Golf: Curbs won't stop players from tasting local delights at HSBC Women's World C'ship

South Korea's Hyo-joo Kim bumps fists with Germany's Sophia Popov after completing the final round of the HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on May 2, 2021.
South Korea's Hyo-joo Kim bumps fists with Germany's Sophia Popov after completing the final round of the HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on May 2, 2021.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ASIAPAC

SINGAPORE - Tasting local delights like chilli crab and curry puffs may have been more challenging this year owing to the bubble surrounding players at the HSBC Women's World Championship, but that did not stop foodies like Park In-bee from indulging via food delivery apps.

While the LPGA Tour marked its return to Asia this week after an 18-month Covid-enforced hiatus with the successful hosting of the HSBC tournament, it was not exactly business as usual for the players with strict protocols in place.

As part of the measures, two separate bubbles were created for the tournament.

The inner bubble was for all the players, caddies, selected officials and tournament staff, who were shuttled from Fairmont Singapore to Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) and they were not allowed anywhere else.

The outer bubble was for spectators, local media and SGC staff.

As the action teed off at the SGC's New Tanjong Course, there were no loud roars or cheers celebrating eagle putts as a maximum of only 250 spectators - all corporate guests - were allowed daily.

After last year's HSBC Women's World Championship was cancelled owing to the pandemic, the golfers were just glad to be among the 69-strong field back in action at Sentosa. Korea's world No. 9 Kim Hyo-Joo took home the trophy and winner's cheque of US$240,000 (S$319,400) after carding a 17-under 271.

"Not playing this (tournament) last year, I missed it and I feel rested," said Spanish world No. 24 Carlota Ciganda, who finished tied seventh at 11-under 277.

German world No. 58 Caroline Masson believes that the HSBC Women's World Championship, where she finished tied 46th, is significant as it paves the way for more international golf tournaments to return.

The April 29-May 2 HSBC tournament is the first of two LPGA Tour events in Asia this season, with the second being the Honda LPGA Thailand, which begins in Pattaya on Thursday.

The LPGA Tour will circle back to Asia from mid-October to early November for four tournaments in Shanghai, Busan, Taipei and Shiga.

Masson, 31, said: "Even though it's not back to normal, it feels like a step in the right direction for us to come back overseas and play. Asia is always huge - it's a big market and there are great tournaments.

"It's hot, but I love it. I just want to embrace it and appreciate the opportunity to be here and that's what I'm going to do the next couple of weeks."

Although the players were disappointed at not being able to explore Singapore, they found ways to adapt to the new normal.

Like Park, many had food delivered to their hotel rooms to get a taste of local cuisine and with the golfers having to spend longer hours in their hotel rooms, they kept themselves occupied with different activities.

Australia's Hannah Green, who finished second in her tournament debut, brought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with her, while Netflix proved a popular way for others to pass their time.

Korean world No. 2 Park, who finished joint-third on Sunday, said: "There's nothing you can do but just move around in your room, just very limited space but obviously we are doing it for everyone's safety and that's what we need to do.

"We have to have the responsibility because we are travelling all over the world. It's just something that we need to do in order to play golf tournaments."