HanaBank Championship Betting: Rising star Ryu worth a punt in her homeland

So Yeon Ryu is a rising star and can go well this week
So Yeon Ryu is a rising star and can go well this week

We've let Mike Norman off the leash as he was desperate to get his teeth stuck into the ladies this week. The LPGA Tour has moved to South Korea for the HanaBank Championship, and our man has come up with these three beauties for you to consider...

"A 12th place finish here in 2010 when virtually an unknown, and a top 10 finish last year in her rookie season proves she knows the course too. Ryu looks to have an outstanding chance this week."


It's a rare foray into the beautiful and glamorous world of women's golf for yours truly this week as the HanaBank Championship takes centre stage on the LPGA Tour.

The tournament - the third leg of the Asian swing - is staged on the award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course at the picturesque venue of Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea. It's the only event on the LPGA calendar to be played in the nation that has dominated female golf in recent years.

First staged in 2002, the HanaBank Championship has been won by a South Korean golfer seven times in its 11-year history, and since the event was moved to the Ocean Course in 2008 it has been regarded as a tournament where good course form often repeats itself.

A 78-women field has been assembled this week with many of the leading players in the world in attendance. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen - looking for her third victory from her last four starts - is the 6.86/1 favourite, and in her current form she looks the player to beat.

The 32-year-old Norwegian - a 13-time winner on the LPGA Tour - has been in stunning form since missing the cut at the US Open in late June. She has recorded six consecutive top-seven finishes including back-to-back victories at the Safeway Classic and the Evian Championship, the fifth and final Major of the season.

Pettersen has risen to number two in the world on the bank of her brilliant recent run, so she'll be full of confidence defending a title around a course she knows well. In addition to winning here last year, Pettersen also finished fourth at the Ocean Course in 2010.

She ticks all the right boxes then, and as I always say, excellent course form plus brilliant recent form in the perfect combination in golf. But Pettersen's odds reflect everything I've mentioned, and although I wouldn't put anyone off backing her, recommending a 6.86/1 shot in a 78-player tournament is not really my cup of tea.

Instead I'm going to concentrate largely on some Asian players - particularly the South Koreans - as undoubtedly they'll be comfortable playing in familiar surroundings. And they're not too bad at the game of golf either!

First though, let's rule out world number one and second favourite to win this week Inbee Park (11.010/1).

Park has already won a staggering six times this season, including the first three Major championships of 2013, so there's no denying her class. But she has undoubtedly been priced up on her early season form as since her last victory (back in June) her form has tailed off somewhat.

Park has recorded just one top-10 finish in her last seven events and last time out in Malaysia she finished way down in 32nd place, this after a hugely disappointing 67th place finish at the Evian Championship. Her best finish at this venue was seventh two years ago, and that doesn't compare favourably with some of the other good course form on offer this week. She is easily dismissed.

Far less easy to dismiss is So Yeon Ryu, and at 20.019/1 to back she is my main fancy in a tournament where I can really only see one of about eight players winning.

At just 23-year-old Ryu is a rising star in women's golf, and she thoroughly deserves a victory after this year's exploits. Named Rookie of the Year in 2012 after registering a victory and a gob-smacking 15 top-10 finishes, she has continued to improve with a further eight top-10 finishes this season, most notably in the big tournaments.

Ryu - already up to number four in the world rankings - finished second at the Kraft Nabisco, third at the US Open, and fourth at a weather-affected Evian Championship just a few weeks ago, so we know that her form is good and that she can handle pressure in the tournaments that matter most. And surely this week's event will mean a lot with it being in her homeland.

A 12th place finish here in 2010 when virtually an unknown, and a top 10 finish last year in her rookie season proves she knows the course too. Ryu looks to have an outstanding chance this week.

Also of interest are two players with outstanding course form - Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi.

Tseng - available to back at 36.035/1 - won this tournament back in 2011, and at the age of just 24 has already racked up an astounding 15 victories on the LPGA Tour. She was disappointing last week in finishing 66th, and if truth be told, the reason we are getting such a good price about her is because of her recent form; she has missed the cut in five of her previous eight starts.

But mixed in with those missed cuts are two top-10 finishes, so we know she still has the game, and the fact that she finished third here 12 months ago and second in 2009 tell us all we need to know about her liking for the Ocean Course.

Believe it or not but Choi (14.013/1) can boast even better course form than Tseng.

The South Korean won back-to-back HanaBank Championships in 2009 and 2010 at this venue, and in 2011 she finished runner-up to Tseng. She is winless this season but has eight top-10 finishes to her name and in the last few weeks she has finished fifth and 15th. She must go well.


Recommended Bets

Back So Yeon Ryu @ 20.019/1
Back Yani Tseng @ 36.035/1
Back Na Yeon Choi @ 14.013/1


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