Jutanugarn headlines LPGA opener in Bahamas

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Let the chase begin anew . . .

Rolex world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn will get a head start on No. 1 Lydia Ko as Jutanugarn will lead the field in next week’s LPGA season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island. The commitment list was finalized Wednesday with four of the top 10 in the world rankings competing.

With world No. 1 Lydia Ko waiting until the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open next month to make her first start of the year, Jutanugarn gets an early chance in the Bahamas to make up some ground in the world rankings.

Though Jutanugarn won a tour-best five times last year, Ko still maintains a commanding lead in the rankings, with Ko’s average world ranking at 10.78. Jutanugarn is at 7.70. That’s roughly the same lead Jutanugarn has on No. 12 Amy Yang. Even a victory in the Bahamas will not move Jutanugarn past Ko, but it would tighten the race.

No. 5 Lexi Thompson, No. 6 Sei Young Kim and No. 8 Brooke Henderson are also in the field.

Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie, Charley Hull, Gerina Piller, Morgan Pressel, Mo Martin, U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford and Cheyenne Woods are committed to play. Defending champ Hyo Joo Kim is back. So is Jessica Korda, who won the Pure Silk Bahamas in 2014. Korda will tee it up with her sister, rookie Nelly Korda, who will be making her debut as an LPGA member.