LPGA RETURNS TO JAPAN FOR 42ND TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC
The next stop in the LPGA’s Fall Asia Swing takes the Tour to Shiga, Japan, for the 42nd TOTO Japan Classic. Two-time defending champion Shanshan Fengleads the 78-player field, with newly crowned Rolex Rankings No. 1 and 2018 Rolex Player of the Year Ariya Jutanugarn among those hoping to keep Feng from becoming the second three-time champion in tournament history.
After a two-year run at the Taiheiyo Club, the tournament returns to Seta Golf Club for the first time since 2005. This marks the 11th time Seta will serve as tournament host, with LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam winning four consecutive tournaments here in 2002-2005, joining the 2001 title she captured at Musashigaoka Golf Course.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC
The tournament is co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and the Japan LPGA (JLPGA)
The TOTO Japan Classic is the fourth event in the LPGA’s Fall Asia Swing, following events in the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China and Chinese Taipei; the Swing wraps up next week on Hainan Island, China
The TOTO Japan Classic has been played at 14 courses around Japan
Five-time champion Annika Sorenstam set the tournament scoring record at Seta Golf Club in 2003, returning a 54-hole total of 24-under 192
The tournament was an unofficial event from 1973 to 1975, becoming an official tournament in 1976
FENG HOPES TO REGAIN 2017 FORM IN RETURN TO JAPAN
It’s safe to say that Shanshan Feng really likes playing in Japan. The 29-year-old from the People’s Republic of China is this week’s two-time defending champion, having taken the 2016 and 2017 TOTO Japan Classic titles at the Taiheiyo Club.
“It was my first time to actually defend my title on the LPGA last year here,” said Feng, who is playing in her seventh TOTO Japan Classic. “I was really looking for coming back to Japan. Although this is a new course and it’s my first time here. Seeing my face everywhere, it reminds me about good memories in the past. I’m just really enjoying it.”
While this is Feng’s return to Japanese glory, this marks the first time in her title run that she takes to Seta Golf Club, which is hosting the tournament for the first time since 2005. Feng nearly took the victory in 2011, falling to Momoko Ueda in a playoff, and has never finished worse than 27th in the tournament.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW DEFENDING TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC CHAMPION SHANSHAN FENG
Feng has held at least a portion of the lead after the last five rounds at the TOTO Japan Classic
Feng led wire-to-wire in 2017
In 2017, Feng went on to win the next event, the Blue Bay LPGA; she is the last player to win consecutive events on the LPGA Tour
Feng was No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for 23 weeks from Nov. 13, 2017 (following the Blue Bay victory) to April 22, 2018
She is the only player from the People’s Republic of China, male or female, to reach World No. 1
In 2018, Feng has five top-10 finishes, with a best finish of T3 at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey and LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship
Feng is looking for her first win of 2018; her last year without a win came in 2015
Should Feng emerge victorious this week, she would join Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson and Sei Young Kim as the only players to win in each of the last three seasons (2016, 2017, 2018)
RYU RETURNS TO JAPAN WITH LEGIONS OF NEW FANS
Just one month ago, So Yeon Ryu won the Japan Women’s Open at Chiba Country Club and instantly gained scores of Japanese fans.
“A lot of people have been reaching out on social media, saying “I support you,” “I’m rooting for you,” said Ryu, who took a three-stroke win over fellow LPGA champion Nasa Hataoka, an up-and-coming Japanese star. “I feel really blessed about it and hopefully I can perform really well in front of them and look forward to having another victory in Japan.”
Ryu and Hataoka will pick right up where they left off on Friday, as the duo will join last week’s winner Nelly Korda in Friday’s first round.
JUTANUGARN EARNS 2018 ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
The LPGA Tour announced today that Ariya Jutanugarn has earned the 2018 Rolex Player of the Year award, the second time in three seasons that the long-hitting Thai has secured this prestigious accolade.
With three events remaining on the 2018 LPGA Tour schedule, Jutanugarn leads the standings with 219 points, 83 ahead of second-placed Sung Hyun Park, and cannot be caught. Minjee Lee is third, with 122 points, and Brooke Henderson is fourth, with 110.
"It feels great to win this award for a second time, and I'm really excited about that," said Jutanugarn, a 10-time winner on the LPGA Tour who returned to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings on Monday. "I've played well this season and it's a huge honor for me to have my name on this trophy again. I would also like to thank my entire team. I am grateful to be working with all of them, and I am blessed to have my family and my sponsors who believe in me. I would also like to thank all my fans in Thailand. I am really proud to be from Thailand, and to win this prestigious award."
TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC IS LAP 30 IN RACE TO THE CME GLOBE
This week’s TOTO Japan Classic marks the 30th lap of the 2018 Race to the CME Globe. Ariya Jutanugarn continues to sit atop the standings with 4,002 points, followed by Minjee Lee with 3,085 points. Brooke Henderson sits third with 2,649 points, followed by Sung Hyun Park (2,388 points) and Sei Young Kim(2,302 points).
Throughout the season’s official events, LPGA Members will battle for position, with the top 12 players after the Blue Bay LPGA heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with the opportunity to take home a $1 million bonus, the biggest prize in women’s golf.
All tournaments have the same point values except for the five major championships, which carry 25 percent more value. For all events with a cut, points are awarded to members who make the cut, while for events without a cut, points are awarded to members who finish in the top 40 and ties.
Points will be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship following the Blue Bay LPGA, with the top 72 LPGA Members, as well as any non-Member winners and alternates, seeded into the championship field. For the top five players, it’s easy – win the CME Group Tour Championship and take home $1 million. However, the top 12 in the points race all have a mathematical chance to take the title of Race to the CME Globe Champion and win the coveted check.
In 2017, Lexi Thompson became the first American winner of the Race to the CME Globe and the accompanying $1 million prize. She joined Lydia Ko (2014, 2015) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2016) as the only players to hoist the crystal trophy.