Seo leads South Korean victory at Kia golf Classic

CARLSBAD: Seo Hee-kyung 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 two-under 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 Lee Jee-young and Shin Jiyai 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 penalized 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.

"It just doesn't seem right," Wie told Brecht on the course.

After her round, Wie went to a TV truck to review video with officials.

"They interpreted it differently than what I felt," Wie said. "I knew I did ground the club. At the same time I knew that I felt off-balance. I closed my eyes and hit the shot and grounded my club so I wouldn't fall into the water while wearing a white skirt.

"I accept it," she added, speaking with reporters a few feet off the 18th green just as Seo was about to receive her trophy. "I accept the fact that it was a penalty stroke if you ground a club. But the fact is I felt like I was off balance. That's why I grounded the club. That's a rule so there's nothing I can do about it."

Wie has run afoul of golf's rules several times in her competitive career.

In her first pro tournament, the 2005 Samsung World Championship, she took a penalty drop for an unplayable lie during her third round. At the end of the tournament, officials ruled she made her drop at the wrong place, should have taken a two-shot penalty and disqualified her for signing an incorrect card.

"It's always the kind of thing like, 'Oh, it always happens to me,"' Wie said. "But it's Murphy's Law, I guess."