It’s become a two-horse race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award with just four events left on the LPGA Tour calendar for the 2022 season. Leading the way with 1,425 points is Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, who has captured two Tour titles this year at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol in March and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G in September. Both wins came in playoffs with the rookie defeating Nanna Koerstz Madsen in Carlsbad, Calif. and beating out Danielle Kang in Rogers, Ark. just a few weeks ago.
In addition to Rookie of the Year, Thitikul also has a sniff at Player of the Year honors as one of 18 players with a mathematical chance to win the award, and she could ascend to No.1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings before the end of the year depending upon her results in the final few events. There’s definitely plenty to play for for the 19-year-old but even with all that on the line, Thitikul remains focused on one thing: having fun on the golf course.
“I had a really good season this year so far. I'm not really thinking about all the awards that much, as I want to do for now on to the end of the season is try to have fun as much as possible because I think when I go out and just have fun, all the result has come in pretty good,” said Thitikul. “I'm the kind of person that goes out and smiles as much as possible. We’ve worked really hard this year already and it's coming pretty close to the end of the season, so what I have to do is just relax and enjoy. I don't think that I compete or play against anyone for Rookie of the Year. I just try to get better and I’m getting better every day.”
Winning Rookie of the Year was definitely a goal for Hye-Jin Choi in her first LPGA Tour season, and currently sitting just 243 points behind Thitikul, she certainly still has a chance at achieving that aim even with only four events left in 2022. So far this year, Choi has amassed 23 top-40 finishes in 24 events, six of which are top 10s and three of which are top 3s, and she hasn’t missed a single cut, although she did withdraw at the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America after the first round. Like Thitikul, Choi isn’t focusing too hard on the year-end awards but is instead looking forward to the opportunity to play in her first BMW Ladies Championship as an LPGA Tour Member this week and is extra motivated to become the fourth rookie to win on the LPGA Tour this season. The points toward Rookie of the Year that would come with that maiden victory would only be a bonus.
“When I first joined the Tour, I did want to be Rookie of the Year. But as the year went on and I played with all the other rookies who are doing very well it motivated me to want to do my best. I wouldn't say it's really about Rookie of the Year. When other rookies win, I think that just really motivated me,” said Choi. “This is my first time playing this championship as an LPGA Tour Member, and so I'm very excited, and it's been about a year since I played in Korea so that also makes me very excited. I hope that we'll see a lot of support from the fans, and I hope that I can show them great golf.”