By Ward Clayton
Park moves closer to Lewis in Rolex Player of the Year
Stacy Lewis returns to the LPGA at the Mizuno Classic in Japan after an off week, and for the first time in a while her lead in the Rolex Player of the Year standings can be lost in one tournament.
Inbee Park's runner-up finish at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship enabled the South Korean golfer to move within 28 points of first place with three events remaining. She led entering the final round in Taiwan but shot a 74 as Suzann Pettersen won the tournament. Rolex Player of the Year points are earned with top-10 finishes in tournaments, ranging from 30 for first place to 1 for 10th. Park gained 12 points with her second-place finish.
"Earlier in the season I really didn't think about (Player of the Year) much, but it's almost the end of the season and only three tournaments to go," Park said. "And I think I have a good chance because I'm playing good and I have confidence. And these three tournaments - who knows what's going to happen? Just play tournament by tournament, shot by shot and see if I can go close."
Only nine players remain in contention for the Player of the Year award, based on the fact that a maximum of 90 points is still available (wins in all three remaining tournaments). Of these nine players, only So Yeon Ryu (ranked sixth) and Ai Miyazato (ranked T7) are not in the field this week.
A look at the players still in contention:
|1 (184)||(184) 1||Stacy Lewis||Lewis finished third and T6 last two years at Mizuno|
|2 (156)||2 (144)||Inbee Park||Two top-10s in five career Mizuno starts; with a win, could move to No. 1|
|3 (138)||3 (129)||Yani Tseng||Two consecutive thirds may forecast a late-season charge|
|4 (128)||4 (128)||Jiyai Shin||Took last week off; has two wins, four top-10s in Japan|
|5 (116)||5 (113)||Na Yeon Choi||Three of last five starts have been top-10s|
|6 (114)||8 (108)||So Yeon Ryu||Has clinched Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honor|
|T7 (112)||T6 (112)||Ai Miyazato||Not playing this week in Japan, has never won event|
|T7 (112)||T6 (112)||Shanshan Feng||Lost playoff to Momoko Ueda last year on third extra hole|
|9 (107)||8 (107)||Mika Miyazato||Must win last three tournaments to have a shot at top spot|
Pettersen on a roll
In winning the last two tournaments, Suzann Pettersen has been 30-under par with 40 birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys. The seven-round success at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship in South Korea (a three-hole playoff victory) and the comeback win at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship saw the 31-year-old Norwegian shoot six rounds in the 60s. One round was in the 70s, the final-round 74 in South Korea that included two double bogeys.
The wins gave Pettersen 10 career LPGA victories. Four of those have occurred in Asia, with the previous wins - the 2007 Hana Bank-Kolon Championship and Honda LPGA Thailand - also coming in consecutive starts.
Pettersen is taking this week off at home in Orlando before playing in the final two LPGA events of the year.
She is third player to win two in a row in 2012. After Yani Tseng won the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and Kia Classic earlier this year, she finished third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship the following week. After Jiyai Shin won the Kingsmill Championship and Ricoh Women's British Open in September, she didn't play in the next tournament, the Navistar LPGA Classic, and finished T38 in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Welcome to Japan
Some quick facts about the Mizuno Classic:
|•||The tournament began in 1973 with American Jan Ferraris capturing the title. The last American to win the Mizuno was Betsy King in 1993.
|•||Momoko Ueda has won twice on the LPGA - both times in the Mizuno Classic. In 2007, she won at Kashikojima CC and captured an additional four tournaments on the LPGA of Japan. Last year, she beat China's Shanshan Feng in a playoff.
|•||From 2001-2005, Annika Sorenstam won five consecutive Mizuno Classics. In 15 rounds, she recorded 14 in the 60s and was a cumulative 95-under par.
|•||When Momoko Ueda won the 2007 Mizuno Classic, she holed her second shot from 228 yards for a double eagle on the par-5 seventh hole in the final round. Of the 31 double eagles in LPGA history, Ueda and Patty Sheehan (1989 Rochester International) are the only players to win the tournament.
|•||This will be the seventh consecutive year that Kashikojima Country Club in Shima has hosted the Mizuno Classic. Seta Golf Course has hosted the event a record 10 times.|
With three events remaining this year, Jiyai Shin leads the race for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. She has a 70.22 stroke average, followed closely by Inbee Park (70.27), Stacy Lewis (70.39) and So Yeon Ryu (70.42). Shin must play nine of the remaining 11 rounds this year to meet the minimum 70 percent of the rounds played this year and qualify for this statistical category. … Lexi Thompson's older brother, Nicholas, finished 22nd on the Web.com Tour money list and will be a member of the PGA TOUR in 2013. … Golf Course St. Leon-Rot, located near Heidelberg, Germany, will be the first German course to host an international team competition when the Solheim Cup is played there in 2015. The 2013 Solheim Cup will take place Aug. 13-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.