- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) - Lydia Ko hopes to celebrate her 19th birthday Sunday with yet another victory in the Swinging Skirts Classic.

Set to begin play Thursday at Lake Merced, the top-ranked Ko won the event the last two years.

“I can’t believe it’s already my third year on the tour,” Ko said Wednesday. “I feel like I’m getting old. There are girls younger than me. Last year and the year before, everybody was older. I feel like everything is changing really quickly.”

Ko has 12 LPGA Tour titles, the first two in the Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur. She beat Stacy Lewis by a stroke at Lake Merced in 2014 in the inaugural event, and topped Morgan Pressel in a playoff last year.

“When you come back to a place where you’ve played well and you feel the love you always love coming back,” the New Zealander said. “Having so many great memories I’m excited for it to start.”

She has two victories this season, taking the Kia Classic and major ANA Inspiration in consecutive weeks in Southern California.

“I love California,” she said. “I love this West Coast swing. I wish I could live on the West Coast.”

The U.S. Women’s Open also will also played in California, in Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who grew up in nearby Santa Cruz and has seven major titles among 31 career wins, is looking for her first tour title in 10 years.

“I’ve been playing pretty good, though my concentration has not been what it used to be,” the 55-year-old Inkster said. “I still enjoying playing.”

Inkster sees higher scores than were recorded the past two years. Ko shot 12 under two years ago and she and Pressel finished at 8 under last year.

“The course is playing tough,” Inkster said. “It’s the toughest I’ve seen it play. It’s firm and fast. I don’t think the scores will be what they were the last few years.”

Inkster will be honored for her career with her own bobblehead by the San Francisco Giants before their game Friday night game against the Miami Marlins.

“I think I’ve hit the big time,” she said. “Bobblehead and Solheim Cup captain all in one year. Pretty impressive.”

Minjee Lee, the 19-year-old Australian who came from five strokes down on the final day to win the Lotte Championship last week in Hawaii, also has had success at Lake Merced, winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior four years ago.

“It was my first time in America and I was really excited,” Lee said. “I can’t quite remember how the course was set up but it was really fun.”

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