World No.1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand and second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn will continue their rivalry at this month’s Honda LPGA Thailand.
The duo are among 70 players who will play at the US$1.6 million tournament at Siam Country Club in Pattaya from Feb 23-26, organisers said yesterday.
The event also features past champions such as Lexi Thompson (2016), Amy Yang (2015), Anna Nordqvist (2014), Park In-Bee (2013) and Suzann Pettersen (2007).
The other big-name players include Stacy Lewis, Brooke Henderson and Brittany Lincicome, who won the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas last month.
There will be seven Thai players in the tournament led by Ariya, who won five times last year.
The other Thais include Pornanong Phatlum, Moriya Jutanugarn, 17-year-old Pajaree Anannarukarn and 13-year-old Attaya Thitikul.
Ariya, 21, will be trying to become the first Thai to claim the Pattaya title she came so close to winning in 2013.
That year, she held a two-shot lead with one hole left but a triple bogey handed the title to Park In-Bee.
Ariya will also be trying to close the gap on top star Ko in the world rankings.
“It should be an interesting battle between the top two players,” said Pitak Pruittisarikorn, chief operating officer of Honda Automobile (Thailand).
While Ariya won five titles last year, Ko had four with each taking one major crown.
Ariya beat Ko for the player of the year award and money title as well as in the Race to CME Globe.
“I know there will be more pressure on me. There are more expectations,” Ariya said recently. “But I will try and not think about the outcome. This year I’m going to try and have more fun. It’s going to be harder for me to have fun because of the expectations, but I will make sure I have more fun.”
While Ariya had an unconvincing start to the season in Bahamas, Ko will begin her campaign in Australia next week.
Tiger Woods felt the pain, figuratively at least, after the former world No.1 failed to make a single birdie in recording a miserable five-over 77 on the opening day of the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday.
The creaking American, now ranked 666th after his long injury lay-off, trailed Spain’s early leader Sergio Garcia by 12 shots and with only three players below him on the leaderboard among the morning starters.
“I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a very good job,” Woods said. “At the end, I finally hit some good ones but the damage had already been done.”
Appearing for the eighth time in Dubai, where he has won twice with a 92-under par record for the 28 rounds played there since 2001, the 41-year-old Woods looked out of sorts as he continued his comeback at the European Tour event.
The numbers from the opening round were not pretty, two shots higher than his previous worst ever at the Emirates Golf Club, and nor was his swing or his putting stroke.?bangkok post/reuters