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Top South Koreans taking cautious approach to LPGA’s return


The South Koreans are taking a cautious approach to returning to the LPGA.

It looks as if the year’s first major championship will be staged without the highest ranked Koreans, with none of the four among the top 10 in the Rolex World Rankings scheduled to play the AIG Women’s Open Aug. 20-23.

World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Sung Hyun Park, No. 6 Sei Young Kim and No. 10 Hyo Joo Kim are not among the commitments to play at Royal Troon in Scotland next month.

Hyo Joo Kim’s agent confirmed the coronavirus pandemic remains a factor in scheduling plans, with Kim being careful amid the threat.

“She is not planning on going to the British Open for this year because of COVID-19,” Hanjun Kim, Hyo Joo’s agent, told in an email. “Since it’s serious worldwide, it might be best for her not to travel internationally even though it’s a big event.”

Ko, Park and Sei Young Kim’s representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about their players’ plans for the rest of the year, but extra caution amid the pandemic makes sense for those players, who are competing in Korean LPGA Tour events in their homeland, where management of COVID-19 has been so successful. A nationally coordinated program of detection/containment/treatment has thrust South Korea among the world leaders in navigating the pandemic, despite a recent uptick that the Korean CDC attributes to people carrying the disease into the country from abroad.

The top nine Americans in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are committed to play in the LPGA’s return, at Inverness Club, July 31-Aug. 2.

The top eight South Koreans aren’t scheduled to play the LPGA’s restart next week, nor are they scheduled to play the Marathon Classic (Aug. 6-9) or the Aberdeen Standard Investments (Aug. 13-16) in Scotland.

Hyo Joo Kim is hopeful she will make her LPGA restart in September at the second women’s major, the ANA Inspiration.

“She is actually planning to go to the U.S. two weeks before the ANA inspiration tournament starts, if the COVID-19 doesn’t get worse,” Hanjun Kim said.

Hyo Joo is among Koreans who have dominated the women’s majors over the last decade. Nineteen of the last 39 majors staged have been won by South Koreans. Kim won the Evian Championship in 2014.

The last three South Koreans to win majors – Ko, Park and Jeongeun Lee6 – aren’t scheduled to play at Royal Troon

Ko, Park, Sei Young Kim, Hyo Joo Kim and Lee6 have all been competing on the KLPGA Tour this summer.

Ko, the world No. 1, made her first start in more than six months at the Lotte Cantata Ladies Open in South Korea in June, shaking off some rust while finishing 45th. She finished sixth at the Korea Women’s Open in her last start.

Hyo Joo Kim won the Lotte Cantata Ladies Open.

Park has made just one start amid the pandemic, missing the cut at the KLPGA Championship in May. Sei Young Kim has made four KLPGA starts, with three top-10 finishes.

Inbee Park, the LPGA Hall of Famer with seven major championship titles, is the highest ranked South Korean scheduled to play the AIG Women’s Open at No. 11 in the world. Park won the Women’s British Open in 2015.