Can Suzann Pettersen catch Inbee Park this week?
All 10 of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings and 17 of the top 20 are in the field this week for the Honda LPGA Thailand.
World No. 1 and defending champion Inbee Park will be making her first start of the season at the Siam Golf Club just outside of Bangkok. Suzann Pettersen is just a few percentage points behind Park and will be trying to overtake her for the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
Pettersen was in contention in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open last week through three rounds until an untimely 80 on Sunday dropped her into a tie for 28th.
Stacy Lewis, the other member of the “Big Three,” has continued to post top-10 finishes this season. She was runner-up at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic and finished T-6 last week in the Women's Australian Open.
World No. 4 Lydia Ko has been playing well since turning professional last fall. She won the Swinging Skirts Ladies Masters in Taiwan in December and was runner-up in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open earlier this month.
Ko has also started strong on the LPGA Tour with a tie for seventh at the Bahamas LPGA Classic and T-3 last week in the Women’s Australian Open.
The Honda LPGA Thailand offers a $1.5 million total purse with $225,000 going to the winner.
Thai native Ariya Jutanugarn took a two-shot lead into the final hole here last year but a triple bogey at the last hole cost the 18-year-old the title. She finished runner-up to Park and was having a very good year until an injury forced her to have shoulder surgery in June.
Jutanugarn first qualified for this tournament when she was just 11 years old.
Ariya’s older sister Moriya was LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year last year and will play this week in Thailand.
Another prominent Thai in the field is Pornanong Phatlum. She has eight wins on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and two wins on the Ladies European Tour.
Hopefully everyone will remain safe in Thailand. Civil unrest in that country forced cancellation of one golf tournament at the end of last year, while CNN's Kocha Olarn and Jethro Mullen reported yesterday that five people were killed in violent demonstrations in Bangkok.
The Honda LPGA Thailand has a stellar field and should provide excitement for golf fans.
The main questions this week include:
How sharp will Park be after her record-setting 2013 and extended vacation?
Can Pettersen overtake Park for the No. 1 spot?
Will Lewis finally win in Thailand or just collect another top-10 spot?
Will 17-year-old phenom Ko continue her strong play and apply more pressure to the “Big Three?”
Is Ariya Jutanugarn ready to resume her place among the best women golfers and erase the bad memories from last year?