A lot has changed since the Buick LPGA Shanghai was last played on the LPGA Tour in 2019.
In addition to the world being plunged into a global pandemic that has kept professional golf from returning to the People’s Republic of China for the past three years, a lot has happened to change the shape of the women’s game.
Take, for example, two of the league’s best players – Lilia Vu and Ruoning Yin – who will headline the Tour’s return to Shanghai for the first time in four years. At the time, Vu was in the middle of her first season on the LPGA Tour and failed to qualify for the event. Yin was ranked 64th in the world as an amateur and still competes as a junior golfer.
Three years later, Vu is the highest-ranked American in women’s golf and is in the midst of a breakout season in which she has won three times, including two major championships. Yin is having an excellent season, in which she achieved two victories and, in particular, won her first major title.
And while a lot has changed in the world and in the game, some things remain the same.
As does defending champion Danielle Kang, who continues to be one of the top players in the women’s game and who, after a three-year wait, will finally get the chance to try to win for the third time in a row in China.
In 2018, Kang won by two strokes ahead of a group of players that included Lydia Ko. In 2019, Kang successfully defended her title, stopping Jessica Korda by one punch on her 27th birthday. This season, the tournament took place a week later, and Sunday’s final round fell on October 20, Kang’s birthday.
After defending her title in 2019, Kang had high praise for Qizhong Garden Golf Club, which will host the Buick LPGA Shanghai for the third time this year. It’s a spot that Kang says can be challenging from tee to green, but shows the strength of her game – striking the ball.
“I like the rolling greenery. This is a golf course for strikers. I call it pocket golf. You have to be able to hit certain pockets to be able to attack certain pins and also hit good shots off the tee,” Kang said of enjoying the challenge at Qizhong Garden. “I really, really like this golf course.”
Kang arrives in Shanghai chasing his third straight win and first win of the season. The American has three top-10 finishes this year and will face stiff competition not only from Vu and Yin, but also from top players like Minjee Lee and Lydia Ko, who also headline the field.
There are 14 newcomers making their debuts in the People’s Republic of China, including several who have already won trophies in their first season on Tour. Life for these newcomers has also changed significantly since the last Buick LPGA Shanghai show in China. In 2019, newcomer Rose Zhang was then a 16-year-old competing in the national women’s amateur competition in Augusta, Grace Kim became Australia’s top amateur that year, and Hae Ran Ryu announced mid-season that she would begin her career as a professional.
Buick LPGA Shanghai’s limited field of 81 players includes 62 LPGA Tour players, 15 from the China Ladies Professional Golf Association and four sponsor invitees. In the no-cut tournament, they will compete over 72 holes for a purse of $2.1 million. This is a fantastic opportunity for players who have qualified to earn the points they need to qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship or retain their card for next season. It’s also a chance to advance in the season-long Rolex Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Vare Trophy and Money Title rankings.
It’s been three long years since the Buick LPGA Shanghai was first canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And while a lot has changed and plenty of new faces are ready to compete in China for the first time, there remains a Tour chalk full of talented athletes who are ready for the long-awaited return to Shanghai.
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