LPGA: After the Solheim Cup, What Can We Expect from the Asian Swing?
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The LPGA is back on track, and Asia will receive the best women golfers.
Four tournaments will be played in the Far East: LPGA Hana Bank Championship, Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Sherwood LPGA Taiwan Championship and Mizuno Classic. Mizuno has been held annually since 1973, but it was until 1976 when it became an official LPGA stop.
The momentum couldn't be better for the tour, after an exciting Solheim finish in which Europe grabbed the Cup after eight years. Eleven players from Team USA and eight players from Team Europe are set to play in the first event in South Korea.
Team USA players include: Inkster, Lewis, Kerr, Pressel, Stanford, Creamer, Wie, Lincicome, Lang, O'Toole and Hurst. Team Europe players are Pettersen, Hjorth, Nordqvist, Matthew, Gustafson, Muñoz, Gal and Stupples.
Add world number one Yani Tseng—who's in part responsible for the celebration of a tournament in her native Taiwan for the first time in history.
You can't count out Japan's Ai Miyazato, who won the Evian Masters held in July. Nor can you count out Na Yeon Choi, a 23-year-old Korean that turned pro in 2004 and has already won 11 titles, seven in the Korean LPGA and four in the LPGA, including the Hana Bank Championship, twice.
If there's one place the LPGA draws attention to it is Asia, and the reason is simple: players from that continent have been dominating the most competitive women's tour for several years, both in results and in number of contestants.
In 2011, there have been 17 official tournaments, without counting the Solheim. Asian players have won seven of them, and in eight events at least one Asian has been runner-up.
Last year, Jimin Kang claimed the Sime Darby, Na Yeon Choi the Hana Bank and Jiyai Shin the Mizuno Classic. The non-Asian golfer who won in the Far East during this time of the year was in 2008, when Sweden's Helen Alfredsson grabbed the extinct Grand China Air.
Also, the last time a Solheim Cup Team member claimed the following event was in 2007, when Maria Hjorth won the Navistar Classic held in Alabama. In 2009, the tournament that followed the Solheim Cup was the Safeway Classic, Korea's M.J. Hur grabbed the title.
The Asian swing might help some players clinch two of the tour's main awards: Rookie of the Year, led by Hee Kyung Seo, and Player of the Year, by Yani Tseng.
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