Ariya eyes second Thai LPGA crown

Ariya eyes second Thai LPGA crown

Champ also wants to win hole-in-one prize

Ariya Jutanugarn plays a shot during the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore last week. (AFP photo)
Ariya Jutanugarn plays a shot during the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore last week. (AFP photo)

Ariya Jutanugarn says she is ready to defend her title at this week's US$1.6 million Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club in Pattaya.

The 26-year-old made history last year when she became the first Thai player to win the tournament.

"I am very excited to defend the title," the two-time major winner said on Tuesday.

"I can still remember my feelings last year as I had long dreamed of winning on home soil. When I did it, I felt very proud and happy. I was happy that I made Thai fans proud of me.

"Before I won this tournament last year, I always told myself that the tournament I really want to win and I haven't yet won is the Honda LPGA Thailand. When I won it last year, it just felt great."

The former world No.1 added: "I feel more excited this year as there will be a record number of Thai players [10] in the field. I am not only looking forward to my performance but also those of other Thai players. I feel like they inspire me in so many ways."

Last year's win at Siam Country Club was special for the world No.30 as it was her first victory in three years.

A few months later, Ariya teamed up with her sister Moriya to win the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational for her 12th LPGA title.

"My game has gradually become better since this season started. I am ready for the tournament. I will play with expectation but will not put extra pressure on myself. I will enjoy the game and do my best in every shot, particularly at the 16th hole which has a car for a hole-in-one," said Ariya.

She finished joint 17th at the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore last week.

World No.40 Moriya said she always feels happy to return to Thailand and play at Siam Country Club.

"I am very happy to meet my family, friends and fans. Every time I play in Thailand, I receive a warm welcome," said the two-time LPGA winner.

Other Thais in the field this week include LPGA champions Patty Tavatanakit and Pajaree Anannarukarn, and teenage prodigy Atthaya Thitikul.

Just weeks after winning the 2021 ANA Inspiration, Patty came close to winning the Honda LPGA Thailand, finishing tied for third.

Patty, 22, is now the highest-ranked Thai at No.13, just one place above LPGA rookie Atthaya.

The 19-year-old star was runner-up, one shot behind Ariya, at the 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand. She finished joint fourth in Singapore on Sunday.

In her first three starts in her LPGA Tour rookie season, she had two top-11 finishes, including her tie for fourth at the HSBC Women's World Championship.

"This week is pretty great," she said after the Singapore event. "It's not my A game all along. But I would say it's good enough for me after changing equipment and starting the year as an LPGA member with pressure on me."

Also in the field in the 15th Honda LPGA Thailand, which tees off tomorrow, are major champions Danielle Kang, Brooke Henderson, Yuka Saso, Ryu So-Yeon and Minjee Lee.

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