Confident Ariya ready to strut her stuff
Contrast of confidence between world's top two players ahead of Sentosa showdown
One has held the world No. 1 spot for a total of 90 weeks, but has not tasted victory since the Marathon Classic last July.
The other clinched an LPGA Tour-leading five wins last season and is closing in on the top ranking.
All eyes will be on Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn - the world's top two women's golfers - as the US$1.5 million (S$2.11m) HSBC Women's Champions gets underway at Sentosa Golf Club's New Tanjong Course today.
Top-ranked Ko is trying to rediscover her best form which made her the youngest player of either gender to be ranked world No. 1 in professional golf at the age of 17.
The 19-year-old New Zealander, who changed her coach, caddie and clubs after a disappointing end to the 2016 season, finished joint-46th at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open and tied for eighth at the Honda LPGA Thailand last month.
"I'm going to try my best out there. My goal going into this week is another top-10 finish," said Ko, who finished 15th, second and tied-15th in her three previous outings when the HSBC Women's Champions was held at Sentosa's Serapong Course.
SELECTED TEE-OFF TIMES
1ST TEE: 8.42am: Ryann O’Toole, Michelle Wie, Lee Minjee ; 8.54am: Suzann Pettersen, Jessica Korda, Anna
Nordqvist; 9.30am: Angela Stanford, Park Inbee, Brooke Henderson; 9.42am: Ryu So Yeon, Feng Shanshan, Cristie Kerr; 9.54am: Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis; 10.06am: Ariya Jutanugarn, Park Sung Hyun, Chun In Gee; 10.18am: Lydia Ko, Kim Sei Young, Lexi Thompson; 10.30am: Brittany Lincicome, Jang Ha Na, Amy Yang
10TH TEE: 10.11am: Mirim Lee, Sarah Jane Smith, Amanda Tan (Sin)
"All the players are playing great, so hopefully, I'll be able to do the same."
Thai star Ariya, on the other hand, is brimming with confidence after a stellar 2016.
She made a bright start to the new season, finishing joint-third in Australia and tied for eighth in Thailand.
"I have to say I'm really confident in my game. I'm just going to focus on commitment. That's the most important thing for me," said the 21-year-old who will play with South Korean duo Park Sung Hyun and Chun In Gee in the first round today.
The two top golfers may be the ones to watch as the tournament gets underway today, but both are aware that all 63 golfers in the elite field have an equal chance at the par-72, 6,108-metre New Tanjong Course.
"The Serapong and Tanjong are two different golf courses," said Ko, when asked to compare Sentosa's two courses.
"Obviously, Serapong is a really nice golf course, but I think Tanjong is more suitable for the average-length player. I think it's good.
"I think we need to focus on where to hit it and go from there.
"The greens have a little bit of very subtle undulation, so even though it might not be a very long putt, it could break three different ways.
"The person who normally holes a putt is going to end up on top and I think that's going to be the case this week."
Ariya added: "I like the course a lot. It's pretty wide open for me tee-shot wise, so I like it. But the greens are pretty tough. It's really firm and it's really hard to aim your shot."
Ko leads the world rankings with 498.20 points but Ariya is hot on her heels with 427.62 points.
Two-time Major champion Ko, however, is more focused on her game than worrying about losing the top spot.
"If you're the top-ranked player, everyone is trying to work up the rankings and, if you're No. 2, you obviously want to try to improve to get to No. 1... I think that's how everything works," said Ko, who will tee off with South Korean Kim Sei Young and American Lexi Thompson in the first round.
"I feel fortunate to be in this position. It's always been one of my dreams to become the No. 1-ranked player.
"There is expectation from people thinking you should play well every week, win every week, but it's more about consistency.
"Even though I am the No. 1-ranked player, there are still a lot of aspects of my game that I need to improve on.
"So at the end of the day, I don't think it's all about trying to chase the person in front.
"I think it's more about trying to improve on your game and, if those aspects improve, I think naturally the results will come."
Likewise, Ariya is not too bothered about overtaking Ko to be the first South-east Asian golfer to be No. 1 in the world.
She said: "I don't feel like I want to be world No. 1 or anything because to me, having fun is the most important."
Singapore's Amanda Tan will make her professional debut today alongside South Korean Mirim Lee and Australian Sarah Jane Smith.