Lydia Ko tees it up Sunday with a chance to put a stranglehold on the Rolex world No. 1 ranking as she bids to win her third title in a row.
No. 2 Inbee Park isn’t hiding the fact that she wants the No. 1 ranking back.
No. 3 Stacy Lewis is just as motivated to ascend back to the top of the world rankings.
With the LPGA delivering yet another enchanting storyline, this trio will go head-to-head in the final round of the HSBC Women’s Champions. In a compelling final-round grouping, the world Nos. 1-2-3 players will battle it out together in Singapore.
“It will be great fun,” Lewis said. “It's great for the fans and for our tour. This leaderboard, all week, has been unbelievable. Just a ton of really good players up in the mix.”
LPGA pros are picking up right where they left off in 2014, delivering dramatic storylines again this year.
Ko, 17, got the year started in a big way, becoming the youngest No. 1 in the history of professional golf. She’s built terrific momentum since ascending, going to Singapore on the heels of back-to-back victories at the Women’s Australian Open and the New Zealand Women’s Open. Yet another victory this week would send a strong message to Park and Lewis - and the rest of women’s golf - that she intends to rule over the game for a long while.
Ko has some work to do Sunday, however. With Inbee Park posting a 4-under-par 68 Saturday, Park is looking to go wire-to-wire in an attempt to win her first title this year and her 11th worldwide over the last 25 months. At 13 under overall, Park is two shots ahead of Ko (67) and Lewis (67).
“I think it's going to be a really fun day tomorrow,” Park said. “It's a great leaderboard, and everybody, all the fans, are looking forward to seeing our play tomorrow.”
Park and Lewis can’t get to No. 1 with wins this week, but they can narrow the gap on Ko, who will take her No. 1 ranking into a sixth week no matter what happens in Singapore.
Park, 26, lost the No. 1 ranking to Ko after the LPGA season opener this year, and she isn’t bashful in saying she would like it back. But she says she knows performance takes care of everything.
“I want it,” Park said. “I just know I want it, but I'm just not going to push myself too hard to get something. It's something that if you push for, it's just hard to get. Just a couple of wins and playing great golf, and it's going to come, so I'm just going to not rush anything and just play good golf.”
If Ko wins, she doesn’t just build a large cushion as No. 1. She sends a powerful message to the last two No. 1s before her. She sends a message to all of golf.
“That would be I guess a dream three weeks, but I'm just going to try my best,” Ko said about the prospect of winning again.
Ko’s reign as No. 1 is impressive given who she overtook to get there and who she’s holding off. Park and Lewis took turns holding the No. 1 ranking the last two years.
Park made history in 2013 becoming the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1950 to win the first three major championships of the year. Those victories still count in the two-year rolling window Rolex uses to measure world rankings, though they don’t count as much in the weighted points system. Park has won four majors over the last two seasons.
Lewis, 30, swept the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the LPGA money title last year. She has won two Rolex Player of the Year titles in the last three years.
While these three players are eager to battle each other for the HSBC Women’s Champions title, they’re aware this is more than a three-player race. Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist and Azahara Munoz are in the grouping that will go off right in front of them. They’re each within striking distance, four shots back.
“This golf course, we have got to be careful about what's going on ahead of us, because it's easy to post a number and kind of sit back and see what happens,” Lewis said. “The final group on a Sunday is where you want to be, doesn't matter who is in the group.”