This week, the LPGA Tour moves to the People’s Republic of China and the Buick LPGA Shanghai, the first of four consecutive events across Asia. The field is led by Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko, who comes to Shanghai fresh off a victory at last week’s Hite Jinro Championship, a major on the KLPGA Tour. She is joined by six other players in the top 10 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, including No. 3 and newly minted 2019 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Jeongeun Lee6.
The inaugural Buick LPGA Shanghai in 2018 saw Danielle Kang earn her second career LPGA title with a two-stroke victory over seven players tied for second. After shooting 1-over on the front side, Kang rolled in birdies on 11, 13, 14 and 17 on her way to a final round 3-under 69.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BUICK LPGA SHANGHAI
- This week is the second playing of the Buick LPGA Shanghai, a professional women’s golf tournament co-sanctioned by the LPGA and the CLPGA
- The field consists of 62 LPGA Members, ranked in the order of their position on the 2019 LPGA Official Money List through the 2019 Volunteers of America Classic; 15 CLPGA Members, as selected by the China Golf Association; and four sponsor invitations
- From 2015-2016, the Buick Championship was played at Qizhong Garden Golf Club as a co-sanctioned event by the LET and the CLPGA; Chinese star and former World No. 1 Shanshan Feng won both years
KANG READY MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY HEADING INTO TITLE DEFENSE
The 2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai was a mental breakthrough for Danielle Kang, who shot a final-round 69 to capture her second career LPGA Tour title. After struggling with anxiety about her game and even battling through the dreaded yips, Kang’s big win still serves as a crucial touchpoint in her on-going relationship with the game.
“Coming back and playing the practice round yesterday actually showed me a lot that I was in a complete different mindset last year, as in being comfortable and being uncomfortable and things like that,” said Kang, who turns 27 on Sunday. “So I feel much more comfortable this year with the way I see the golf course and the way I see my shots. I'm actually happy about that.”
Since that win, Kang has 14 top-20 finishes, including runner-up showings at the Kia Classic and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She comes to Shanghai off a two-week break that saw her get a lot of practice time with her brother Alex Kang, who just advanced to the second stage of qualifying for the 2020 Kornferry Tour.
“I like to feel a certain thing, so if I can do it in practice I can do it in tournaments. In order to engrave that feel, it's repetition and doing it over and over again,” said Kang. “At tournament sites it's very hard to do since you don't have that much time and plus you have to map out the course, map out the conditions, and the traveling and all that. So when you're at home in your routine, like the workouts and the practicing and all of that. So I think being able to get in tune with your own feel for me is the most important, whether it's short game to bunkers shots to wedge shots and irons and drivers, all of it. So it's grinding in the field so I can do it at tournaments.”
THREE 2019 MAJORS FOR KO
This has already been an incredible 2019 season for Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko. She has four wins on the LPGA Tour, including major victories at the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship, and has not missed a cut in more than a year. In late August, she even played 114 holes without making a bogey, the longest-known streak in professional golf.
Last week, Ko added a third major to her 2019 victory tally when she won the KLPGA Tour’s Hite Jinro Championship, her 11th win on the KLPGA. With the last few weeks of the Tour season ahead for Ko, she is ready to focus on wrapping up one of the most successful LPGA seasons in recent memory.
“During the last two weeks playing in Korea, I think I had big cheering by so many people and received good energy,” said Ko. “I won't play KLPGA tournaments any more this year, but now I have LPGA tournaments for the rest of the year. I want to give more focus on the LPGA events. I'll try to my best and show good finishes to all the golf fans.”
Ko is currently slated to play in four of the last five events of the LPGA Tour season. If she can earn a fifth win, she would be the first five-time winner in a single season since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016.
ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR UPDATE
In the Rolex Player of the Year standings, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko holds a commanding 114-point advantage over the rest of the field with 237 points. With five events remaining and 30 points awarded per win, there are a maximum 150 points available. The only players with the possibility of catching Ko are No. 2 Jeongeun Lee6 (123 points), No. 3 Sung Hyun Park (117 points), No. 4 Lexi Thompson (104 points), No. 5 Brooke Henderson (No. 102) and No. 6 Hannah Green (91 points).
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
Heading into the 29th week of the 2019 Race to the GME Globe, four-time winner Jin Young Ko leads the standings with 3,988 points. Brooke Henderson is second with 2,659 points, followed by Jeongeun Lee6 with 2,546 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.