For the first time since 2019, the LPGA Tour will return to the People’s Republic of China for the Buick LPGA Shanghai. The young event was just two years old when it was forced into an unwanted hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the tournament is finally back on the schedule and will be the start of a four-tournament LPGA Tour this year. Asia. The limited-capacity event will feature two of the world’s top players, Lilia Vu and Ruoning Yin, as well as two more members of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking, Minjee Lee and Xiyu Lin.
It’s been three years since the Buick LPGA Shanghai was on the schedule, so a quick refresher on the event and what’s at stake is certainly in order. The tournament is a 72-hole stroke play event with no cut, which means all 81 players playing this week will receive a share of the $2.1 million purse. The field will feature 62 LPGA Tour players who were selected based on their position on the Race to CME Globe points list at the Kroger Queen City Championship. They will be joined by 15 CLPGA players selected by the China Golf Association and four invited sponsors. The tournament will once again be hosted by Qizhong Garden Golf Club. The club originally opened in 1999, but reopened in its current state in 2013 after a series of renovations by Beijing-based golf course designers Jun Lu and Dana Fry. In 2020 and 2021, the club was recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top 100 golf courses in the People’s Republic of China.
Only one champion
In its short history, the Buick LPGA Shanghai has only seen one champion lift the trophy on Sunday: Danielle Kang. The California native won the inaugural event in 2018 by two strokes over a host of talent. Seven players finished second to Kang, including major champions Lydia Ko, Sei Young Kim and Ariya Jutanugarn, to name a few. Kang successfully defended her title in 2019, defeating Jessica Korda by one shot on her 27th birthday. Since that bookend victory, Kang has won three more times on tour, most recently at the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, which sets the bar high for her. With just three top-10 finishes in 2023, this season has seemed to be a somewhat average year for the American. Her best result of the season was achieved in early March at the HSBC Women’s World Championships, where she finished T3. Since then, Kang has struggled to crack the top 20. However, a strong 2-2-0 performance at the Solheim Cup a few weeks ago and a return to Qizhong Garden Golf Club may be just what Kang needs to improve his results to par this season. If Kang can find the little extra momentum that was missing in her play this weekend, she should have a good chance of remaining the sole Buick LPGA Shanghai champion.
As a limited-attendance event that guarantees payout on Sunday, the Buick LPGA Shanghai attracts the best of the best to the tour, which in turn always attracts a sizeable crowd. But there is one player who will stand head and shoulders above the rest this week and attract a huge following as she makes the rounds at Qizhong Garden Golf Club – Shanghai native Ruoning Yin. She is a rookie for 2022. This will be Yin’s first chance to play in her home country as a full member of the LPGA Tour, and it couldn’t have been written better. Not only will Yin be playing in her hometown, making her the undisputed local favorite, but her breakout 2023 season will attract fans from across the country. Yin became a first-time Rolex winner and the second Chinese winner on the tour in March with her victory at the DIO Implant LA Open, and a few months later she won a major trophy at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Since then, the 21-year-old has been in good form, finishing in the top ten five times. In September, Yin topped the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, becoming the second player from the People’s Republic of China to do so after LPGA legend Shanshan Feng. Yin is currently on a streak of three consecutive third-place finishes and looks poised to dominate in Shanghai.
Due to more stringent eligibility requirements, limited-capacity events do not always have many novices participating. However, the 2023 novice class was impressive and 14 novices will be competing at Qizhong Garden Golf Club this week. The group is led by four of the five rookie winners this season: Grace Kim (LOTTE Championship), Roze Zhang (Mizuho Americas Open), Chanettee Wannasaen (Portland Classic) and Hae Ran Ryu (Walmart NW Arkansas Championship). And while these proven winners will certainly be worth watching, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any newcomers in the field this week. Although Ryu ultimately won, Yuna Nishimura impressed at P&G’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, finishing third and setting her best result to date. The six-time JLPGA winner had her fourth top-20 finish of the season at the Ascendant LPGA for Volunteers of America. Celine Borge also had a successful debut season, taking third place in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational and Amundi Evian Championship. The other newcomers in this field are Jaravee Boonchant, Minami Katsu, Lucy Li, Yan Liu, Bailey Tardy, Xiaowen Yin, Arpichaya Yubol and sponsor invite Gabriella Then.
It’s already October, and with the return of the spooky season, we’re reminded that the LPGA Tour season is quickly coming to an end. There are only seven events left on the schedule and six opportunities to win year-end prizes. With victories at the Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open, world No. 1 Lilia Vu has already secured the Rolex ANNIKA top prize and leads the Rolex Player of the Year race by 21 points over Celine Boutier and Ruoning Yin. While Vu will be looking to expand her lead this week, Yin will be looking to close the gap between them. With the victory in Arkansas, Ryu increased her lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race to 229 points and is ahead of the competition. A strong finish for Ryu this week could go a long way towards securing the award well before the season ends. American Angel Yin has a slight lead in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, averaging 0.923 strokes under par, 0.017 ahead of Thai sensation Atthaya Thitikul. However, with Thitikul not playing this week, Angel has a chance to extend his lead in Shanghai, which will be valuable as there are only a few holes left in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge to make a birdie.
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