Defending champ Ko misses Kia Classic cut

Lydia Ko exits the Kia Classic, having failed to make the third-round cut and will need to regroup ahead of next week's Major.
Lydia Ko exits the Kia Classic, having failed to make the third-round cut and will need to regroup ahead of next week's Major. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Women's world No. 1 golfer Lydia Ko missed the cut for only the second time in her career as American Cristie Kerr opened a one-shot lead at the Kia Classic on Friday.

Ko will not be able to retain her title at the Aviara Golf Club, but she is planning to use the extra time to head to Palm Springs to get in some extra practice ahead of her ANA Inspiration title defence.

In the final tournament before the first Major of the season, the New Zealander fired an even-par 72 in Carlsbad, California, but it was not enough to advance her to the weekend following her opening round of 74 on Thursday.

"Ball striking wasn't very good today," the 19-year-old, whose only other missed cut came at the 2015 KMPG Women's PGA Championship, told LPGA.com.

"I'm hitting my drives really well, but like the birdie opportunities I had I was missing quite a few of them. I was putting so much better today until the last few holes."

With the cut coming at one-over, she missed out on a place in the third round by just one stroke - ultimately paying the price for two bogeys in her final three holes.

"I was in an okay position after (the halfway point) then I had a really bad finish, missed two short putts at 16, 17 and obviously three-putting the last," she said.

"I tried my best out there to hopefully put myself in a better position going forward, but I can't do anything about it."

Kerr held a share of the first-round lead with American Mo Martin and South Korea's Chun In Gee, but she pulled away from the pack. She started on the back nine and led by as many as three strokes before faltering coming in.

"I think it's a course that demands a lot of you," said Kerr, who won this event in 2015 for her first of two victories that season. "When you hit a bad shot you have to be able to recover and really stay focused the whole day."

She made two bogeys in her last four holes as her lead dwindled to one. Her three-under 69 put her at nine-under 135, one stroke in front of Martin (70) and South Korea's Lee Mi Rim, who shot her second straight 68.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


LPGA KIA CLASSIC
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Defending champ Ko misses Kia Classic cut'. Print Edition | Subscribe