S. Korean players take final shot at winning LPGA major in ’23 in England

August 9, 2023

On the verge of getting shut out at LPGA major championships for the second time in three seasons, South Korean players will take their last crack of the season in England this week.

The AIG Women’s Open, the fifth and final major of the LPGA season, will tee off Thursday at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.

The par-72, 6,881-yard track will welcome each of the world’s top five players, including No. 2 Ko Jin-young from South Korea.

Ko is the only South Korean player with an LPGA victory this year, having won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and the Cognizant Founders Cup in May.

Ko hasn’t had a top-10 finish in five tournaments since her last victory, and she ceded the No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda of the United States on July 31.

Ko tried to prepare for the Women’s Open by playing in a Korean tour event on home soil last week. But she withdrew during the second round with a left shoulder spasm and also struggled with jet lag, nausea and dizziness.

At her pretournament press conference Tuesday in England, Ko attributed her poor physical condition to a long flight from France, where she’d competed at the previous major, the Amundi Evian Championship, to South Korea.

Because the Korean tournament was put together by one of her corporate sponsors, Ko said she didn’t want to withdraw. Ultimately, though, she decided she needed to focus on the last major of the year being played this week.

Ko, who has had a runner-up finish and a third-place showing at the Women’s Open, said she can win this week as long as she avoids bunkers — one of the most challenging features on the links courses that host the Women’s Open.

“That is a good target for this week: I’m going to make no play in the bunker for the whole week,” she said.

On the other hand, Ko also insisted she won’t put any pressure on herself.

“I don’t have any expectations. I don’t have any stress from the golf,” she said. “I just want to enjoy this week, and I just want to eat a lot of sausage rolls.”

As Ko tries to get back to contending again, Celine Boutier of France has been playing the best golf of her life lately. She captured her maiden major title at the Evian two weeks ago and then won the Scottish Open the following week. She has soared from No. 15 to No. 3 in the world rankings, breathing down Ko’s neck.

Ko said she and Boutier, both Texas residents, are “really close friends” and that they often practice together at the same club.

“I’m really happy she had wins the last two weeks,” Ko said. “We have a lot of great players on the LPGA Tour, including me. So if I’m playing really well this week, I have a chance.”

In the 15-strong South Korean contingent this week, Kim Hyo-joo has been in the best form this summer. She has had four top-10 finishes in her last six starts, including two runner-ups.

Chun In-gee, the only South Korean player to win a major since the start of the 2021 season, will try to win her fourth different major. Chun has already won the U.S. Women’s Open, the Evian Championship and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.