New number one Ryu hopes for birthday present at PGA

File photo: Ryu of South Korea plays her second shot at the 9th hole during the women's British Open golf tournament at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport

By Andrew Both

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois (Reuters) – Newly crowned women’s world number one Ryu So-yeon is living the dream and hoping to give herself a major birthday present at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship starting Thursday.

She heads a stellar field for the second major on the women’s calendar at Olympia Fields, the scene of Jim Furyk’s victory at the 2003 U.S Open.

Ryu became the third number one in as many weeks with her victory at the Arkansas Championship on Sunday, supplanting Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, who only a week earlier had displaced New Zealander Lydia Ko.

Ryu, who celebrates her 27th birthday on Thursday, is going for consecutive major victories, after winning the ANA Inspiration in a playoff with Lexi Thompson.

“I’m living a dream,” she said. “I want to keep this position as much as I can, as long as I can … The (career) grand slam is one of my best goals right now. I still need to knock down three more tournaments.”

Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion, has tightened her swing recently which she says has helped reduce the damage of loose shots.

She certainly did not hit many poor shots in her second-round 61 last week, a score she knows will be difficult to accomplish at Olympia Fields, where she says the severely sloping greens will demand precise approach shots that stop under the hole.

Not that she is ready to plan her victory speech just yet.

“I’m not a robot, so sometimes I play bad, sometimes great,” she said.

Ryu is part of a never-ending Korean juggernaut that currently has five players ranked among the world’s top 10, with Chun In-gee, Park In-bee, Park Sung-hyun and Amy Yang also high on the list.

But the Korean contingent is unlikely to have it all its own way this week, with many players running into form at the right time, among them former child prodigy Michelle Wie, who has finished third, second and fourth in her past three starts.

And Canadian Brooke Henderson is not ready to surrender her title without a fight, coming off a victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

“I feel like my game is in a great place right now,” Henderson said on Wednesday. “I’ve been saying that all year but then I won (and) proved to some of the naysayers and proved to myself that I am in a great position.”

(Editing by Ian Ransom)