Arnold Palmer may still be The King, but when it comes to the women’s game, Asia is The Kingdom.
The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event begins Thursday as the second stop in the four-tournament swing through the Orient. The Far East reigns supreme over the women’s game and is proud of its success with Taiwan’s Yani Tseng atop the Rolex world rankings for a 35th consecutive week and Asians claiming 65 of the top 100 spots.
“Golf in Asia is huge for women,” Paula Creamer said.
Asians relish playing in front of adoring home crowds. Ten of the last 11 LPGA events staged in the Far East have been won by Asians. An American hasn’t won an LPGA event in Asia since Juli Inkster won the Samsung World Championship in 1997.
Giant crowds turned out to watch Tseng win the LPGA HanaBank Championship in Incheon, South Korea, last week.
“I think it’s the first time in my life I saw that many people on a golf course,” Tseng said.
J.S. Kang, vice president of Sterling Sports Management, was in the gallery last week. His company represents an international clientele of players, including four South Koreans.
“To get those kinds of crowds last week, with the biggest major tournament on the Korean men’s PGA Tour going on at the same time, it really says a lot about the popularity of women’s golf there,” Kang said. “The Kolon Korea Open had Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy playing. It tells you how much the women’s game is loved. So does the fact that the LPGA’s No. 1 revenue source comes from its Korean TV rights deal.”
For the first time last year, Asians won the Rolex Player of the Year (Tseng), Vare Trophy (Na Yeon Choi) and money title (Choi) in the same season.
Asians have won the last three major championships, four of the last five and nine of the last 15.
With Tseng heading to her homeland next week for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, the celebration of women’s golf promises to continue in the Far East. The Asian swing ends in Japan at the Mizuno Classic Nov. 4-6.