INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - The jet set lifestyle of the LPGA Tour can be tough on players as they criss-cross continents and adjust to time zones, but the international swing has unearthed incredible talent and helps the circuit grow, American Lexi Thompson said on Tuesday.
While the PGA Tour rarely ventures outside U.S. borders, the women’s circuit is hosting one-third of its 33 official money events on foreign shores this season, taking the road show as far afield as Australia, South Korea and Singapore.
The bulk of the Tour’s 200 active players are international -- 127 representing 28 countries.
World number five Thompson has embraced the international flavour of the Tour and it has certainly been good for her career with six of the 21-year-old’s 10 career victories coming outside North America.
One of those wins came at last year’s KEB Hana Bank Championship and Thompson said returning to South Korea to defend her title brought back a lot of good memories.
“The LPGA Tour, it’s such a global tour right now. We do travel a lot overseas, and we have a lot of international players, but it’s all about the talent that we bring to the table,” she told a news conference at SKY 72 Golf Club.
”Doesn’t matter where we’re from... I think it’s great for our Tour. “We probably struggle with a little bit of the jet lag travelling to these tournaments, but I think it’s great for growing our Tour, as well.”
With Olympic champion Park In-bee the only absentee from the world’s top 10, there are no shortage of contenders eager to wrest Thompson’s title from her grasp.
Among the favourites is South Korea’s Chun In-gee, who won her second major at last month’s Evian Championship and recently wrapped up the Rookie of the Year award.
”Being a Rookie of the Year is a huge honour for me,
being able to put my name next to some of the greatest players of all time such as Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam,” she said.
In 2015, Chun became the first player to win majors on three different tours during the same calendar year.
She won last year’s U.S. Women’s Open while still playing on the Korean Tour and said her wire-to-wire Evian win in France should dispel any doubts about her talent.
“I think that sort of proved that winning at the U.S. Women’s Open last year wasn’t a fluke,” she added. “And I felt that I had an opportunity to prove that I belonged by winning the Evian major championship.”
The first round of the LPGA/KLPGA co-sanctioned tournament begins on Thursday.
Editing by John O'Brien