In the last round of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, current and previous world number ones are prepared to face off again.
World number one Lydia Ko and number four Atthaya Thitikul are both ready to get their season started at the $5 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International powered by Public Investment Fund this week and are “amazed” by the progress made with the matching prize fund for the men’s and women’s events.
Both players held the number one spot at different times last year, and both have fond memories of this event from when the two stars battled it out in the final round of 2021, in which Ko came away victorious.
Ko said, “It’s the start of a three-week stretch for me, so I’m excited to get my 2023 started and get back to where I have a lot of great memories to reflect back on from 2021.”
“I think, it’s going to play a little tougher this week with the wind, but I’m excited. This is probably one of the biggest events in Saudi Arabia, so hopefully, all of us that came over can put on a good show for the people and inspire more juniors to pick up the game and dream of maybe playing in the future.”
Thitikul, who finished in second place behind Ko in 2021, added, “My memories of 2021 are of me and Lydia Ko on the last round. I think I had a really good final round, but I couldn’t beat her that time. For this event, I would say that is an incredible memory for me.”
The Thai teen sensation has followed closely in Ko’s footsteps throughout her golf career. Thitikul took the title of golf’s youngest-ever champion away from Ko when she won her first professional golf tournament at 14. She became the second youngest golfer to reach the top of world rankings last year at just 19 years of age. Ko still holds onto that spot, reaching the world number one ranking when she was just 17 years old.
Thitikul spoke highly of her colleague and remarked, “Lydia is more special than most. She won super young, and she’s really inspiring new generations to play golf; to be like her one day. It’s really nice to play alongside with her and some other top players.”
The fourth edition of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International will kick off the 2023 season for both golfers after a lengthened off-season. Ko’s off-season was particularly special with a wedding and honeymoon
Ko said, “It’s been nice to take some time away this off-season, and when you come back, you’re more excited, more eager to work on things. But at the same time, you realize you lose some of the feel really quick. I got to play some golf on my honeymoon, and the transition to come back to when I was practicing made it a little bit easier… And I made a hole-in-one on my honeymoon. Extra bonus!”
The trailblazing event made a strong statement in the world of golf, signalling Saudi Arabia’s steadfast commitment to women’s golf through a prize purse boost to US$5million, matching the men’s event, the Saudi International, two weeks ago when Mexican Abraham Ancer took home the top prize.
When asked about the equal prize pot, Thitikul responded: “It’s amazing, and it’s crazy that men’s and women’s [events have] equal prize money. We haven’t seen this before since then. We don’t have any other events where this is the case. It’s a good sign for women’s golf to have Aramco and Golf Saudi, elevating women’s golf to get better and bigger worldwide.”
“It was very exciting news – the women get treated the same as the men.” Ko added, “I know this is a great step forward, not only just here, but in the women’s game in general. That’s what I think we’re all shooting for, for that gap to be a little bit less, even in some of our other events and some of our major championships and everything.”
“I think we’re very grateful that a lot of partners understand and support and believe in the women’s game and the level of talent that these female golfers have. It’s a great momentum that we’re on, and hopefully, that gap just keeps getting smaller and smaller.”
Free tickets are available for fans to watch the world’s best players battle it out and enjoy family-friendly entertainment and breathtaking views at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Tickets can be secured by visiting www.golfsaudi.com, where you can discover more tournament information.