What a year for Atthaya Thitikul. Following a landmark season as the Ladies European Tour’s Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and winner of the Race to Costa del Sol in 2021, the 19-year-old Thai wunderkind is racking up accomplishments in her rookie campaign on the LPGA Tour. As of October 31, Thitikul became the second-youngest player, male or female, to reach World No. 1, a phenomenal rise after first breaking the top 100 in the Rolex Rankings in July 2021. The humble teenager now enters the TOTO Japan Classic with even more hardware in sight, as she looks to scoop a number of honors with her performances in Japan and the CME Group Tour Championship.
“I hadn’t thought that I would be No. 1 in the world that fast. And I didn’t think I would achieve this in my first year on the LPGA as well,” said Thitikul. “Overall, I’m feeling great. Feeling grateful that this has happened this year.”
With a 69.432 scoring average, Thitikul is currently second in the running for the Vare Trophy, .381 away from leader Lydia Ko. Ranked third overall in scoring average on Tour, Thitikul would need an average strokes per round of 64.862 in her remaining rounds to pass Ko’s current average.
Thitikul is currently fourth in points (129) in the Rolex Player of the Year standings. With this week in Japan and then Naples remaining in her schedule, Thitikul needs either a win or second-place finish AND a third-place finish in her final two starts to have a chance at Rolex Player of the Year honors. She’s currently 21 points behind leader Ko (150).
Thitikul and Hye-Jin Choi have been neck-and-neck in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings, but Thitikul can clinch the award in three ways at the TOTO Japan Classic:
- Win AND have Choi finish third or worse
- Second place AND have Choi finish 41st or worse
- Third place AND have Choi withdraw or be disqualified, thus earning no points in either situation
If she were to earn the honors, she would be the second consecutive player from Thailand to become ROTY, following Patty Tavatanakit. And if she were to also earn the Vare Trophy and Rolex Player of the Year honors as well, she could become just the second woman in history to win all three in a season following Nancy Lopez (1978).
“I don’t know if I’m going to play good or bad, but what I know is to try the best that I can do out there. I don’t know how I’m going to shoot but just I do my best out there every time,” said Thitikul, who is playing Seta Golf Club for the first time. “I love coming to Japan, I really want to have good memories here this week.”