Siam Country Club in Conburi, Thailand is in for a treat this week as the top six players in the world are all part of the 70-player field for the Honda LPGA Thailand. Shanshan Feng remains No. 1 in the world for a 15th consecutive week while Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist and In Gee Chun stay in hot pursuit. Of the top 20 players in the world, 17 are in the field. Since it is a limited field event, there are just two rookies set to compete including Jin Young Ko, who made history last week in Australia by becoming the second player in the LPGA’s history to win in her first start as a member. The other rookie is Solheim Cup star Georgia Hall. Brittany Lincicome, who won the first event, is also in the field so both winner’s this season will compete.
Yang Defends with Amazing Track Record
There are three past champions of the Honda LPGA Thailand in the field this week including Amy Yang, who won the tournament in 2017 and previously in 2015. The other past champions are Lexi Thompson (2016) and Anna Nordqvist (2014). Last year, Yang tallied a four-day tournament record score of 22-under to win by five shots over fellow countrywomen So Yeon Ryu. Yang shot 68 or better all four rounds (66-67-65-68). The year in between her two wins in Thailand, 2016, Yang finished in a tie for third. She is a combined 50-under-par the last three years of the Honda LPGA Thailand. Yang, No. 15 in the world, didn’t play last week but started her season with a T3 finish in the Bahamas. Keep a close eye on Thompson as she seems to like playing in Thailand a lot. While we know she won in 2016, she also finished T4 in 2017 and T5 in 2014. Her first trip to Thailand was 2012 and she posted a very respectable T14.
Big Names Making Debuts in Chonburi
There are several big names making season debuts this week. Sung Hyun Park, the 2017 Rolex Rookie of the Year and No. 2 ranked player in the world, will make her season debut after skipping the first two events. Anna Nordqvist, who has amassed 61 career top 10s, will also debut. Sandra Gal, who is coming off a back injury, will also make her first start as will Jessica Korda, who had offseason jaw surgery. Other notables making their season debuts include six-time winner Sei Young Kim, two-time winner Mi Hyang Lee and two-time winner Mi Jung Hur. Park is looking to follow up her brilliant 2017 season that included 11 top 10s, 20 top 25s and two wins. While just a sophomore on the LPGA, Park is a ten-time winner on the KLPGA and will likely show no signs of slowing down in 2018. Korda will be an interesting follow this season. The 24-year-old has been dealt a tough hand over the last year. Remember, she was forced to withdraw from the Solheim Cup in 2017 due to the left forearm injury.
Six from Thailand Hoping to Represent
There are six players in the field from Thailand: Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, Benyapa Niphatsophon, Pornanong Phatlum, Supamas Sangchan. The Jutanugarn sisters are obviously the main draw, but don’t forget that Phatlum is a top 100 player in the world and Niphatsophon finished first on the Epson Tour’s money list in 2017 to earn back a spot on the LPGA. Ariya, a seven-time winner, notched her first top 10 of the season last week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Meanwhile, Moriya finished T31 in the Bahamas and T19 last week in Adelaide. Nobody from Thailand has ever won the Honda LPGA Thailand. The Jutanugarn sisters both finished in the top 10 last year.
Two Sponsor Exemptions to Watch
Bo-Mee Lee (Korea) is a top 60 player in the world and has starred in Japan (where she resides) since 2012. She has 19 wins on the LPGA of Japan since '12 including seven wins in 2015. Her nickname is “Candy Smile”. She has played in the ANA Inspiration each of the last two years and finished in a tie for tenth in 2016. Muni He, a first-year professional, is another interesting name to watch. After spending just two semesters playing college golf at USC, she decided to turn professional. She made her debut late in 2017 on the Ladies European Tour. She will play most of the year on the Epson Tour after securing status through LPGA Qualifying Tournament. He has a large social presence with over 115,000 followers on Instagram and signed with agency power IMG right out of college.