Lydia Ko paired with idol Michelle Wie
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Phenom Lydia Ko -- who last year at 15 became the youngest player to win an LPGA title but still has amateur status -- will be playing her first two rounds of the LPGA Championship in a group with Michelle Wie. They tee off at 12:37 p.m. ET Thursday and 7:37 a.m. Friday.
Ko, now 16, is a native South Korean who moved to New Zealand when she was a child and represents that country. She said she's long idolized Wie, an American of Korean descent who became famous for her youthful golf success.
Ko said when she saw Wie at last year's U.S. Women's Open, she immediately ran over to get Wie's autograph. When they were playing in a group together earlier this year, Ko acknowledged a case of nerves, but she's getting better about that.
Ko and Wie were supposed to play with Ariya Jutanugarn, who is the sister of the LPGA's top rookie, Moriya Jutanugarn, but Ariya had to withdraw after injuring her shoulder in a fall here on the Locust Hill Country Club course this week.
Ariya, 17, is a pro but is not yet officially on the LPGA tour. However, she has played in five LPGA events this year and won almost $450,000.
Groups to watch
Some of the marquee groups of the first two rounds of the LPGA Championship:
Past champions Karrie Webb (2001) and Suzann Pettersen (2007), along with Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn, who is leading the LPGA rookie of the year standings. They tee off at 12:59 p.m. ET on Thursday and 7:59 a.m. Friday.
Past champs Shanshan Feng (2012), Cristie Kerr (2010) and Yani Tseng (2008, '11). They go at 1:10 p.m. Thursday and 8:10 a.m. Friday.
American standouts Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, and Spain's Carlota Ciganda. They play at 7:59 a.m. Thursday and 1:09 p.m. Friday.
Rules change for U.S. teams
The "borders" will be closed, so to speak, for the U.S. teams in future women's golf events.
At the LPGA Championship on Wednesday, it was announced that there's been a change in criteria to play for the United States starting with the new International Crown event in 2014 and the Solheim Cup in 2015.
To qualify for the U.S. team, a player must either be born in the United States, born to parents who are U.S. citizens [if born outside the U.S.], be a naturalized U.S. citizen by age 18 or be adopted by U.S. parents before age 13.
What's the reason for this?
"I think what we are concerned about is the Olympics are a little bit too loose with that, with players jumping countries," 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon said. "We just wanted to make sure that they were a player that was serious about playing for the United States."
Whether this was much of an issue is up for debate, but Mallon's point about Olympic athletes competing for nations other than their birth countries has been a point of contention in recent years, including in women's basketball, in which American Becky Hammon has played in two Olympics for Russia. This despite no connection to Russia except her overseas career there and subsequent ability to get a quick citizenship for the purpose of international competition.
Just a refresher on the International Crown, which was announced earlier this year. That's the new LPGA team event that will be open to all nations, as opposed to the Solheim Cup, which is strictly a competition between the USA and Europe.
The top eight countries will qualify for the International Crown based on results by individual players from each country. The inaugural competition will be held in late July 2014 in Maryland.