Dec 8 (Reuters) – World No. 1 Ko Jin-young is gunning for her third major win this week in Houston, Texas, hoping to claim victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, the very tournament that inspired her to pick up a club 22 years ago.
The oldest women’s golf major, which is celebrating its 75th year, kicks off on Thursday at the Champions Golf Club with Ko among the favourites after she clinched the ANA Inspiration title and the Evian Championship in 2019.
But beyond the glory of a major title, this week’s event carries added significance for the 25-year-old South Korean.
“1998 when I was three years old I watched the TV on my father’s knee about (Pak Se Ri’s) win when she won this tournament, and then I saw that I want to play the golf,” said Ko. “So I started. So yeah, I want to get the U.S. Open trophy.”
Pak, who won the 1998 U.S Women’s Open in a playoff when she was just 20, is a sporting hero in South Korea and inspired a generation of young golfers.
This year’s tournament was postponed from June to Dec. 10-13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be played without fans.
Six-time LPGA winner Ko, who was named LPGA Tour Player of the Year after a landmark 2019, said a major challenge this week will be competing on two different courses – Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit – a first for her.
“It’s tough. I have to play two courses, but 18 holes for the practice round. It’s a little bit tiring to me,” she said. “But this is the same condition for everyone, so I can accept.”
Competitors will alternate between Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit in the first two rounds, with the final two being played at Cypress, the course Ko favours with its larger greens and narrow fairways.
“Jack Rabbit’s greens are smaller than Cypress, but maybe – I think I will play every club in the bag this course,” said Ko. (Reporting by Amy Tennery; editing by Richard Pullin)