While defending champion Rosie Jones and numerous other LPGA standouts look to take home the title, many in the 144-player field are jockeying for position on the ADT Official Money List to secure exempt or non-exempt status for the 2005 season.
The top-90 players after this week receive exempt status for the following year, while positions 91-125 earn automatic non-exempt status, with the option of returning to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla., Dec. 1-5, to improve their status.
Jones, 44, who won last year's event by three strokes over Wendy Ward, is certainly not one who needs to focus on improving her status for 2005. The 13-time LPGA winner, who joined the Tour in 1982, is ranked 23rd on the ADT Official Money List, thanks to eight top-20 finishes this year, and the Atlanta resident is in prime position to defend her most recent victory.
Jones will have several tough challengers for the $150,000 winner's share:
Lorena Ochoa, a two-time winner in 2004 and third on the ADT Official Money List; Grace Park, winner of the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and fourth on the money list; three-time 2004 winner Cristie Kerr; and Karen Stupples, winner of the final major of the season, the Weetabix Women's British Open.
Other winners from 2004 looking to contend this week include Sherri Steinhauer, Wendy Doolan, Karrie Webb, Catriona Matthew and Rolex First-Time Winners Jennifer Rosales, Kim Saiki, Moira Dunn and Christina Kim. LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members Beth Daniel and JoAnne Carner, and Shi Hyun Ahn, who has locked up 2004 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, will compete for the title as well.
The Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage, in its fourth year, will also feature previous champions Tina Fischer (2001) and Janice Moodie (2002). In addition, a pair of teenagers were granted sponsor's exemptions into the event: Alina Lee, 14, who became the youngest player to win the Women's Western Junior earlier this year; and Ya-Ni Tseng, 15, who defeated Michelle Wie this summer at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
As indicated in the title, the event focuses on promoting the international flavor of the Tour, showcasing LPGA players from 18 countries outside the United States. The field includes LPGA players from Korea (15), Australia (9), Sweden (7), Canada (5), England (4), Scotland (4), Brazil (2), Germany (2), France (2), Japan (2), Taiwan (2), Columbia (1), Italy (1), Malaysia (1), Thailand (1), Mexico (1), Norway (1), Philippines (1) and Wales (1).
In 2003, Jones shot rounds of 66-68-69-70=273 (-15) to outlast Ward.
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Laura Diaz and Ochoa finished tied for third at 278 (-10).