Lilia Vu, 26, is going into the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa with the right attitude. Every time people congratulate her on being the world No. 1, she tells herself why that status could just as easily mean less pressure rather than more.

“I know I know how to win,” is one of the little reminders she will give to herself. Again, in relation to this Singapore week, she looks back at last year’s championship and how much she loved it in spite of the four relatively mundane 70s which saw her finish in a share of 14th place.

Just as Australia’s Karrie Webb was inspired by flowers, birdsong and chattering monkeys when she won the HSBC in 2011, so Vu was carried away with the lakes and “the forest-like feel” to the venue. She is confident that she can only play better at what is the second time of asking “and have a good time in the process”.

After a first four years of losing her LPGA card and winning it back again, Vu spent the whole of ’22 trying to rid herself of what she diagnosed as a damagingly negative attitude.

That negativity included the irritation she used to feel when one more golfer — even Tiger Woods used to do it — would come in off the course saying, “I had fun out there.”

To be honest, the cliche drove her mad but, little by little, she realised that it was not as ridiculous as it sounded. Not that she enjoyed admitting as much, she discovered that the moment she started to put more of an emphasis on enjoying herself, the better she played.

The fun showed in her smile.

In that well leafed book of ‘’Brainy Quotes, Douglas Horton, the renowned American theologian and academic, advised, “Smile, it’s free therapy.”
Vu’s smile never showed its worth more than at the ’23 AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath. She and England’s Charlie Hull were level going into a final round when the expectation was that Hull, with her countless supporters, would come out on top. When Vu won, the home crowd could not have been more sporting. In fact, they had applauded these good-natured golfers in equal measure.

Vu departed Vietnam and was six years of age when the family and a host of others escaped that troubled land in a boat fashioned by her grandfather Dinh Du. When the over-crowded vessel sprang a leak, a US ship came to their rescue and dropped the party off in California.
Céline Boutier, the No. 2 in the world, is another with a round-the-world background. Her family hailed from Thailand — a country Celine visited ever year until she was 14 — and moved to France before Celine, now 30, decided to base herself in the States.

“It was very strange for a while because I was just there by myself and didn’t know anyone. “But I think it was necessary for me if I was going to play my best and be the golfer I can be. I’m very happy I made that decision. Professionally, I think it’s the best thing I could have done, a turning point if you like.”

Boutier’s four-strong haul of tournaments in ’23 has done the same for her as it did for Vu in piling on confidence. In Celine’s case, nothing maybe did more to make her feel good about herself than when she signed off for the season by winning a nine hole play off against Atthaya Thitikul at the Maybank Championship. The play-off, which followed on from a rain delay, was looking good for one player and then the other before Boutier made a deciding 6-footer.

Her secret? Steering clear of all the clubhouse chatter while waiting to learn whether the deluge might spell an end to any play-off.

For four more players with round-the-world credentials, what of Minjee Lee (parents moved from Korea to Australia in the 1990s), Hannah Green (Australia), Lydia Ko (Korean-born and emigrated to New Zealand at the age of four), and Jin Young Ko (played for five years on Korean professional tour before heading for the LPGA.)

It’s anyone’s guess who is going to win. All that can be safely said is that, with this being Singapore, every competitor can be sure of a gathering of spectators who will hail from her homeland.