Star-Studded Field In Hollywood
The biggest names in women’s golf traveled to Los Angeles for the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Shanshan Feng, currently No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, tops the field which includes 21 of the top 25 ranked players in the world.
Feng arrives in Hollywood as the world’s top-ranked player for the 23rd consecutive week. But the gap to overtake the Olympic bronze medalist continues to narrow. Despite weekend rounds of 74-71 in Hawaii, Feng was able to muster a T3 finish to hold off current world No. 3 Inbee Park, who could have overtaken the top spot with a poor finish by Feng. Park also finished T3 in Hawaii. Rounding out the top-10 in the field this week are No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 4 Sung Hyun Park, No. 5 So Yeon Ryu, No. 6 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 8 Cristie Kerr and No. 9 Anna Nordqvist.
Inbee Park continues to surpass all expectations with her incredible performance to start 2018. After coming up short in the marathon playoff with Pernilla Lindberg at the season’s first major, Park bounced back with a T3 finish at last week’s LOTTE Championship in Hawaii. The rebound is the latest in a series of bounce-backs for the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer. During her last two years on Tour, her season has been cut short by injury, first her thumb and then her back. Each time she returned to competitive golf, she defied expectation, by winning gold at the Olympic games in Rio in 2016, and in 2018, by winning in her second start after a six-month hiatus from the Tour that began the year prior. Now positioned to return to No. 1 in the world, a position she held off and on between 2013 and 2015, Park is once again defying expectation. The putting master is in the field this week in Los Angeles, where she’ll need to recover from what she described as a “horrible putting round” during the final day in Hawaii to have a chance to eclipse Feng as world No. 1.
For Lexi Thompson, the anticipation of returning to the ANA Inspiration likely loomed over her for months. With a T20 finish in her emotional return to Mission Hills Country Club, she was able to officially put a challenging 2017 behind her. This week, Thompson makes her first start since the ANA Inspiration. Following a two-week break, expect an unencumbered and well-rested Thompson to play well in Los Angeles. The top-ranked American has two top-10s to start 2018 and is well-positioned to pick up her first win of the year.
Natalie Gulbis makes a rare return to the LPGA Tour this week at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. The 16-year Tour veteran received a sponsor invite to make her 2018 debut in Los Angeles, where she hasn’t competed since her rookie season in 2002. Gulbis, who made just five starts last season, has yet to make a cut since 2015. She’s one of two players to receive an invite this week. The other spot went to amateur Hae-Ran Ryu from the Republic of Korea. In 2017, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and won the Evian Championship Junior Cup. Ryu is currently No. 93 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.