As the LPGA and LET tours enter the last leg of their respective seasons, the best players in the world are split this week between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
The LPGA returns to Malaysia for the first time since 2017 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club for the inaugural edition of the Maybank Championship. A total of 78 players will compete for a $3 million purse, one of the largest on tour outside of the major championships. The winner will receive $450,000. This is the third of four stops on the LPGA’s Asian swing.
There are now three events left to qualify for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which features a $7 million purse.
Meanwhile over on the LET, the fifth and final event in the Aramco Team Series presented by PIF will be held at Riyadh Golf Club in Saudi Arabia. The field of 84 will play in a two-day team event alongside amateurs. The top 60 professionals and ties then advance to the final round to determine the individual stroke-play winner.
The LET’s Saudi-backed events remain controversial given the wide-ranging human rights abuses Saudi Arabia has been accused of, especially toward women.
Here are five things to note about the two fields:
Where are the top players?
Lilia Vu, the No. 1 player in the world and a two-time major winner this year, will compete in her second Aramco event this month along with No. 4 Minjee Lee, who won last week’s BMW Ladies Championship in a playoff over Alison Lee (also in the field). England’s Charley Hull, No. 8, is also in Saudi.
In Malaysia, six of the top 10 players in the world will tee it up including Ruoning Yin (No. 2), Jin Young Ko (No. 3), Celine Boutier (No. 5), Nelly Korda (No. 6), Lydia Ko (No. 9) and Allisen Corpuz (No. 10).
Solheim Cup stars out in force in Saudi
Four members of Team Europe’s victorious squad are in Saudi Arabia this week, including Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who clinched the winning point on home soil at Finca Cortesin.
Good friends Georgia Hall and Charley Hull are also in the field along with Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, who put together one of the best comebacks in Solheim history – birdieing five of the last six holes – on Sunday to beat Ally Ewing and spur on the Euros.
Push for a LET card
With only three events left on the LET schedule, it’s a hard final push for many players to qualify for last two in Spain and keep their cards. The top 70 in the Race to Costa del Sol earn Category 4 status for 2024. The top 64 get into the Mallorca Ladies Open and Andalucía Costa del Sol Open De España.
Those on the bubble include Leonie Harm (70th), Laura Beveridge (72nd), Sanna Nuutinen (74th), Elin Arvidsson (77th), Linnea Johansson (78th) and Maggie Simmermacher (79th).
Another Korda victory in Malaysia?
Nelly Korda was an LPGA rookie the last time the tour staged an event in Kuala Lumpur. She was excited to return because the warm temperatures and Bermuda grass remind her of home.
While Korda has yet to win this season, she’s hopeful that she can get some momentum going in Malaysia before she returns to Florida to defend her title at the Pelican. Her older sister, Jessica, who took leave from the tour earlier this season with a back injury and is now on maternity leave, won in Malaysia in 2015.
Angel Yin, who recently won her first LPGA title in Shanghai, certainly likes Nelly’s chances this week.
“I was playing the round and I was looking at the grass and I was like, this is Nelly’s golf course,” said Yin. “Looks like Taiwan where she won twice and looks like Pelican. The grass is like perfect for her. It’s right back to Bradenton, Florida.”
Ruoning Yin's breakout season
China’s Ruoning Yin, a two-time winner on tour this season, is soaking up the chance to compete in the tour’s Asian swing. After competing in China for the first time in four years, Yin heads to Malaysia where friends have texted to remind her that, with Vu competing on the LET this week, she has a chance to move to No. 1 in the world again.
Yin’s seven top-5 finishes leads the tour this season. She comes to Kuala Lumpur ranked third in the Race to CME Globe Points List, third on the Official Money List ($2,646,166), and third in the Rolex Player of the Year standings (133 points).