March 4, 2024

LPGA Returns to Texas Without Defending Champ Ko

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The LPGA returns to Texas this week for the newly-renamed Ascendant LPGA, but it does so without defending champion and world #1 Jin Young Ko.

Ko announced on September 13 that she would be sitting out several events due to a wrist injury and was targeting a return to action at the BMW Ladies Championship in her native country of South Korea beginning October 20th.

The Ascendant LPGA will be held at The Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, a Dallas suburb. The event is the lone stop in the state of Texas for the LPGA Tour.

Seven of the top 10 in the LPGA’s season long points list, the Race to the CME Globe, will compete his week. In addition to Ko, U.S. Women’s Open Champion Minjee Lee, and KPMG Women’s PGA Champion In Gee Chun are also not among the field.

Only five events remain before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 players on the points list will be eligible for the event, which will feature the largest purse ever for an LPGA event, $7 million, with $2 million going to the winner.

Among the favorites this week will be world #15 Celine Boutier. The French Native has a home in The Colony, and is a member at Old American. She finished tied for eighth last year.

The world’s second-ranked player Nelly Korda will make her first appearance in this event since 2017, when she tied for 40th place. But that was before the former #1 collected any of her seven LPGA wins, including last year’s Women’s PGA Championship. Korda is coming off a missed cut last week at the NW Arkansas Championship.

Last week’s winner, Thai rookie Atthaya Thitikul is in the field again this week. The 19-year-old is 3rd in the world rankings, fourth in the Race to the CME Globe, and is sixth in total strokes gained on the LPGA Tour.

For Ko, it will be a missed opportunity not only to defend her title, but play close to home. She makes her United States home base in nearby Frisco, Texas.

The tour announced only last month that Ascendant National Title would become this year’s joint title sponsor of the former Volunteers of America Classic. The official name of the tournament is now The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America. Along with the name change, the purse for the event has increased by $200,000 over last year, to a total of $1.7 million.

The Golf Channel will televise each of the four rounds of the event for three hours.

Be sure to check back with The Golf Spectator for more LPGA Tour news.