Kuala Lumpur: The stage is set for a titanic battle at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country after it was confirmed that all four of the year’s Major winners will feature at next week’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Sun Young Yoo of South Korea, China’s first Major winner Shanshan Feng (LPGA Championship) and former world number one Shin Jiyai (British Open) will join US Women’s Open winner and titleholder Na Yeon Choi in the third edition of the US$1.9 million LPGA tournament.
The stellar line-up continues with nine of the world’s top ten players set to vie for the title, led by top-ranked Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei and international stars like American Stacy Lewis, Ai Miyazato of Japan and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen.
A host of American stars including fan favourites Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Michelle Wie as well as 14-time Tour winner Cristie Kerr and teenage superstar Lexi Thompson will start as strong contenders alongside an exciting European line-up boasting the likes of Spanish Azahara Munoz, Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and Germany’s Sandra Gal.
Other top class players vying for this year’s title include multiple Major winners Karrie Webb of Australia, South Korean legend Pak Se Ri, LPGA Money List leader Inbee Park.
Aside from exemptions for Malaysian professionals Jean Chua as well as Ainil Johani Abu Bakar, Sime Darby have also extended slots to two of the game’s rising stars – Scotland’s Carly Booth and Thai junior hot-shot Ariya Jutanugarn.
Malaysian youngsters Aretha Pan Herng and Sarfina Vinota and Chinese Taipei duo Ssu-Chia Cheng and Min Lee booked their berths earlier through the national and regional qualifiers.
Tipped as one of the game’s future stars, Booth claimed her maiden Ladies European Tout title at the Ladies Scottish Open in May before bagging the Ladies Swiss Open a month later. Though still an amateur, Ariya is no slouch either, having already competed in two of the four Majors – making the cut at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship – and is the reigning American Junior Golf Association Junior Player of the Year.
“We are thrilled to have all four Major winners in the field. This is the strongest field we’ve had at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and spectators can look forward to some fantastic entertainment at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. This year has been one of the most exciting seasons on the LPGA Tour, with many close battles and dramatic finishes, and with nine of the world’s top-10 golfers competing here, it promises to be a week to remember for both players and fans alike,” Sime Darby Group chief operating officer Dato’ Wahab Maskan.
Korean world number three Choi expressed her determination to defend her title at the KLGCC East Course. “I have many good memories of the Sime Darby LPGA and hopefully that will help me play well again. It’s nice playing in Asia, the fans are great and very supportive,” she said.
Having won three LPGA titles this year, Tseng is keen to notch her fourth win and make amends for a runner-up finish last year, when she finished one stroke behind Choi. “I cannot wait to go back to Malaysia for this year’s tournament. Having all four Major winners involved makes it even more special and after coming close last year, I definitely want to do better this time around.”
Lewis, who is enjoying a breakout year with three titles and 14 top-10 finishes this year, has set her eyes on none other than the title itself. “I love playing in Malaysia and in the Sime Darby tournament. I’ve been playing well this year so I’m definitely looking forward to trying to get my first win in Asia.”