By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- In the midst of her hottest streak of the season, South Korean LPGA star Ko Jin-young will look to reclaim No. 1 ranking on home soil next week.
Ko, currently world No. 2, will be the highest-ranked player in the field of 84 at the BMW Ladies Championship, which will tee off next Thursday at LPGA International Busan in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
The tournament was first held in 2019 but was canceled last year due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the only LPGA event held in South Korea, and also the only tournament during the tour's annual fall Asian Swing. Events in China, Taiwan and Japan have been canceled or downgraded to a local event due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Organizers of the BMW Ladies Championship announced Thursday the field will have 50 LPGA players, 30 more from the Korean LPGA (KLPGA) Tour, and four players on sponsors' invitations. The 72-hole tournament will offer US$2 million in total purse, with $300,000 going to the champion.
Ko is fresh off her third victory over the season at Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey over the weekend. All three of Ko's victories have come in her past six starts, a stretch that includes a runner-up finish and a sixth-place finish.
Ko has joined world No. 1 Nelly Korda as the only three-time champions of 2021. And Ko, who ceded her No. 1 spot to Korda on June 28, has narrowed the gap on the American star. Korda now leads Ko by only 9.39 to 9.10 in ranking points.
The two are neck and neck in other major categories. Korda has 161 points to lead the Player of the Year race, and Ko has 146. Each tour victory is worth 30 points and players earn points based on top-10 finishes. With Korda not in Busan, Ko will grab the lead with a win next week, with two more tournaments left this season afterward. Ko won the top player honor in 2019.
The next win by Ko or any other South Korean will be 200th by an LPGA player from this country.
Among KLPGA players, Park Min-ji, who leads the Player of the Year points race thanks to a tour-best six wins, will headline the list. No. 2 in that points race is Jang Hana, the defending BMW champion from 2019.