The Spoils of Success

By Randall MellJune 28, 2009, 4:00 pm
The Final-Round Queen looks poised to expand her dominion.
 
South Koreas Jiyai Shin started this season focused on winning Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, but shes suddenly positioned to claim so much more.
 
With her victory Sunday at the Wegmans LPGA, Shin displaced Lorena Ochoa atop the Rolex Player of the Year standings.
 
Shin, 21, also jumped atop the LPGAs money-winnings list.
 
Jiyai Shin
Jiyai Shin celebrates her fifth career LPGA victory at the Wegmans LPGA. (Getty Images)
Though theres consternation among LPGA fans who dont think Shin should qualify as a rookie after she won three times as a non-member last season, theres no changing her status as a legitimate threat to become the first player in 31 years to win both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors. Nancy Lopez became the first and only player in LPGA history to claim both in 1978. Shins running away with the rookie award.
 
If Ochoa didnt recognize Shin as an immediate threat to her reign atop the womens game, she should now.
 
In fact, with the U.S. Womens Open less than two weeks away, Ochoa has to be feeling a sense of urgency.
 
Shins also making a hard climb up the world rankings list, where Ochoas No. 1 ranking doesnt seem quite so secure anymore.
 
A year ago, Shin was No. 9 in the world rankings. She started this week No. 4. When the newest rankings are released on Monday, Shin will have moved up to at least No. 3.
 
My only goal this year was to win Rookie of the Year, Shin said after living up to her aforementioned nickname with a seven-shot romp at the Wegmans. Thats the only goal Im focused on.
 
But asked what it would mean to join Lopez as the only rookies to also be the best players on tour, Shin acknowledged the challenge excites her.
 
It would be special, she said. But there are a lot of tournaments left, and Im just trying to do my best.
 
If I have a chance, I will try to win Player of the Year, too.
 
Shins victory was her fifth LPGA title in the last year; Ochoa has three LPGA titles in that same time span.
 
Theres a lot out there now for Shin.
 
If she manages to knock off Ochoa as No. 1 in the world, she will make South Koreas dominance of golf official. She will become the first Korean to reign atop the world rankings.
 
Actually, that would be huge, Shin said.
 
As it is now, eight South Koreans rank among the top 20 in the world. That dwarfs any other nation, with the United States and Australia claiming three each.
 
After Shin won the ADT Championship last season, Hall of Famer Karrie Webb summed up the potential fellow tour pros see in Shin.
 
I think out of all the Koreans that have come after Se Ri Pak, she has the most potential to do what Se Ri has done, Webb said.
 
There is no higher praise to give a South Korean player.
 
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