Ariya seeks an Asian breakthrough
World No. 1 women's golfer hoping to win first title in Asia soon
She created history on the US LPGA Tour last year when she swept the season-ending honours - the first golfer to do so.
World No. 1 golfer Ariya Jutanugarn clinched the Annika Major Award for the best record in all five Major championships, the Player of the Year award, the Vare Trophy with a scoring average of 69.415, and topped the money list with US$2,667,983 (S$3.6 million).
The all-conquering Thai also won the Race to the CME Globe and its US$1 million bonus, and set single-season records for rounds in the 60s (57) and birdies (470).
Even as the 23-year-old looks to have the golfing world under her feet, she still has unfinished business in her own backyard.
Her 10 LPGA Tour wins in the last three years included the 2016 Women's British Open and the 2018 US Women's Open but she has never won an LPGA Tour event in Asia.
As the LPGA Tour heads to Chonburi (Honda LPGA Thailand) and Singapore (HSBC Women's World Championship) this month, she told The Straits Times in an e-mail interview: "Obviously, I would love to win in my home country before I come to Singapore, but I would certainly like to add a win in Asia at some point soon!"
Ariya is no stranger to breaking barriers. She was the youngest to qualify for an LPGA Tour event when she made the 2001 Honda LPGA Thailand at 11, before becoming the first Asean player to win a golfing Major at the 2016 Women's British Open.
But it was not always smooth sailing. As a rookie in 2015, she missed 10 straight cuts on the Tour before her breakthrough 2016 season in which she won her first Major and four other events.
Even then, she went on to miss the cut in four out of five Majors.
Ariya's achievements have come with great expectations every round and every week, and she did not always know how to deal with it and would sometimes break down on the course. These days, she tries to unwind off the course with Thai music and drama, while smiling as much as possible on it.
She is determined to be the world's best woman golfer for as long as she can.
She said: "I want to keep playing as long as I am still enjoying it... my focus is towards continually improving and being the best player and person I can be."
FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES
WHAT: HSBC Women's World Championship
WHERE: Sentosa Golf Club's Tanjong Course
WHEN: Feb 28 - March 3. Day passes from $22 are available at apactix.com