Q Baek made quite an impression in her first career LPGA event a year ago.
A KLPGA Tour member at the time, Baek birdied the first sudden-death playoff hole to defeat fellow KLPGA Tour member In Gee Chun and Brittany Lincicome and claim the title at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in Incheon. The current LPGA rookie is back at the Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course to defend her title at the $2 million event, and she’s hoping for more magic in her home country of Republic of Korea.
Baek shot a 6-under 65 on Sunday to close out the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia strong and will be one of the players to watch this week. Sunday’s winner, Jessica Korda, rejuvenated her season with a $300,000 pay day that more than doubled her 2015 earnings, and she routinely plays well in tournaments abroad.
In addition, world No. 1 Inbee Park, second-ranked Lydia Ko – who tied for second on Sunday –also are teeing it up this week. Chun and Lincicome will also be back for more this week, as will two-time 2015 champions Na Yeon Choi and Sei Young Kim, who will be delighted to play in their home country once again.
Choi won this event in 2010 and is joined in the field by fellow past LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship winners Amy Yang (2013), Suzann Pettersen (2007, 2012), Yani Tseng (2011), Candie Kung (2008) and Shi Hyun Ahn (2003). Eight players with the surname Lee – including LPGA winners Mirim and Minjee – and six players with the last name Kim are in this week’s field, so there’s a good chance one of those popular names will be found on the leaderboard over the weekend.
This week’s field also includes six sponsor invites – including Japan’s Ai Miyazato and amateur Yu-Sang Hou – and 12 KLPGA members, giving a unique blend of talented golfers. A playoff could be in the cards again this year, but there’s a lot of golf to be played at the par-72, 6,364-yard course before anything like that materializes.
The Tour is in the midst of its second of five weeks in Asia, with stops in China, Taiwan and Japan following before the season concludes with events in Mexico and Florida. Only six tournaments remain on the schedule, and battles for the LPGA’s top season-long awards are tight heading into this week’s event.
Whoever wins in Republic of Korea this week could be headed to big-time awards next month.