The LPGA’s new season ramps to another level at the Honda LPGA Thailand this week.
The strongest field of the year thus far will tee it up with nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings scheduled to play.
Rolex world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn is looking to scrape the rust off in a return to her homeland after a couple sluggish warm ups in her first two events this season.
No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu are making their first starts of the year.
Michelle Wie is making her first start since undergoing hand surgery late last season.
Nelly Korda will be looking to win back-to-back starts while putting the Korda name on the Honda Thailand trophy in back-to-back years. Her sister, Jessica, won’t be defending her title this week as she continues to recover from a left forearm injury.
Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng, Brooke Henderson, Cristie Kerr, In Gee Chun, Danielle Kang, Angela Stanford, Georgia Hall and Paula Creamer are among the biggest names in women’s golf playing Siam Country Club in Chonburi. Inbee Park is the only player among the top 10 who won’t be there. She’s scheduled to make her first start of the year next week at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.
With all those stars in Thailand, the country’s favorite daughters will be the headliners. Ariya and her sister, Moriya Jutanugarn, will draw the largest galleries. Ariya swept the LPGA’s biggest awards and honors last year while regaining the world No. 1 ranking. Moriya is teeing it up in her homeland for the first time since she broke through last year to win her first LPGA title at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open.
Ariya is playing her home event for the 10th time. She has played it every year since she was 14.
“Every time, I still get nervous, every time, because we have so many fans coming to cheer for me,” Jutanugarn said. “It’s a little extra expectation.”
Jutanugarn, 23, is looking to win her home event for the first time. She has four top-10 finishes in it, including her runner-up finish when she was 17 and lost a two-shot lead to Inbee Park going to the last hole.
It’s a big week for all the Thais, a growing force in the women’s game. Three Thais won on tour last year with Thidapa Suwannapura winning the Marathon Classic last summer.
This week’s event will feature eight Thais. The Jutanugarn sisters, Suwannapura and Pornanong Phatlum are in the field. So is 15-year-old Thai amateur star Atthaya Thitikul, who became the youngest winner of a pro event when she claimed the Ladies European Tour title last year. Thitikul is playing on a sponsor’s exemption. So are Benyapa Niphatsophon, Pajaree Anannarukarn and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras.