S. Korean Choi hopes Arkansas defense will boost form


WASHINGTON: South Korea’s Choi Na-Yeon has not won a title since capturing last year’s LPGA Northwest Arkansas Championship, but she hopes defending her crown starting Friday will revive her form.

Choi, ranked 21st, shared third at the LPGA Swinging Skirts Classic in April for her best showing of the season but since then has struggled, missing the cut at the Women’s PGA Championship and sharing 50th at the Meijer LPGA Classic the past two weeks.

“I have great memories of here and all the people welcome me so well so I’m very happy,” Choi said. “Especially last two weeks I was a little struggling with my game, but as soon as I landed in Arkansas, I just felt a lot of confidence.”

Choi, the 2012 US Women’s Open champion, has won nine LPGA titles and six more on the Korean women’s tour.

Last year at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Choi holed out with an 8-iron from 145 yards for an eagle at the 16th hole and dropped another 8-iron shot close to the cup to set up a birdie on 17 to seal the title in the 54-hole event.

“The sad thing is I couldn’t see the ball going in, but I watched it so many times on the Internet or TV replays, I felt so good with that shot,” Choi said of her eagle.

American Stacy Lewis, a University of Arkansas graduate, is also back at the scene of her last LPGA title, a victory in 2014. She is stunned she has been playing the tournament for a decade.

“I can’t believe it has been 10 years. That’s the hardest thing for me,” said 10th-ranked Lewis. “I’m like, ‘Gosh, I’ve been out of school that long?’ I just can’t believe it. I mean, it has gone by so fast.

“It will be a great week to be in front of the fans here. “

Lewis will play the first two rounds alongside world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who has not finished worse than sixth in her three starts at Pinnacle, and Australian Minjee Lee, who shared sixth last year in her first visit.

Canada’s Brooke Henderson, the world number two, who captured the Women’s PGA Championship earlier this month, will play Friday and Saturday alongside American Brittany Lincicome and South Korean world number six Chun In-Gee.                    



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