Atthaya Searches for ‘A-Game’ at Tanah Merah

Atthaya Thitikul and Shin Ji-yai are among the favourites at Tanah Merah this week. Picture by Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open.

Singapore: World number three Atthaya Thitikul insists she’ll have to ‘work hard’ if she’s to upstage the Korean LPGA Tour’s cream of the crop to win this week’s inaugural Hana Financial Group (HFG) Singapore Women’s Open.

The 19-year-old Thai says her standing as the highest-ranked player in the field will count for nothing as she seeks to produce her A-game in the S$1.1 million event when it gets underway tomorrow at Tanah Merah Country Club, a Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

The HFG-sponsored Atthaya, winner of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific in Singapore in 2018, can expect stiff competition. Among her main rivals are world number 14 Park Min-ji and Kim Su-ji, the KLPGA Tour Official Money winner who has been crowned the KLPGA Player of the Year.

Other notable names in the 102-player field include veteran Shin Ji-yai, who boasts 61 career wins, world number 20 Choi Hye-jin and American Solheim Cup team member Yealimi Noh.

“Golf is a sport that’s always hard to gauge because you can have either a good or a bad week,” said Atthaya, who has been a revelation as a rookie on the LPGA Tour this year, claiming two titles and posting top-10s on 14 other occasions.

“It’s tough to win every week. It really depends on how things pan out for you in one particular week. At times, even when you’re playing well, there may be others who do better.

“It’s going to be a very challenging week in Singapore. Everyone in the field is so good and talented. I’ll need to work hard to get a good result.”

KLPGA fans will be thrilled to see two-time Women’s British Open champion Shin back in action on the Tour after 28 months. Shin last competed in the Dayouwinia MBN Ladies Open in August 2020.

Shin, 35, is a 21-time winner on the KLPGA Tour but not since 2010 after she shifted her focus to Japan where she’s been equally successful with 28 victories to date on the Japan LPGA Tour.

It’s an important week for Shin as she makes a last-ditch attempt to maintain her remarkable run of having won a title every year since 2011.

She came close last week, finishing runner-up at the Women’s Australian Open, a tournament she won in 2013.

“I haven’t won this year, so this week in Singapore will be my last chance. If I can do it, I’ll be very happy,” said Shin.

“Otherwise, it will still be a good tournament for me as it’s been a while since I last played in a KLPGA event. There are so many fresh faces here. As a ‘big sister’, I hope to play well and inspire my ‘younger sisters’.”

If her current form is anything to go by, then Park will certainly be among the ones to beat this week.

Park landed in Singapore on the back of the 16th victory of her career at the season-ending Shieldus-SK Telecom Championship last month. The win saw her cap a glorious campaign where she won six titles for the second successive season.

“I grew up idolising Ji-yai. She’s a great, great player,” said Park. “I remember playing in a tournament with her several years ago when I only had three to four wins.

“I feel like I have a long way more to catch up to be on par with her. It’s a great honour to be playing alongside her again in Singapore this week.”

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