Oak Valley Country Club in Wonju, South Korea is a hilly golf course. Atthaya Thitikul feels comfortable in that setting. The 19-year-old grew up playing golf in Thailand. Although the grass is different, the undulations of Oak Valley feel similar to the mountain courses he played in Thailand. Her scores at the BMW Ladies Championship demonstrate her comfort: rounds of 63-71-67 have her at 15 under par through 54 holes, one stroke ahead of Lydia Ko and Andrea Lee.
If Thitkul were to win, it would be the rookie’s third LPGA Tour victory. But more than victory is on the line Sunday; Thitikul could become the new no. 1 worldwide.
According to the LPGA Tour, Thitikul must finish solo fourth or better to take over the No. 1 currently held by Jin Young Ko. If Thitikul were to become world No. 1, she would be only the second teenager to do so, Lydia Ko being the first in 2015. Thitikul’s pursuit of the top spot has been helped by Jin Young Ko’s withdrawal from the tour and Minjee Lee currently. tied for 51st. These are the only two players who could stop Thitikul from reaching the top of the world rankings, except for Thitkul herself.
While the title of the best player in the world is within reach, Thitikul is not overwhelmed by the opportunity.
“I don’t care at all about being like No. 1 in the world because I play golf because I want to take care of my family. I want to feed my family. Whatever I am is good. Even my family, they already have a good life,” said Thitikul. “The ranking is not that important to me.”
Her goals in golf have nothing to do with becoming the best player in the world, which ironically could make her rise to the top of the women’s game that much easier. She would become only the second Thai player to reach No. 1, joining Ariya Jutanugarn, who did so in 2017.
Jin Young Ko, who has been No. 1 since January, could have kept Thitkul for surpassing her this week had she performed better in her first start in more than two months. Ko sat down to rest her sore left wrist and returned to the event in part because it is the only one played in her home country in 2022 and because she is the defending champion. But her scores suggest she wasn’t physically ready to compete, as she posted an 80-79, her worst rounds since joining the LPGA Tour in 2017. Ko had entered the field in two of the last three events on the LPGA schedule – Pelican Women’s Championship and the CME Group Tour Championship, where she is also the defending champion, but her future schedule may be in limbo.