World number one, Inbee Park, world number two, Suzann Pettersen and world number three Stacy Lewis will each try to set the tone for next year with a win at Asia’s leading women’s tournament having dominated the LPGA in 2013.
Early in the year, Lewis enjoyed a strong start, reaching the summit of the Rolex Rankings after winning the 2013 HSBC Women’s event for the first time. Park then raced to an insurmountable lead on the Rolex Rankings by historically winning the first three Majors of the year.
Joining the LPGA’s big three at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) in Singapore 27 February-2 March - will be the LPGA’s rising star, Lydia Ko, who turned professional only last month and sits at number four on the Rolex Rankings, and crowd favourite and former world number one, Cristie Kerr, who will be looking for a fast start in 2014 as she looks to reclaim her regular place within the top ten on the Rolex Rankings.
Although Lewis fought back with a classy win at the 2013 Ricoh Women’s British Open and Pettersen closed the rankings gap after claiming the final Major of the year at the Evian, Park was uncatchable. While Park will need a strong start to 2014 to keep Pettersen and Lewis at bay, she will also need to keep an eye on golf’s newest star, Lydia Ko. The talented 16 year old looks set to pose a real threat as she will be able to play a more complete schedule next year after playing in only 11 LPGA events in 2013, finishing the year at number six on the Rolex Rankings.
This year marks the seventh edition of the tournament which consistently boasts an elite line up of 63 of the world’s top golfers. The ‘Champion of Champions’ title is one that everyone wants and has one of the most challenging qualification criteria of any golf event in the world. To be sure of their starting place on the Serapong Course at the SGC a player must have won a LPGA tournament in 2013 or finish the year in the Top 20 of the Rolex Rankings.
Rolex Player of the Year, Inbee Park, said, “I always look forward to visiting Singapore and the HSBC Women’s Champions is one of my favourite events of the year. I am so happy to have finished the year at the top of the Rolex Rankings but I know I will have to get off to a strong start and play well at the HSBC Women’s Champions if I am to stay at the top, especially with Suzann and Stacy playing so well and all the other great players in the field.”
Pettersen commented, “It has been a great year but I am already looking forward to 2014! I am really excited about where my game is right now and I want to keep up the momentum. The HSBC Women’s Champions is undoubtedly one of the best events on Tour and definitely has that ‘major’ feel to it so it is one I would really love to win.”
Defending Champion Stacy Lewis said, “Managing to come out on top of such a world class field at the 2013 HSBC Women’s Champions was a huge confidence boost for me and a wonderful way to start the year. Inbee and Suzann both had amazing seasons and I am looking forward to our continued competitions. I am excited to return to Sentosa, where I have done well and look forward to defending my title.”
The young pretender, Lydia Ko, said, “I am so excited to play in my first HSBC Women’s Champions as everyone has told me what a fantastic tournament it is and how people think of it as ‘Asia’s Major.’ There are a lot of players who are going to be very tough to beat but I will give it my best shot while enjoying all that Singapore has to offer. I think it will be a really fun week!”
America’s Cristie Kerr said “"The HSBC Women's Champions is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. Singapore is a wonderful place to visit and we all appreciate HSBC's investment in making this Asia's flagship women's event. It would be a very special title to win and I will be practising hard over the winter break to give myself the best possible chance."
HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship & Events Giles Morgan said, “HSBC Women’s Champions is our flagship women’s event and one of the toughest challenges in world golf. The qualification criteria and the course ensure this is a true test of champions and you only need to look at the quality of the field to see that this is a challenge that the players embrace with open arms.”
Guy Kinnings, Global Head of Golf, IMG , the tournament promoters, added, “This is a wonderful line up of players with which to launch the 2014 HSBC Women’s Champions. Every year this event seems to grow in stature on the global schedule and, together with our partners, HSBC we are working hard to ensure that our 2014 event will be the best yet.”
Photograph: Getty Images