KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The battle for the world No. 1 intensifies this week in the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Course: Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (6,182 yards, par 71), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Purse: $1.8 million. Winner’s share: $270,000.
The 54-hole, no-cut event, played over the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s East Course starting Friday, features the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings.
No. 1 Ai Miyazato, No. 2 Cristie Kerr, No. 3 Jiyai Shin, No. 4 Yani Tseng and No. 5 Suzann Pettersen compete head-to-head for the first time since they met more than a month ago at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, where Tseng emerged victorious.
Shin and Kerr also have taken turns atop the rankings since former No. 1 Lorena Ochoa retired in May. Kerr nearly reclaimed the top position in each of her last two starts. One shaved shot in either tournament would have propelled Kerr ahead.
Only 0.54 average points separate Miyazato from Pettersen, so the top spot is again very much up for grabs.
The tournament is a coming home of sorts for the 21-year-old Tseng, the youngest player in LPGA history to win three major championships. At age 12, Tseng experienced her first overseas competition in Malaysia as part of the Taiwan national team.
“I think I have a good chance to win because I love playing tournaments in Asia, and I tend to feel like I am playing in my home country with all the cultures, food and friends around,” Tseng said. “It will help me feel very comfortable on the golf course. It is safe to say that I will be having fun.”
Despite all her accolades, Tseng feels she is capable of raising her game even further.
“My goal is to be the world No. 1,” she said. “I don’t know about (achieving that) this year, but I wish to be the world No. 1 within the next two years.”
Tseng also is confident that tournaments like the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will grow the profile of golf in the region, especially among girls. “It is great because we get to meet juniors and the kids and work with them in their golf. . . . The fans also get to see all the best golfers in their own country,” she said.
Also in the 60-player field are world No. 6 Na Yeon Choi, No. 7 Michelle Wie, No. 8 Song-Hee Kim, No. 9 In Kyung Kim and No. 10 Sun Ju Ahn, along with Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Laura Davies and Natalie Gulbis. The tour will remain in Asia the next two weeks for events in South Korea and Japan.
The LPGA contributed to this report.