Spotlight on dominant South Koreans

In-form Kim Sei-young will be expected to lead the Korean charge.

THE US Women’s Open at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, which starts on Thursday, is the last event of the LPGA’s season before the Tour Championship next week.

It is also the final Major of the leading men’s and women’s circuits this year and one that is expected to be the source of much excitement and intrigue, just like most of the other US Women’s Open before it.

Malaysia’s Kelly Tan will be aiming to improve on her best showing at a US Women’s Open (a tie for 32nd in 2016) and better her best at any Major (a tie for 13th at the Women’s PGA Championship in October).

But like the rest of the field, Tan will be wary of the threat that the South Korean players pose in Texas as she makes her way to the Champions Club.

Indeed, the Koreans have been the dominant force of the women’s global game over the last two decades. In the Majors alone they have won 31 since 2001. Over the last 10 years the Korean ladies have claimed no fewer than 22 Major championship crowns – that is an average of more than two a season.World No 1 Ko Jin-young might be a bit rusty but remains a danger.World No 1 Ko Jin-young might be a bit rusty but remains a danger.

Much of the success of the Koreans has been put down to the influence of Se Ri Park. In her rookie season she won both the Women’s PGA Championship (known then as the LPGA Championship) and US Women’s Open.

The Korean great would go on to win three more Majors to finish with five and write herself into the history of women’s sport.

Inbee Park has the most Majors of any of the Korean players, current or otherwise. She has seven and is tied for seventh in the all-time list of the most Majors by any women.

Another of South Korea’s star attractions, Inbee’s first Major came at the 2008 US Women’s Open and the last to date at the Women’s British Open in 2015. Notwithstanding that that was five years ago, she goes to Houston as one of those to watch. Some have it that she is well overdo another Major and that this might well be her week in Texas.

With the Evian Championship cancelled because of the pandemic, Inbee posted top-five finishes in two of the other Majors contested so far this year – a runner-up spot at the Women’s PGA and fourth at the Women’s British Open. With that sort of form she will almost certainly be a factor at the Champions Club.

Kim Sei-young will start the US Women’s Open among the leading favourites and certainly one of the in-form players. She marked her Major breakthrough at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in October with a five-stroke winning margin and claimed the Pelican Women’s Championship last month for her second title of the season and 12th overall on the LPGA Tour.

The 27-year-old, who needs just under US$300,00 to cross US$10mil in career earnings, has won at least once in the last six seasons on the LPGA Tour.

With three other top-10 finishes in this shortened campaign and form good enough to propel her to second in the world rankings and top of the Money List, Sei-young will be expected to lead the South Korean charge at the Champions Club and continue their domination of the women’s game.

But Sei-young will not be alone in that effort.

World number one Ko Jin-young is back in action, defending champion Lee Jeong-eun6 has confirmed her entry, as did Sung Hyun Park, the other two Koreans in the world top-10.

Jin-young has only played one tournament this season, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but did feature in the Pelican Championship, where a tie for 34th was the best she could do.

Her long absence from the Tour this campaign might have left her game a bit rusty, but if she can find anything near the form that harvested her two Major titles last season (the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship) she could make her presence felt in Texas.

Jeong-eun6, who shot a six-under to win the event last year, has said she is looking forward to defending her crown and that could mean bad news for the rest of the field.

If Sung Hyun were to pull off a win here, it would not be a big surprise. Ranked ninth in the world, she has not done anything outstanding so far this term.

Yet by her lofty standards that have yielded two LPGA Majors and five other wins on the Tour, she cannot be written off just yet.

Indeed, that would apply to most of the South Koreans in the field, as they set about trying to lift the Tour’s last Major of the year and extend somewhat their domination of the ladies’ game.

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