Five players – Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Cristie Kerr and Jiyai Shin – enter the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship with a chance to become the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year, the pinnacle of excellence on the LPGA Tour. The prestigious prize, which was started by the LPGA in 1966, awards LPGA Tour players points at each official LPGA tournament for top-10 finishes. Points are double for all four LPGA major championships – the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans, U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA and the RICOH Women’s British Open. The Rolex Player of the Year also earns a point towards entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Tseng currently leads the Rolex Player of the Year race with 188 points. She holds a nine-point advantage over her closest competition Miyazato (179). Choi stands in third place with 174 points while Kerr is hot on her heels with 173. Shin rounds out the contenders with 170 points. With a win carrying a point value of 30, any of the four players giving chase to Tseng can emerge Sunday as the Rolex Player of the Year.
All five players have logged tremendous performances on many occasions in 2010. Tseng won three times and leads the standings based on the strength of her two major championship victories – the Kraft Nabisco Championship and RICOH Women’s British Open. Tseng also posted five other top-10 finishes, including a second at the Mizuno Classic, a third at the season-opening Honda PTT Thailand and a tie for third at the HSBC Women’s Champions. Tseng is attempting to become the first player from Taiwan to become the Rolex Player of the Year.
Tseng’s closest challenger Miyazato became the first LPGA player in 44 years to win the first two events of the season. She captured both the Honda PTT Thailand and the HSBC Women’s Champions. Miyazato’s hot start to the season carried her to two more victories – the Tres Marias Championship and the ShopRite LPGA Classic – before the end of June. Miyazato added a fifth win at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola and is vying to become the first player from Japan to claim the Rolex Player of the Year award since Ayako Okamoto in 1987.
Choi, who started her Player of the Year charge in July when she won the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger, sits third in the race. After missing the first cut of her LPGA career at the LPGA Championship, Choi carded two wins and eight other top-10s, including three runner-up finishes and two ties for third. In her last 12 starts, Choi finished no worse than a tie for 16th. While she stands third in the Rolex Player of the Year race, Choi enters the LPGA Tour Championship leading both the LPGA official money list and Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
American Kerr stands fourth in the standings and is searching for a piece of history of her own. The last American Rolex Player of the Year was Beth Daniel in 1994. Kerr has made a strong case to join Daniel in the record books, but will need to win the LPGA Tour Championship to have a chance to overtake Tseng. Kerr won twice in 2010, including a phenomenal 12-stroke victory at the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans. She carded 12 top-10’s including runner-up finishes at the HSBC Women’s Champions and the Safeway Classic and a tie for third at the Navistar LPGA Classic.
Shin is the final contender of the five for the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year. Shin, who lost the battle to Lorena Ochoa for the 2009 honor, needs to post her third win of 2010 at the LPGA Tour Championship to take the sting out of last year’s one-point loss. Shin carded 14 top-10 finishes this year, including wins at the Evian Masters and the Mizuno Classic. She played well in the major championships, posting a tie for third at the LPGA Championship and ties for fifth at both the Kraft Nabisco and U.S. Women’s Open. In her last 11 LPGA starts, Shin finished in the top six 10 times.
The winner of the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year award, whether it be Tseng, Miyazato, Choi, Kerr or Shin, will join some of the greatest players to have ever played the game in the LPGA history books. Previous Rolex Players of the Year are Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie, JoAnne Carner, Sandra Palmer, Judy Rankin, Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Pat Bradley, Ayako Okamoto, Dottie Pepper, Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa.