CARLSBAD, Calif. – Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.
Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club – four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.
Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer’s highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.
Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.
Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.
“I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,” Hedwall said. “I’m really happy with how I’m playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.”
Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.
“I hit a lot of fairways,” Stoelting said. “I don’t necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.”
Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.
The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.
“I like this golf course,” Kerr said. “I think it’s a tough golf course and you can’t fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it’s just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that’s maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.”
Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.
“It’s rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,” Jutanugarn said. “Just start to make some putts. … It’s pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you’re not going to hit far here.”
Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.
Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.
“I holed some really good putts on my back nine,” Ko said. “I didn’t hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.”
She won the 2016 event at Aviara.
“This is a pretty tough golf course,” Ko said. “Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.”
Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Leealso shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.
Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.
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