HSBC winner Shin can be women's golf legend says coach

HSBC Women's Champions title holder Jiyai Shin can surpass the greatest names in women's golf according to the coach helping the 21-year-old South Korean prepare for the 2010 LPGA season.

Steve McRae, the 44-year-old Australian who has been working with the 2009 LPGA Money List and Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year winner since June last year, says Shin's ability is greater than legends of the female game such as Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.

"I actually think she's probably a better player than those two. That's a big thing. Mentally she's amazing, absolutely amazing. If we get her where she needs to be physically, I think she could be something very, very special," said McRae, who is currently guiding Shin through a six-week training camp on the Gold Coast in his native Australia.

"I think Karrie is probably the best golfer ever to come out of the Australia, I know Annika was a great player and that there are a lot of good players out there now, but Jiyai really is something special."

Shin, who returns to Singapore in February to defend the title she won last year with two dazzling six-under-par weekend rounds, was hailed for coming within one shot of being the only player apart from Nancy Lopez to win both Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie and Rolex Player of the Year in 2009. Yet neither her coach, her caddie Dean Herden nor the player herself describe last year as being a great one, despite her adding two other LPGA wins and a victory in Japan to her HSBC Women's Champions triumph.

"It looks like a really, really great season, but inside - in my golf - it was not perfect. I have been having really good seasons each year for the last four or five years. In my three years in Korea my golf was really consistent. Moving to the States and having to travel a lot more, feeling so tired, having some worries about my English and everything, I felt I had big ups and downs. To other people it looks like 100 per cent but for myself it was a 70 or 75: too many mistakes. For 2008 I was more consistent. There was a really big difference; it was more like 99 per cent," said Shin.

The fact that a 21-year-old can be less than satisfied despite topping the LPGA's money list on her first full season on the tour is a sign of just how much the girl known in Korea as "The Final Round Queen" and "The Little Angel" has achieved in a short career that has seen her become the first woman to win all of Korea's Majors in the same season and smash the Korean LPGA's career earnings record in just 30 tournaments.

"To have a slight sense of disappointment after one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the LPGA shows how much of her potential Jiyai has already realised. Watching her win last year was a treat for Asia's golf fans. I'm sure they're hoping she can put on another display like last year's in Singapore this February," said HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan.

"We had Shin earmarked as a potential winner of the HSBC Women's Champions long before the first tournament was held and the emergence of talented young Asians, the young Koreans and especially her age-group - the Dragon Ladies - was one of the factors considered when we moved our golf sponsorship from the US to Asia. It wasn't a surprise to us when she finished seventh and leading Korean in 2008 and the only surprise about her winning in 2009 was that she was so far behind after two rounds," Morgan added.

Shin's 2009 successes came despite a shoulder issue that unbeknownst to her affected her golf swing for the first half of the season and gave her severe headaches throughout the year. To try and avoid a repetition of those issues, she's working on a more conservative schedule for 2010. She's also undergone three-dimensional biometric analysis and is now undergoing a strength and conditioning programme with athlete development specialist Richard Nizielski, a former short-track speed skating world champion and Kung Fu instructor.

The aim is to lose around 10 kilos in weight by the time she gets to Tanah Merah and to add much-needed distance to a swing that only just got Shin into the top 100 in the LPGA in driving distance last season. But while the Shin says her dream is to replace Lorena Ochoa as world number one, she stops short of targeting it as a goal for the 2010 season.

"Every season my goal is to be better than the season before. Last season was great because I made my goal, but this year must be better. I want to be more consistent and my main goal is to win Major tournaments. Last year my best was third at the McDonalds, but I really want to win a Major. That's my big, big goal," said Shin, whose one Major win to-date was the 2008 RICOH British Women's Open at Sunningdale.

Her coach, meanwhile, is adamant she has the talent and drive to dominate women's golf in the same way Tiger Woods has been the master of the men's game.

"Oh yes! For sure!" said McRae.

"It comes back to a few things that she needs to attend to and she's doing that. She sees where she needs to be. She wants to be the best player she can over another 10 or 15 years. She's identified where she needs to be better and she's committed to it. She's got the drive and the Tigerish mentality. I can't say she will do it, but I think she will because she's that kind of person. From the time I've spent with her, the things she's done have been amazing. She doesn't sit back and wait for things to happen. She makes it happen. I think the western world just doesn't realise how good she is."

Topics: Player Feature, Shin, Jiyai, HSBC Women's Champions

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