LPGA Player of the Year battle set for Japan


LPGA Tour _newSHIMA, Japan – Jiyai Shin wrapped up the LPGA's Rookie of the Year award last week. The 21-year-old South Korean star has her eye on Player of the Year honors this week in her Mizuno Classic title defense.

“I won here last year, so to come here I feel very comfortable about this course,” Shin said Thursday, a day before the start of play at Kintetsu Kashikojima. “I really like playing in the Japan Tour, so I want to have fun this week.”

Last year, Shin beat Mayu Hattori by six strokes for the second of three 2008 LPGA victories – all before she became a tour member.

Shin also has three tour victories this year and leads the player of the year standings with 141 points, 10 ahead of Lorena Ochoa with three events left. Nancy Lopez (1978) is the only player to win both rookie and player awards in a season.

Shin leads the money list with $1,664,395. She also won the Japanese tour’s Masters GC Ladies two weeks ago, and was sixth last week in South Korea in the LPGA Tour’s Hana Bank KOLON Championships.

Ochoa, a three-time winner this year, also is in the field along with Japan’s Ai Miyazato, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, coming off a victory Sunday in South Korea.

Miyazato won the Evian Masters in July for her lone LPGA victory. She’s second on the money list with $1,451,610.

“Being in second in the money ranking and the chance to become a money winner does motivate me,” Miyazato said. “I think I am playing in a good comfortable pressure now, and it is leading to good results. All these things are giving me confidence as well.”

The top 120 players on the money list after the tournament will earn spots in the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship on Nov. 19-22 at The Houstonian.