By Sanjay Nair
SINGAPORE – Officials were quick to deny talk of a malaria outbreak at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) on Saturday after American crowd favourite Natalie Gulbis joined South Korean trailblazer Pak Se Ri in pulling out of the HSBC Women’s Champions due to illness.
Fears of an outbreak swirled after coach Butch Harmon, who formerly coached Tiger Woods, tweeted that his current charge Gulbis, and Pak, who is now back in South Korea, were “put in the hospital in Singapore with malaria. Hope they both will be ok”.
But the LPGA Tour insisted otherwise.
“Pak withdrew this week due to illness. She does not have malaria, just flu-like symptoms,” said a spokesman, on the five-time Major winner who withdrew last Wednesday.
The LPGA also added that several of its rules officials had also fallen ill, but they too have not been diagnosed with malaria, and were still going about their duties.
Gulbis, on the other hand, was still awaiting blood-test results.
But she was at the SGC on Saturday, and did not appear to be seriously ill. She is expected to fly back to the United States today.
“She’s not feeling well,” said Mr David Livingston, her agent at IMG. “She does have flu-like symptoms, but, to be clear, she has not been hospitalised and there is no diagnosis of malaria.”
The field at the premier event, being played at the SGC’s Serapong course, is now down to 60, as former world No.1 Ai Miyazato of Japan also pulled out last Wednesday.
She had been suffering from whiplash, the result of being involved in a five-car pile up while she and two other golfers, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and American Paula Creamer, were on their way to Bangkok’s airport for their flight to Singapore.
But a sore shoulder from the crash has not stopped Creamer from keeping herself in contention for today’s climax.
She trails co-leaders – world No. 2 Choi Na Yeon of South Korea and American Stacy Lewis – by just two strokes. Said Creamer: “It’s going to make for a very exciting Sunday.”