It’s official, Jiyai Shin is the new No. 1 in women’s golf.
With her victory Sunday at the Japan LPGA Tour event, Shin moved past Lorena Ochoa, ending Ochoa’s run of 158 consecutive weeks atop the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking.
While South Koreans have become a dominant force on the LPGA, Shin becomes the first player from her country to hold the top ranking and just the third player to be No. 1 since the rankings were first released in February of 2006.
Ochoa, 28, announced her retirement last week and made her farewell appearance Sunday as a full-time player at the Tres Marias Championship in Mexico, where she finished sixth.
Ochoa, who assumed the top spot from Annika Sorenstam on April 23 of 2007, slipped down to No. 2 in Monday’s newest rankings with Japan's Ai Miyazato moving up two spots to No. 3. Miyazato won in Mexico. It was Miyazato's third LPGA title in the tour's first five events this year. Taiwan's Yani Tseng moved down a spot to No. 4 with Norway's Suzann Pettersen also moving down a spot to No. 5.
“I can’t believe I am the Rolex Rankings No. 1,” Shin said in a statement from her home in South Korea. “There are so many good players out there. To think that I am No. 1, I just can’t believe it.”
That a South Korean would ascend to No. 1 seemed inevitable. The nation has dominated the world rankings in every way except the top spot the last few years.
In the newest world rankings, 34 South Koreans are among the top 100, more than any other nation. Japan and the United States have the next highest totals with 21 each.
Shin, 22, has won six LPGA events. She nearly beat out Ochoa for Rolex Player of the Year honors winning three times as a rookie last year. Ochoa clipped her on the final hole of the final event to win the points-based award.
Shin, who won three LPGA events as a non-member in 2008, already has 31 professional titles around the world, 20 on the Korean LPGA Tour.
“Golf is huge in South Korea. It is really, really popular,” Shin said. “I’m really proud for myself and also for my country and for my family. I’m a little bit sad because my mom is not here for this special day, but I know that she is always with me. She helps me from heaven.”
When Shin was 14, her mother, Song Suk Na, was killed in South Korea when a garbage truck broadsided her car. Her mother was on her way to a birthday party with Jiyai’s younger brother and sister. Her brother, Ji Hoon, 7 at the time, fractured his neck. Her sister, Ji Won, 13 at the time, suffered fractures of her left shoulder and right leg.
Shin moved into the hospital for almost a year, taking care of her siblings while continuing to play golf. Her father, Je Seop, was working at the time of the accident. Shin bought a home in Atlanta last year as her American home base and a place for her family to live, too.
“Today is a historic day for the LPGA and we are all proud of what Jiyai Shin has achieved as only the third-ever Rolex Rankings No. 1,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “She has earned it through hard work and skill, and we expect a real battle all season for No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings due to the excellent play so far by Ai Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng and other rising stars.”