World number one Lydia Ko and Thailand’s third-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn are among the top seeds for the LPGA Lorena Ochoa Match Play event that tees off here Thursday.
South Korean-born New Zealander Ko, who withdrew from last week’s LPGA Texas Shootout with a left eye infection, tops the rankings for the 80th week in a row entering the 64-player event, the LPGA’s first match-play tournament since 2012.
Ko, who turned 20 last week, meets Mexico’s Ana Menendez in a first-round match while Ariya opens against American Amy Anderson but faces a possible second-round match against sister Moriya Jutanugarn, who opens against Canada’s Alena Sharp.
South Koreans Park In-Bee, ranked sixth, and Chun In-Gee, ranked fourth, are also top seeds in their brackets in a showdown that trims the field to 32 and 16 the first two days, then offers two rounds each on Saturday and Sunday to decide a champion.
Park, who won the 2015 Ochoa Invitational stroke-play crown but missed last year’s event with a thumb injury, opens against Taiwan’s Chien Pei-Yun while Chun’s first foe is Belgian Laura Gonzalez Escallon.
China’s seventh-ranked Feng Shanshan is a second seed in Ko’s quarter of the bracket while South Koreans — number nine Jang Ha Na, 10th-ranked Park Sung Hyun and number 12 Kim Sei-Young — own the other second seed slots.
Spain’s Carlotta Ciganda is the defending champion of the event, which last year was a stroke-play event.
“I love match play. I’m very comfortable with the format,” Ciganda said. “I played so many match-play events when I was an amateur. We play a lot in Europe so I like the format.
“In match-play, you are just playing against the player you have in front of you, and I like that because you can see what she is doing.”
Ciganda will meet friend and local heroine Gaby Lopez of Mexico in her opening match. Two wins would put her in Park’s path.
Americans Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda lurk in Chun’s quarter of the draw while Canada’s Brooke Henderson and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen could contend in Ko’s side of the draw.