The final event of the 2019 LPGA Tour Asia swing is one of the longest-standing Tour events. The 2019 TOTO Japan Classic marks the 44th edition of the event, which is being held for the 12th time at the Seta Golf Course in Shiga, Japan. This week is also the penultimate event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season, with a week off next week before the season-finale CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.
Last year was the first time the tournament had been played at the Seta Golf Course since LPGA Tour legend Annika Sorenstam secured her fourth consecutive win on the course in 2005. In 2018, rising LPGA star Nasa Hataoka recorded a final-round 67 to become the eighth different Japanese player to win the TOTO Japan Classic.
The 2019 TOTO Japan Classic will host 78 of the world’s best female golfers, led by defending champion World No. 4 Hataoka. World No. 8 Lexi Thompson returns to competition this week making her first start since the Indy Women in Tech Championship in September.
Hataoka, Thompson and 2019 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Jeongeun Lee6 are three of 28 players in the top 50 of the Rolex Rankings in the field.
Other notable players in the field include 2019 AIG Women’s British Open winner Hinako Shibuno, former World No. 1 and current JLPGA Money List leader Jiyai Shin, two-time TOTO Japan Classic winner Shanshan Feng and multiple 2019 LPGA tournament winners Hannah Green and Mi Jung Hur.
The field consists of 43 LPGA Members, ranked in the order of their position on the 2019 LPGA Official Money List through the 2019 Volunteers of America Classic, and 35 JLPGA Members, as determined by the JLPGA.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC
- This is the 44th playing of 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 and final event in the LPGA’s Fall Asia Swing, following events in the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and Chinese Taipei
- 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
- Sorenstam’s five consecutive titles at the event (2001-2015) are the most consecutive wins at the same tournament in LPGA history
- The tournament was an unofficial event from 1973 to 1975, becoming an official tournament in 1976
LAST EVENT FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge highlight's the world's best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour on top of the Aon leaderboard at the end of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize.
Heading into the final counting event, the TOTO Japan Classic, Carlota Ciganda leads the standings at -0.841, with Ariya Jutanugarn in second at -0.808 and In-Kyung Kim and Lee-Anne Pace in third at -0.731. Jutanugarn and Kim are the only players who can mathematically catch Ciganda this week at the TOTO Japan Classic. Jutanugarn needs two eagles (score to par equal to -4) to pass Ciganda and win the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. Kim needs an improbable combination of eagle/double eagle.
Jutanugarn said she’s trying not to put any extra pressure on herself for the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. “The only job I have to do is do my best on every shot and on every hole,” Jutanugarn said. “That’s all I care about. My job is to do my best, to try to win the tournament and reach my goals.”
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the TOTO Japan Classic is the 476-yard 17th. This par 5 plays uphill to a narrow green pitched severely from the back to the front. After a drive into the fairway, the player will need to choose either to go for the green, setting up a potential birdie, or lay up into an area guarded by five bunkers. A poor second shot in attempting to reach the green in two would leave the player in a tough spot playing for par.
The scoring system is identical on both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR, and players take their best two scores from each Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the season. Players must play a minimum of 40 rounds throughout the season. The Challenge runs across regular season tournaments (29 LPGA Tour; 36 PGA TOUR).
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge
2020 TOKYO OLYMPICS PREVIEW
For most LPGA Tour players this week at the TOTO Japan Classic will likely be the last time they tee it up in Japan prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Japanese fans will be able to see past and future Olympians up close like 2016 Silver Medalist Lydia Ko and Bronze Medalist Shanshan Feng who are both in the field this week.
The Olympic field is restricted to 60 players based on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. The top-15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players will be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15. The women’s qualification period will end on June 29, 2020.
As the host country, Japan is guaranteed to have at least one representative in competition, and as of now World No. 4 Nasa Hataoka and No. 13 Hinako Shibuno would represent the host nation.
Here’s a glance at who would represent the top few countries as of the Nov. 4, 2019 Rolex Rankings.
Republic of Korea: Jin Young Ko, Sung Hyun Park, Jeongeun Lee6, Inbee Park
USA: Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Jessica Korda
Japan: Nasa Hataoka, Hinako Shibuno
Thailand: Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn
Australia: Minjee Lee, Hannah Green
Canada: Brooke Henderson, Alena Sharp
People’s Republic of China: Shanshan Feng, Yu Liu
Great Britain: Bronte Law, Charley Hull
Lee6, Thompson, Hataoka, Shibuno, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Lee, Green, Feng, Liu and Law are competing at the TOTO Japan Classic this week.
Full standings and qualifications can be found: https://www.igfgolf.org/olympic-games/tokyo-2020/tokyo-2020-qualification-system/
TV TIMES (all times Eastern on Golf Channel)
Thursday, Nov. 7 – 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Friday, Nov. 8 – 10:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 9 – 9:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.