Atthaya and 5 Thais eyeing major success

Atthaya and 5 Thais eyeing major success

Patty, Ariya among US Open contenders

Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul hits a shot during an LPGA Tour event last month. (AFP photo)
Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul hits a shot during an LPGA Tour event last month. (AFP photo)

Six Thais will play at the US Women's Open, the year's second major on the ladies' circuit, at Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina, which tees off on Thursday.

They are major champions Ariya Jutanugarn and Patty Tavatanakit, LPGA winners Atthaya Thitikul, Moriya Jutanugarn and Pajaree Anannarukarn, and veteran Pornanong Phatlum.

Seen as the best bet among the Thais in the US$10 million championship, rookie Atthaya won her maiden LPGA title earlier this year and is now the country's highest-ranked golfer at No.5.

The teenage prodigy has claimed five top-10 finishes in 11 tournaments this year.

The Ratchaburi native was the low amateur at the Chevron Championship in 2018 and twice at the Women's British Open.

The 19-year-old finished fifth at the 2021 Evian Championship but has never played at the US Women's Open.

World No.13 Patty, 22, will compete in her sixth US Women's Open, having been the low amateur in the 2018 edition.

Two-time major winner Ariya, 26, won the US Women's Open in 2018 and was joint seventh in the 2021 tournament.

The 13-time LPGA champion has had an unconvincing spell this year, missing the cut in three tournaments.

Other notable participants in this week's field include title holder Yuka Saso, Olympic champion Nelly Korda, world No.1 Ko Jin-Young, and 51-year-old star Annika Sorenstam.

Michelle Wie, the 2014 US Women's Open winner, will play in one of her last tournaments before retirement.

Saso, whose father is Japanese, represented the Philippines when she won the 2021 US Women's Open as a teenager. Saso, now 20, had held both Japanese and Filipino citizenship but announced her intention to keep her Japanese citizenship in November.

"I felt very honoured to represent my mum's country [the Philippines], those big events... all those memories," Saso said in a recent interview.

"Hopefully people will not think that I abandoned the Philippines, because I love the Philippines. I also love Japan. It's still the same me, it's just the flag."

Ahead of the defence of her title, she admitted she was uncertain as to whether she felt pressure as champion.

"I just want to enjoy and have fun you know," Saso said. "I don't know if I'm nervous or not."

Saso will have the chance to make history this week as she plays for the largest LPGA purse to date and could walk away with the $1.8 million prize money.

World No.2 Korda said she will be looking no further than the first tee at the US Women's Open as she returns for her first tournament in four months following a blood clot scare.

The 23-year-old reigning Olympic champion put her season on hold in February after the discovery of a clot in her left arm.

Korda enjoyed a dazzling 2021 that saw her climb to world No.1 as she netted four LPGA titles -- including her maiden major -- as well an Olympic gold medal.

But while the American said she is now 100 percent fit after completing post-surgery rehab, she has reduced expectations of what this week's major may bring. "To tee up and hit my first tee shot on Thursday -- that is as far as I'm looking right now," Korda replied on Tuesday when asked what her goals for the week were.

"I've been out of competition since early February. I'm honestly just grateful to be out here playing. I'm going to take it one step at a time. I'm not expecting too much. The girls are already in the midst of their seasons and have a bunch of rounds under their belts."

Korda will play with a compression sleeve on her left arm this week. bangkok post/afp

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