Haikou, China: Park In-bee, Suzann Pettersen and Ryu So-yeon are ready to reprise last year’s final-round battle when the World Ladies Championship returns to Mission Hills Haikou next month.
Five-time Major winner Park triumphed in a shootout with Pettersen a year ago with Ryu finishing third.
The trio – all ranked in the world’s top-10 – have confirmed they will compete on the tropical island of Hainan for the fourth staging of the tournament from March 12-15.
They will be joined by French sensation Celine Boutier, the world’s number one female amateur, plus an outstanding international line-up from the Ladies European Tour [LET] and rising stars from the China LPGA Tour.
Park’s five-shot victory at Mission Hills Haikou last March was the springboard for an outstanding 2014 that saw the Korean capture her fifth Major – the LPGA Championship – and two other LPGA titles.
“Winning the 2014 World Ladies Championship kicked off a great year for me, so I’m delighted to be coming back to Mission Hills Haikou,” said Park. “With Suzann and So-yeon returning and a strong field from the Ladies European Tour to contend with, defending my title won’t be easy but I’m relishing the challenge.”
The US$600,000 World Ladies Championship will once again by staged on Mission Hills Haikou’s signature Blackstone Course, sculpted by Schmidt-Curley Design, long-time members of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Organised in conjunction with the China Golf Association and co-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour, it will be the fourth event on this year’s LET schedule.
The World Ladies Championship offers a unique ‘three events in one’ format – individual professional competition, a team championship in which countries are represented by teams of two, and an individual amateur category.
Park, currently ranked second in the world, was runner-up to Pettersen at Mission Hills Haikou in 2013 before turning the tables on her Norwegian rival last year. She will also be looking to win the team title for a third time, having triumphed with Kim Ha-neul two years ago and Ryu last time out.
With one World Ladies Championship title each, two-time Major winner Pettersen is relishing the chance of another showdown with Park.
“I have many happy memories of Mission Hills Haikou, from winning the World Ladies Championship in 2013 to finishing runner-up last year, and then partnering basketball icon Yao Ming in last October’s World Celebrity Pro-Am, which was a fantastic experience,” said world number five Pettersen. “Mission Hills always puts on a wonderful show and I can’t wait to return.”
World number seven Ryu, the 2011 US Women’s Open champion, collected her third LPGA title last August when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
“My first experience of Mission Hills Haikou last year was a hugely positive one, finishing third in the individual event and winning the team competition with In-bee,” said Ryu. “As usual, there are some strong players in the field this year and it promises to be a great week of golf.”
Many eyes will be on the World Ladies Championship amateur competition, which has unearthed some world class gems in previous editions.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko played in the first tournament in 2012 as a 14-year-old and is now the world’s number one professional.
The 2013 amateur trophy was won by China’s Feng Simin while brilliant young Australian Minjee Lee triumphed last year and also finished joint fourth overall. Two months ago, both players came through the LPGA Qualifying Tournament’s final stage to earn their 2015 LPGA Tour cards.
“We are delighted to welcome back In-bee Park, Suzann Pettersen and So-yeon Ryu to the World Ladies Championship,” said Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu.
“The presence of these three great players at Mission Hills Haikou is wonderful news for everyone associated with the tournament.
“We are also thrilled to be welcoming Celine Boutier to Mission Hills for the first time. Anyone who has seen this young lady play will agree she is a phenomenal talent with an extremely bright future in the game.”