Compelling subplots abound as Asian swing begins

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The LPGA turns for the home stretch with some compelling subplots in play as the tour’s fall Asian swing begins this week in Malaysia.

Will the Americans key to the U.S. Sollheim Cup victory in Germany two weeks ago experience a positive bounce in their return to competition?

How will Suzann Pettersen fare in her return to action after finding herself at the heart of a Solheim Cup controversy?

Can Lydia Ko win her third consecutive LPGA start?

Can Inbee Park hold off Ko in the ongoing battle for the Rolex No. 1 ranking and the Rolex Player of the Year race?

Will Shanshan Feng successfully defend her title?

There’s a lot on the line with the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia beginning Thursday at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. It’s the first of five consecutive Asian events before the tour returns to North America for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

Kuala Lumpur is a familiar Asian venue for more than the women. The course has been home to the LPGA event since 2010 but also has been host to the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic and the European Tour’s Maybank Malaysian Open.

Nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are in the field this week. South Korea’s In Gee Chun, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, is the only player among the top 10 who isn’t there.

Ten American Solheim Cup players are scheduled to tee it up as they look to enjoy a positive bounce from their record-setting come-from-behind victory in Germany. The Americans have won just four LPGA titles this year but will be looking to ride some winning momentum into the fall finish.

Gerina Piller, Angela Stanford and Paula Creamer should take special satisfaction from the American victory into this week’s event.

Piller won a vital singles match in the American comeback. She made a pressure-packed 8-foot putt at the final hole in Sunday singles to defeat Caroline Masson, 1 up. While the putt didn’t clinch the American victory, it was the most important putt in the comeback. If Piller had missed, the Europeans would have gained the half point they needed to retain the cup.

Angela Stanford broke out of a Solheim Cup slump defeating Pettersen, 2 and 1, in a singles match. It was a brilliant effort, giving the Americans an important point in the Sunday match they arguably most wanted to win.

Creamer, who was heavily scrutinized as a captain’s pick, defeated Germany’s Sandra Gal, 4 and 3, in the anchor singles match to deliver the point that clinched the victory. She went out with Morgan Pressel in the Solheim Cup’s leadoff foursomes match to win a point from the formidable European tandem of Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist.

Park and Ko enter this week amid tight battles for special prizes in the women’s game.

Park is the Rolex world No. 1, but Ko can take back the top ranking with a victory or second-place finish this week, depending upon what Park does. Park has reigned atop the world rankings for the last 16 weeks. Ko took it from Park on Feb. 2 and held it for 19 weeks.

Ko is coming off a victory in her last start at the Evian Championship, where the 18-year-old became the youngest winner of a women’s major championship. She won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in her start before that.

Park leads the POY race with 243 points, Ko is second with 224. An LPGA victory is worth 30 points.

Ko and Park each have a tour-leading four victories this season. Ko was asked Tuesday in Malaysia if she was up to winning a third consecutive start.

“This tournament, it's a top field,” Ko said. “It doesn't get much better than that. Coming and saying, `Hey, I'm going to win every week’ is kind of unrealistic. I just got to play some good golf out there and just have fun. There's a lot of great things to look forward to, and, personally, I think I play better when I have fun and I've got a smile on my face. If the win comes, great, but that's kind of the last thing I'm thinking about.”