ORLANDO, Fla. – Nineteen flags are flying over the LPGA Tour Championship at Grand Cypress Golf Club.
While the season-ending event is not an international team competition, there are players who feel like they’re carrying the hopes of a nation with them.
“You don’t have to wait until 2016 to see the Olympics in golf,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “You can see it right now, every day, on the LPGA.”
Cristie Kerr is vying to become the first American in 16 years to win the Rolex Player-of-the-Year award. No American’s claimed it since Beth Daniel in 1994.
“It would be pretty amazing,” Kerr said of her quest. “It would be a good thing for American girls’ junior golf if an American were to win the Player of the Year. It might help us open up some more discussions for more domestic events. If I can help in that way, that would be fantastic.”
Five players are in the running for POY this week, including South Korea's Jiyai Shin and Na Yeon Choi. South Koreans have made a huge mark on the LPGA, but the country’s still waiting to crown its first LPGA Player of the Year.
“The Korean media is really focused on the title,” Shin said. “We have got big pressure.”
Yani Tseng would become the first Taiwanese player to be LPGA POY if she wins the title.
Ai Miyazato's vying to join Ayako Okamoto (1987) as Japan's only winner of the award.
The Rolex Player of the Year is decided by points. A victory is worth 30 points this week, with 12 points for second and nine for third. There are points for everyone who finishes top 10. Here are the season-long point leaders: 1. Tseng, 188; 2. Miyazato, 179; 3. Choi, 174; 4. Cristie Kerr, 173; 5. Shin, 170.