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Thursday October 4, 2012

Four Major winners coming for Sime Darby LPGA tourney

PETALING JAYA: The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia next week will bring together all four of the year’s Major winners for the first time as a testament to the growing reputation and glamour of the only LPGA sanctioned tournament in Malaysia.

Organisers Sime Darby announced the final 72-woman field yesterday and the quartet of Sun Young-yoo (Kraft Nabisco Championship), Shanshan Feng (LPGA Champion­ship), Choi Na-yeon (US Open) and Shin Jiyai (British Open) will feature in the US$1.9mil event.

The stellar line-up at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) on Oct 11-14 will feature the top 10 players from the 2012 Official Money List, together with nine of top 10 players according to the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, including world No. 1 Tseng Yani and other international stars like American Stacy Lewis (No. 2), Japanese Ai Miyazato (No. 6) and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (No. 8).

Datuk Wahab Maskan, managing director of Sime Darby Property and committee member of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia said: “We are thrilled to have all four Major winners in the field. This is the strongest field we’ve had.”

Determined to defend her title at the KLGCC East Course is Korean world No. 3 Na-yeon.

“I have many good memories of the Sime Darby LPGA and hopefully that will help me play well again. It’s nice playing in Asia, the fans are great and very supportive,” she said.

Her compatriot Jiyai’s victory at the British Open earlier this month completed a historic Asian sweep of the Majors, the first time in the LPGA’s 62-year history.

South Koreans have won the past two editions of the Sime Darby LPGA, with Jimin Kang claiming the inaugural title in 2010.

However, a host of American stars will look to end that run. Besides Lewis, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year rankings, the likes of fan favourites Paula Creamer (No. 13) and Michelle Wie (No. 49), 14-time Tour winner Cristie Kerr and teenage superstar Lexi Thompson will be strong contenders in the Malaysian capital.

Other top class players vying for this year’s title include multiple Major winners Karrie Webb (No. 20) and Pak Se-ri (No. 26) and European stars Azahara Munoz (No. 17), Anna Nordqvist (No. 28) and Sandra Gal (No. 29).

Joining them will be Malaysian professionals Jean Chua and Ainil Johani Abu Bakar, both given sponsors exemptions by Sime Darby.

Jean is a member on the LPGA’s developmental Symetra Tour and has been in consistent form this year, missing just one cut in her last 13 events coupled with four top-10 finishes.

Ainil, a former top amateur, turned professional last year and has already made a strong impression. She finished joint 12th at last year’s US$300,000 Women’s India Open, a Ladies European Tour (LET) event.

Also receiving sponsors’ invite are two of the game’s rising stars – Scotland’s Carly Booth, 20, and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, 16. Both will make their Sime Darby LPGA debuts.

Tipped as one of the game’s future stars, Booth has already won twice on the LET this year.

She won her maiden LET title at the Ladies Scottish Open in May and added the Ladies Swiss Open a month later.

Though still an amateur, Ariya is no slouch either when it comes to hitting a golf ball.

The Bangkok native has already competed in two of the four Majors – making the cut at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship – and is the reigning American Junior Golf Association Junior Player of the Year.

In keeping with Sime Darby’s commitment to developing and promoting the game in this region, it has also offered four spots via a local and regional qualifying tournaments held earlier this month. Malaysian youngsters Aretha Pan Herng and Sarfina Vinota and Taiwanese duo Su-Chia Cheng and Min Lee have qualified for the showpiece event.

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