This week, the LPGA Tour travels to Incheon, South Korea for the second event of the Asian swing, the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship. The Ocean Course at the Sky 72 Golf Club welcomes 69 players who will contend for a $1.8 million purse and a $270,000 first place prize.
Yani Tseng, the 2011 champion, returns with hopes to defend her second title of the season. She captured her sixth LPGA victory of the 2011 season in Korea posting a three-day total 14-under-par 202, to give her a one-stroke victory over two-time defending champ Na Yeon Choi. Tseng continued the momentum from her impressive 2011 LPGA campaign by starting 2012 off on a hot-streak with eight consecutive top-10 finishes including three victories. But the No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings has been in a slump since she tied for 59th at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. The Taiwan native still holds that top spot in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings but top-American Stacy Lewis is slowly closing the gap to steal Tseng’s spot.
Tseng and Lewis are tied for the Tour lead in victories this season after Lewis captured the Navistar LPGA Classic title, taking her total to three this year. The Woodlands, Texas native maintains her lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race with 184 points after a tie for 19th at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. If she can hold on to win the award, she would not only steal the honor from Tseng, who won the award for the last two years, but she would also become the first American player of the year since Beth Daniel in 1994.
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Choi is also in the field this week after nearly defending her title in Malaysia. The 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champion is a two-time winner at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship (2009, 2010).