Hee Kyung Seo has romped to her first US LPGA tour victory, spearheading a dominant South Korean showing in the inaugural Kia Classic at La Costa.
Seo, an 11-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour, was playing on a sponsor’s exemption.
She started the day with a five-shot lead, and posted a 2-under-par 70 for a 12-under total of 276 and a six-stroke victory over compatriot Inbee Park.
Park climbed up the leaderboard with a 65 for 282.
South Koreans Jee Young Lee and Jiyai Shin shared third place on 283, along with Taiwan’s Candie Kung.
Lee and Shin both carded 70s, while Kung turned in a 72.
With the victory, Seo has the option to join the LPGA Tour or remain as a nonmember for the current season, then join next season. She said she’ll probably finish the season on the KLPGA Tour and think about it in the offseason.
Her standing on the KLPGA money list last year had already insured her spot in the first LPGA major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco next week in Rancho Mirage.
Meanwhile, American Michelle Wie was set back by her latest rules gaffe.
Wie was penalised two strokes for grounding her club in a hazard after hitting out of the water near the 11th green.
That gave her a double-bogey seven and she finished with a 72 and was tied for sixth on 284 along with China’s Shanshan Feng (72), Britain’s Catriona Matthew (67) and American Morgan Pressel (68).
Wie was informed of the penalty by LPGA Tour rules official Doug Brecht a few holes after the infraction occurred.