Chinese Taipei native Wei-Ling Hsu knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight in her home country and it’s a feeling she looks forward to every year at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA presented by CTBC. Two of Hsu’s eight career top-10 finishes have come at this event.
In 2018, Hsu was on the cusp of history as she entered the final round tied for the lead, looking to join 2011 champion Yani Tseng as Taiwanese winners of the tournament. Hsu struggled to a final-round 74 but said she has learned a lot from that experience and is ready to wow the crowds this year.
“Last year, I think I had a very good experience,” Hsu said of her T6 finish. “It's like a couple thousand people are following me, and I just thank all my supporters, and just like my family, they are here for me. I try to be like nice to everybody because I'm really thankful for them to come out. So just feel like, you know, big family and just have fun and enjoy the tournament. That's all I can do. Just show them how much I grow up from, you know, amateur or junior.”
The fifth year Tour player started the 2019 season off hot with a third-place finish at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, but has not had a top-20 finish since a fifth place showing in May at the Pure Silk Championship. Hsu, however, is optimistic and thinks the pressure to perform at home will help her this week.
“You're supposed to be strong and play some good shots for them and show them what you can do,” the 25-year-old said. “I think it's really helping me for my game. With those high expectations, it's really -- I'm very happy that they look at me like, hey, you can do this; that it feels like they give me a lot of expectation, but at the same time, I feel like I just need to play step by step and play my game. At the end of the day, like holding the trophy at the final round, that's most important. So as long as I can get that and play my game, everything will be good.”
SMILING CINDERELLA BACK IN ACTION
JLPGA star Hinako Shibuno is making her first start on the LPGA Tour this week as a sponsor’s invite at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA. Shibuno made waves over the Summer as the 20-year-old captured a breakout major win in her first ever LPGA event at the AIG Women’s British Open.
Since that sensational victory, the 2019 Japan LPGA rookie has added two JLPGA titles to her growing resume which includes major wins on the JLPGA and LPGA Tours.
Shibuno met with the media in Chinese Taipei as she prepares for her second career LPGA start, and she reflected on how much her life has changed since the dramatic win in England. “It was nothing like I experienced before,” Shibuno said through a translator. “I can’t walk outside. Even people that don’t know golf or don’t know about golf notice me. I am enjoying it.”
After winning the AIG Women’s British Open, Shibuno became eligible for LPGA Tour Membership for the 2019 season or she can defer for the 2020 season. This week, Shibuno said she does not – at this time – plan to accept LPGA Membership for 2020.
“I don't think I have enough skills to play on the U.S. LPGA, and only my first year on the Japan Tour, so I think I need to play a few more years on the Japan Tour before going to the U.S,” Shibuno explained.
Shibuno has until Monday Nov. 18th to inform the LPGA Tour if she plans to accept Membership. Shibuno is set to compete in her native country at the TOTO Japan Classic next week, where she’s expected to finalize her plans for the 2020 season.
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE NEARING THE FINISH LINE
Heading into the 30th week of the 2019 Race to the GME Globe, four-time winner Jin Young Ko leads the standings with 4,148 points. Two-time 2019 winner Brooke Henderson is second with 2,772 points, followed by Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Jeongeun Lee6 with 2,652 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.
At this week’s Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA several players are on the bubble of making it into the CME Group Tour Championship, including 2019 tournament winner Cydney Clanton who currently ranks 61st on the points list with 640. Players ranked Nos. 63-69 in the Race to the CME Globe standings are also in the field this week, and of those seven players only Anna Nordqvist is in the current TOTO Japan Classic field.
“I’d love to be at CME,” Clanton said at the Miramar Golf Country Club. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out, I’m not playing in Japan so this is my last one. I’m just kind of keeping my fingers crossed that I keep enough points. Since I didn’t play in that many tournaments, that has hindered my ability to make enough points…As much as I want to get into the field for CME, it’s all about what day we’re in now. I’m only focusing on each day, but obviously the goal is to have as many opportunities as I can have. It’s going to be a lot of patience this week.”
The top 40 and ties at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA and the TOTO Japan Classic will earn Race to the CME Globe points.
FINAL COUNTDOWN 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 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA, Carlota Ciganda leads the standings at -0.841, with Ariya Jutanugarn in second at -0.800 and In-Kyung Kim in third at -0.750. Ciganda took over from Jutanugarn in the top spot thanks to an eagle on the Challenge hole in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
Ciganda has withdrawn from this week’s Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA and from the TOTO Japan Classic, the final two qualifying events.
“It has been a long year, and I am mentally exhausted,” Ciganda said of her decision. “I have played a lot during the summer, including the Solheim Cup, I won in Spain a couple of weeks ago, and I have just run out of gas. I am choosing to listen to my body at the moment. I am leading the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, but deciding not to play I don’t give myself a chance to improve my position. I just did not want to play these two weeks against the best players in the world when I am not mentally fit. Also, we have the most important tournament of the year coming up and I want to be ready for that week because my goal is to win.”
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA is the 342-yard 8th. This par 4 has multiple teeing areas and presents a wonderful risk-reward opportunity for the player, depending on yardage for the day. It will be set up from the forward tee at just 260 yards for at least two of the four rounds. Two long bunkers guard the left side of the fairway, close to the landing area, while another bunker (short and right of the green) lies in wait for a poorly struck second shot. When this event was last played at Miramar Golf Country Club in 2017, the scores ranged from a birdie three to a double-bogey six.
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.