Golf fans will be in for a spectacular show of golf when a glittering cast tees off in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on Thursday.
Headlining the US$1.9 million tournament at KLGCC’s East Course will be World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan, defending champion Na Yeon Choi of South Korea, Stacy Lewis of the United States, Shanshan Feng of China, Ai Miyazato of Japan, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Jiyai Shin of South Korea. For the first time in the tournament’s three-year history, all four of the year’s Major winners will be in the line-up – Yoo Sun Young (Kraft Nabisco Championship), Feng (LPGA Championship), Choi (US Open) and Shin (British Open) are all part of the 72-woman field, which comprises the top-62 players on the LPGA Tour and 10 sponsors invites.
“The very best golfers in the world are here to showcase their skills and I’m confident the spectators will be in for a treat this week. This is certainly the strongest field assembled for this fantastic event and there will be plenty of exciting action in store for all golf fans,” said the LPGA’s Director of Tournament Business Affairs, Sean Pyun
In keeping with Sime Darby’s commitment to the development of grassroots golf, four spots have been allocated to promising young golfers via a local and regional qualifier held in September. Malaysia’s Aretha Pan Herng and Sarfina Vinota emerged as the local qualifiers and will be joined in the tournament by regional qualifiers Ssu-Chia Cheng and Min Lee of Taiwan. Malaysian professionals Jean Chua and Ainil Johani have also been given sponsor’s spots in the event.
In his address, Governing Council Member of Sime Darby Foundation Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. M Jegathesan spoke of the importance of the tournament for the wider community. “We are delighted that through our sponsorship of this world-class event we are able to further promote and develop the sport, not just in Malaysia, but around Asia as well. This is in line with our long-term vision of nurturing young talent and providing a platform for them to excel,” he said.
In a show of support for the event’s official charity, the Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF), all seven players present at Tuesday’s official ceremony added their own personal touch to a piece of artwork by CARIF researcher and local artist Yink Heay Kong. Each player chipped paint-covered golf balls onto the CARIF-inspired painting, creating pink splash marks on the canvas as a symbol of the fight against cancer.
One player thrilled to be back at the KLGCC East Course is world No. 4 Choi (based on the Rolex Rankings as of Oct 8), who held off Tseng last year to win by a single stroke. She said: “I’ve had a good year, winning my first Major at the US Open. It would be great to complete the year by defending my title here. I have a lot of special memories from Malaysia and hopefully I’ll add some more this week.”Tseng added: “I have a good memory from last year too. I was very close and I fought to the end. I didn’t swing it well the first couple of days but I finished well in second place. Na Yeon always pushes me hard to the next level so I’m really looking forward to this tournament. I played the course this morning and I love it.”
However, a host of challengers will ensure that it will not be a two-horse race at the KLGCC. Said world No. 2 Lewis, who is enjoying a breakout year with three Tour victories, 14 top-10 finishes and is leading the Rolex Player of the Year standings, noted: “I’m playing well and am confident about my game. This has been an amazing year for me and it would be really nice if I could add to it by getting my first win in Asia.”
“It’s nice to be ranked as one of the favourites though you’ve also got a target on your back. I’ve played really well this year, just been really consistent and I think that’s been the best part for me. Coming off that win (at the Navistar Classic two weeks ago) I was glad to have a couple of weeks off but I feel really relaxed and ready to go.”
Also raring to go is Shin, ranked fifth in the world. The Korean has struggled with injuries in the past year but announced her return in style by ending a two-year winless drought with two victories last month, including a commanding nine-shot victory at the British Open. She said: “After the British Open, it changed a lot for me. When I went back to Korea there were just so many people who came out to support me. I’m really happy to be back playing golf and I’m enjoying competing again.”
The dominance of the Asian golfers has inspired the rest to work even harder, noted Pettersen. “It just showcases how global our tour has become. I think it’s fantastic to see girls from China, Japan, South Korea coming up. It’s just so well represented. I feel like the Americans and us Europeans have to step it up a little bit and give them more of a chase down the road.”