PHOENIX (AP) — The heat is soaring in the Valley of the Sun and the scores figure to be low again at the LPGA Tour’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
A year after Sei Young Kim matched Annika Sorenstam’s tour scoring record of 27 under, the tour is back at Desert Ridge for the event that honors the 13 women who started the tour in 1950.
“They actually lengthened a couple of the holes, and I said it’s because Sei Young made a couple too many birdies,” top-ranked Lydia Ko said Wednesday, a day before the start of play.
Last year, Kim closed with 10-under 62 on the Wildfire layout for a five-stroke victory over Ko.
“I’m very happy to be back here,” Kim said. “I love this course.”
Inbee Park is coming off a victory two weeks ago in Singapore in only her second start since winning the Rio Olympics in August. Finally over a left thumb injury, the South Korean star rode brilliant putting to a closing 64 and a one-stroke victory over Ariya Jutanugarn.
“That win was a little bit of a surprise to me as well,” Park said. “I thought I might take a little bit longer. I wasn’t pushing myself at all. I was just really happy that I’m playing again, healthy again and playing tournaments.”
The event is the fifth of the season, and first in the United States. Brittany Lincicome won the opener in the Bahamas, Ha Na Jang took the Women’s Australian Open and Amy Yang won in Thailand. The tour will shift to California the next two weeks for the Kia Classic in Carlsbad and the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, the first major championship of the year.
Lexi Thompson is in Phoenix after a two-year break.
“It’s great to be back here,” Thompson said. “The course is in perfect shape for us. We have absolutely beautiful weather.”
Beautiful, yes, but with weekend highs in the mid-90s, maybe a little too hot for some.
Not Lincicome, a playoff winner over Thompson in the Bahamas.
“I love being in the warm weather,” Lincicome said. “Being a Florida girl, the hotter the better. Phoenix is perfect for that. It’s warm outside, it’s calm, so it’s going to be a good week.”
The top-ranked Ko has a new instructor, caddie and equipment company. She opened the season with a tie for eighth in Thailand and tied for ninth in Singapore.
“To see those kind of good results with all the changes that have happened I think gives me a little bit of confidence going into this stretch of events,” Ko said.
She has finished in the top six in all three of her starts in the event, tying for second in 2014, tying for sixth in 2015 and finishing second again last year.
“This tournament is great because it celebrates us players and the founders who really started the LPGA, and then the generations coming up with the girls’ golf,” Ko said. “This is a great place where a lot of generations of players come together and learn from each other.”
DIVOTS: Stacy Lewis won in 2013, was second in 2014 and 2015 and tied for fourth last year. The 11-time tour champion is winless in 66 events since June 2014. … Hannah O’Sullivan is playing on a sponsor exemption. The former Chandler high school star won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur and is set to play at Duke. … Karrie Webb won the inaugural event in 2011 and took the 2014 title. … Wildfire has 18-hole courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo. The back nines from both are used in the tournament, with the Palmer course the front nine and the Faldo layout the back.