Course: Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club (6,506 yards, par 72), Shima-shi, Japan.
Purse: $1.2 million. Winner’s share: $180,000.
Last year: South Korea’s Bo Bae Song won her first LPGA Tour title, shooting 68-65-68 to beat Lorena Ochoa, Brittany Lang and Hee Young Park by three strokes.
SHIMA-SHI, Japan – The LPGA wraps up its Asia swing this week and tour members will be challenged to end a three-year victory drought at the Mizuno Classic.
The past three winners of the event were all non-LPGA members at the time of their victories: Japan’s Momoko Ueda started the trend in 2007, followed by Koreans Jiyai Shin in 2008 and Song Bo-bae last year.
Despite the presence of many LPGA big guns this week, much of the smart money is being placed on Ahn Sun-ju at the 6,506-yard, par-72 Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club course.
With four triumphs to her name already this season, Ahn is on track to become the first non-Japanese winner of the Japan LPGA Tour money-list title since Taiwan’s Tu Ai-yu in 1991. The Mizuno Classic is co-sanctioned by both tours.
“I have to admit that I think about the money title, but I’ll try to keep my focus on playing well in the coming events,” Ahn said.
Notable players in the field include Japan’s Ai Miyazato, a four-time winner on the LPGA this year; three-time major winner Yani Tseng of Taiwan, and Australians Katherine Hull and Karrie Webb, who won the Mizuno in 2006.
Shin, who regained the top spot in the Rolex Rankings with a tie for fourth last week, has been a model of consistency since returning to the LPGA after an emergency appendectomy in June. Since then, the world No. 1 has posted ten top-10 finishes, including a win at the Evian Masters.
Remarkably, the No. 1 spot has changed hands nine times among three different players (Shin, Cristie Kerr and Miyazato) since Lorena Ochoa retired in May.
In a confident mood this week is Na Yeon Choi, winner of last week’s LPGA Hana Bank Championship at Seoul’s Sky 72 Golf Club.
This event has not had an American winner since Betsy King recorded her second successive victory in 1993. But Morgan Pressel fancies her chances.
In May, the 21-year-old produced a polished performance to win the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, the first of the Japan LPGA Tour’s annual “major” championships.