The LPGA heads down the home stretch this week with the start of its fall Asian swing.
There’s a lot to celebrate overseas with the tour’s next four events to be played in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
With all they’ve accomplished this year, Asian players ought to be treated like conquering heroes in their return.
It’s a month to appreciate just how successful South Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese players have become.
The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia tournament begins Thursday in Kua Lumpur with the top 10 players in the world competing.
While Asians have made their mark in the women’s game for more than a decade now, they’ve never dominated the tour the way they are this year.
For the first time in LPGA history, Asians swept all four major championships.
In fact, they’ve won the last seven majors.
Asians won eight straight LPGA events this summer, the most consecutive wins the Far East has ever claimed on the American-based tour.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng is from Taiwan with 10 of the top 12 players in the Rolex world rankings hailing from the Far East.
South Korea’s Inbee Park leads the LPGA money list with Asians accounting for eight of the top 10 money leaders.
South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu is a lock to win the Rolex Rookie of the Year honor.
Players from the Far East have claimed 14 of the 21 LPGA events played so far this year. If they stay on that pace, they will claim 18 by season’s end, surpassing the record 17 titles Asians claimed in 2010.
Notably, just about the only prestigious prize the Asians don’t have a firm grip on this year is the Rolex Player of the Year award.
Stacy Lewis leads the POY race with 184 points. She’s bidding to become the first American to win the honor since Beth Daniel in ’94. Lewis, however, has a rear-view mirror full of Asian players poised to challenge her with the next four events overseas. Jiyai Shin is second in points with 128 and Tseng is third with 120. A victory is worth 30 points.
If an Asian does overtake Lewis to win Player of the Year, it will pretty much mark a clean sweep of all the most meaningful prizes in the women’s game.
Americans haven’t fared particularly well in the Far East. When Angela Stanford won the HSBC Women’s Championship in February, it marked the first time an American-born player won an LPGA event staged in Asia since Juli Inkster won the Samsung World Championship in South Korea in 1997. Americans were 0 for 36 until Stanford broke through.
There are six events left in the 2012 season to be played over the next six weeks. The CME Group Titleholders concludes the year in Naples Nov. 15-18. That’s where the LPGA will present all its awards for the season.