Stage set at Sentosa as players gear up for 12th edition of HSBC Women’s World Championship
SINGAPORE, 27 February 2019 – World No. 8 Nelly Korda will be one to watch at this week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship when the talking stops and the action gets underway on the New Tanjong course at Sentosa Golf Club tomorrow [Thursday].
Runner up to Michelle Wie in 2018, Korda joins the tournament in a rich vein of form that puts her top of the LPGA Tour’s 2019 Race to the CME Globe. With two wins, and a second, third and seventh place finish in her last six outings, the 1.78m American is enjoying the best form of her professional career.
Drawing comparisons with last year, Korda said: “I definitely feel more confident. I kind of know the ins and outs of this golf course after playing it once. But I'm just going to approach it like I do every week. It's a new week. The course is playing completely different than it was last year, so, in my eyes, it's like playing a completely different golf course, so I'm just going to approach it like I approach every week.”
And asked if she felt a need to work on her mental approach to the game, the 20-year old’s answer was telling: “Not really. I was pretty lucky with it. My parents always refer to me as the lion because I just see something, and I go after it. I'm always pretty determined. So, I've always kind of had that aspect, but I think just playing so much competitive golf, even at a young age, kind of builds it.”
Growing up in the ultra-talented – and equally determined – Korda family, it should come as no surprise that Nelly has what it takes to win on the international stage. That she has been able to make her mark on the LPGA Tour so early in her career is impressive by anyone’s standards.
Defending champion Michelle Wie, returns to competition for her second start of the 2019 season after she made her season debut at last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand, where she finished T23. Last year, Wie carded a final-round 7-under-par 65 for one of the largest come-from-behind victories after a five-shot deficit.
“It's great. Singapore is definitely one of my favourite spots out of the year. It's a tournament that I look forward to all year, and it's definitely a different experience coming back as defending champion. It's really cool. It's awesome to see my picture kind of everywhere and it's pretty neat, especially coming on 18, I look, ‘oh, there I am’”, said Wie yesterday.
This week marks Wie’s 10th appearance of the event and is joined by World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, along with the top 15 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, including No. 5 Inbee Park making her season debut. 2019 LPGA Tour winner Eun-Hee Ji is also in this week’s star-studded field.
For World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, the world ranking hasn’t really changed her. Instead, the 23-year-old has been working on focusing on things in her control instead of the outcome, taking each week and each shot as a learning opportunity to help her work towards finding her best form.
“I feel like [the ranking] hasn’t changed me much. The only thing changed is my ranking, really, like No. 2 and No. 1. Nothing much changed,” said Jutanugarn who returned to the No. 1 spot last October. “I still have to work on the same stuff. I still have to focus on the same stuff. You know, because I didn't feel like last year was playing my best year, because I always felt like 2016 was my best year.”
Singaporean favourite and Sentosa member Amanda Tan is out of the 10th tee at 10.52am and will be hoping for some strong home support. This is Tan’s third time playing in the tournament the players call ‘Asia’s Major’ but the first time she is feeling comfortable amongst the world’s best after coming through a strong regional qualifying competition which, for the first time, involved players from as many as seven countries around the region. Tan explained: “In 2014 and 2017 I felt I had sneaked a place in the field but this time around I really feel I belong.”
The HSBC Women’s World Championship takes place at Sentosa Golf Club from 28 February to 3 March 2019. For more information on the HSBC Women’s World Championship 2019, visit the tournament website at www.hsbcgolf.com/womens
Twelve months on from a disappointing runner-up finish at the HSBC Women’s World Championship where she led the tournament heading into the final round, Nelly Korda is oozing confidence as the hottest player on the LPGA Tour. In her last six starts, she has won twice while posting three other top-10s. Her worst result during this sizzling run was a tie for 19th at the TOTO Japan Classic in November.
Korda leads the 2019 Race to the CME Globe with 780 points, and she also sets the pace in the LEADERS Top 10 competition, with three in her first three starts of the year. While her memories of last year's HSBC Women’s World Championship are somewhat mixed after she came up agonizingly short in her bid to claim a first LPGA Tour victory, she returns this week to the New Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club in buoyant spirits as a twice champion on the women's circuit.
"I definitely feel more confident," Korda said after playing in Wednesday's pro-am competition. "I kind of know the ins and outs of this golf course after playing it once. But I'm just going to approach it like I do every week. It's a new week. The course is playing completely different than it did last year ... so I'm just going to approach it like I approach every week. It was a little disappointing (here last year) but I finished second and I had a good run. I realized that, you know, I can compete with all these top girls out here, so really, I took a lot of positives away from it, as well.”
Having finally clinched her first LPGA Tour victory at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship in October, Korda added a second earlier this month at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she triumphed by two shots. Unquestionably the hottest player on the LPGA Tour over the past four months, she knows how she wants the next four months to unfold. "Hopefully a lot of consistency," she smiled. "That's something that was a huge goal of mine this year, and I’m just going to take it tournament by tournament. Do my fundamentals, get ready and try to play my best."
Minjee Lee enters the 2019 HSBC Women’s World Championship as World No. 3 on the Rolex Rankings after jumping four spots—the highest rank she has reached in her four years on Tour. Lee made the jump into the top 10 on May 28, 2018 after her win at the LPGA Volvik Championship and the upward trend continues.
“I'm coming off a pretty good week last week, so I'll probably just try to take the momentum from last week into this week,” said Lee, who finished last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand as runner-up. “I'm hitting it pretty solid and putting it pretty solid, so hopefully top ten, top five [this week].”
Lee is making her fifth appearance at the HSBC Women’s World Championship and looks to improve on her T6 finish from 2018. With her goals at hand, the 22-year-old has taken note of her maturity level and is satisfied with the progress she’s made—developing into a player ready to challenge for the No. 1 spot in the world.
“I really know what I need for myself now and what works best for me. I think in figuring that out a little bit, I got to settle myself down a little bit more on Tour and I sort of know where I stand and what I need to improve on to try to make it to world No. 1,” said Lee.
Along with Lee, Rolex Rankings World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 2 Sung Hyun Park will tee off at 10:20 a.m. on the first tee for Round 1.
2020 OLYMPIC DREAMS FOR SO YEON RYU
So Yeon Ryu is a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour and was a member of the victorious 2018 UL International Crown but there’s one thing that the 29-year-old from Republic of Korea has not yet accomplished. Competing in Olympic Games. With golf’s re-entry into the Games in 2016, Ryu revealed her long-term goal of making the Olympic team in 2020.
“To make the 2020 Olympic Korean Team is going to be really tough, but if I'm playing really well in 2019, I can put myself in a really good position, so that’s my goal -- even though it's not really this year, that’s my long-term goal,” Ryu said with determination.
For the Olympic hopeful to qualify for her national team, Ryu’s strategy is to capitalize on every opportunity in 2019 with her sights on a win at this week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship.
“Hopefully my game is going to be better and better all the time and by Sunday I'm good enough to hold the trophy,” said Ryu, who will tee off in round one with fellow countrywoman Inbee Park and American Lexi Thompson. “For this week, like I said, hopefully I can have a better timing, and if I am great enough, for sure I want to win this tournament.”
WIND A BIG FACTOR ON AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE, SAYS LIZETTE SALAS
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the HSBC Women’s World Championship is the par-five 13th and Lizette Salas will be keeping a close eye on the wind before she decides on her strategy there and tees off.
On this dogleg-left, the tee shot is key with bunkers on the left and right protecting the landing zone. Players can either tee up short for safety or go long and right, beyond the first three bunkers, in a bid to reach the green in two. Care is also needed with a bold approach here, since over-hit shots will more than likely bounce over the back of a deceivingly elevated green.
"It's a very demanding tee shot and the second shot is typically blindsided - you can't really see where the ball is landing," said Salas, an Aon ambassador whose sole LPGA Tour victory came at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship. "You are basically landing in a very narrow fairway, unless you take a more aggressive second shot and maybe possibly end up in that bunker short of the green and your third shot be a bunker approach shot. It all depends on how the wind is.
"The wind tends to be in your face right-to-left on that hole so that can also be a big factor in either going for it or playing a little more conservative. My approach is to just look at the wind first, and the pin placement as well. If the pin's in the back, I don't think there's any greater reward to go for it because that back side you're going to short-side yourself and it's a very steep roll-off behind the green. It would be even more a risk-reward opportunity if the pin is in the front and the wind isn't that aggressive. There are tons of factors that play into it. It's a really demanding hole from the get-go."
18 holes: 62 (-10), Sei Young Kim (fourth round), 2018
36 holes: 131 (-13), Lorena Ochoa, 2008
54 holes: 200 (-16), Lorena Ochoa, 2008
72 holes: 268 (-20), Lorena Ochoa, 2008