPGA victory. She took the title at the 2016 Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I after a four-hole playoff, where Ko outlasted Ariya Jutanugarn and Mirim Lee for her 14th career win.
Aditi will look to make the most of her recent good form as she continues her quest for a maiden LPGA title.
The attention though is on Lydia Ko.
“It’s definitely nice to be back to a place where you’ve played well at, and definitely being the defending champion it’s always exciting to come back,” Ko said on Wednesday after an 18-hole pro-am. “The fans have really taken me in and have been really supportive, so I love coming back to places where you’ve got a lot of great memories, and you actually get to see familiar faces like the volunteers, too.”
Ko has made 23 LPGA starts since her last victory, but she feels like she is getting closer to finding the winner’s circle again.
“I feel like the puzzle pieces are there,” Ko said, “but I’ve been struggling to kind of put those pieces together. Sometimes that is almost the hardest bit where you feel like those little pieces are there but to connect it and put them all into good rounds, I feel like there are a lot of positives going on, so I’m trying to stay patient.”
NCAA CHAMPS MAKE MARATHON CLASSIC DEBUTS
Arizona State teammates Linnea Strom and Monica Vaughn are teeing it up this week at the Marathon Classic after their performances at the NCAA Women’s Division I Golf Championship earned them both sponsor exemptions.
Vaughn, the NCAA individual champion, is making her first LPGA Tour start and her first start as a professional, and the thought of her debut has her anxious for the first round.
“The mix of the two brings a lot of nerves but good nerves,” Vaughn said. “Productive nerves, learning curve nerves. I’ve learned a lot out here. I’m really gaining a lot of knowledge off what it’s like to be a Tour player, and those nerves have got me through the NCAA championship, so I hope they can carry me this week.”
For winning the NCAA title, Sun Devils coach Missy Farr-Kaye got to select a member of her team to represent ASU at the Marathon Classic, selecting All-American first-teamer Strom. The native of Sweden is playing in her first LPGA event since she qualified for the 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open, and while she missed the cut there, she’s hopeful that experience will bode well for her this week.
“I think that helped me coming here,” Strom said of the Women’s British Open. “It’s new for everything and it’s a new environment for me, and there’s a lot of things going on. There are all the best players in the world playing, and there’s just a lot of new things going on that we are not used to. So I think every opportunity we get to play at this level of golf with those players is going to help us very much for the future.”
Leona Maguire, the No. 1 amateur in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, joins Strom and Vaughn as the three sponsor invites this week. Maguire was the runner up for the 2017 NCAA individual title, and she has also received the ANNIKA National Collegiate Player of the Year award the past two years.
This week, fans in Sylvania, Ohio, will get to see 30 of the 37 2017 LPGA rookies tee it up. The rookie core is led by recently crowned U.S. Women’s Open champion Sung Hyun Park, who also leads the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race. In 2014, Lydia Ko took home the Marathon Classic title and a few months later was crowned the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year (youngest winner ever).
Top Rookies in the Marathon Classic Field
(Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Points)
Player Points (Rank) Starts Best Finish
Sung Hyun Park 997(1) 14 1
Angel Yin 359(2) 15 T5 (twice)
Nelly Korda 256(3) 14 T5
Emily Pedersen 152(6) 5 T17
Aditi Ashok 132(7) 11 T25
“I think when you’ve had 17 or 18 different winners in the last 19 events or something, it’s kind of crazy to think that, but it just shows that the amount of talent on the LPGA and not only these certain amounts of players are going to win, you just never know who could be holding the trophy at the end of the week.”
–Lydia Ko on how hard it is to win on the LPGA right now
“That’s one thing I said, I said, I think I got an invite into an LPGA tournament. This is my first event that I’ve ever played as a professional. This is the first professional event I’ve ever played in. It was huge for me, and that was the first thing on my mind kind of when I won.”
–Monica Vaughn on realizing she got a sponsors invite immediately after winning NCAAs
“I was just talking to Bronte Law on the putting green, and a year ago we played with her in college, and I played with her a lot back in Europe, back at home for like five, six years now, and she has told me like, hey, there is no difference, like it’s you and your golf bag, you’ve just got to go out and play golf. It’s so true, but at the same time like all the players that are here, they have more experience. They are better golf pros. So I’m just going to learn from everybody and try to have fun and enjoy.”
–Linnea Stromon advice she’s gotten from 2017 LPGA rookie Bronte Law
In four starts at the Marathon Classic,Lydia Ko has two wins and two additional top-seven finishes.
This season, Ko’s best finish is a runner-up finish at the LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY.
Ko has finished inside the top 10 seven times in 14 starts this season.
Se Ri Pak is the only back-to-back winner of this event; she won in 1998 and 1999.
The last player to successfully defend an LPGA title was Brooke Henderson, who won the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015 and 2016.
Six LPGA members attended Arizona State University, including Giulia Molinaro and Azahara Muñoz who are both here this week. At ASU, Munoz was the 2008 NCAA individual national champion, and she also led the Sun Devils to the team national championship in 2009.
The last time an amateur won was Lydia Ko at the 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open.
The last time a non-LPGA member won was Sun-Ju Ahn at the 2015 TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC.
LPGA Tour Release