Monday, October 30, 2017

Toto Japan Classic Preview, Pairings, and More

Congratulations go out to Cristie Kerr for winning the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. This was definitely one of the most exciting finishes of the year (and there have been plenty). With just two holes to go in Sunday's final round, there were still a half dozen players within a stroke of the lead. It looked as if it was a certainty that there would be a 4 way playoff (with Danielle Kang, Jacqui Concolino, and Shanshan Feng) when Kerr sank a 35 foot putt on the final hole to win it! For Kerr, it was her 2nd win of the 2017 season.

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This week the LPGA moves to Japan for the playing of the Toto Japan Classic. Many of you may remember last year's exciting finish when Shanshan Feng double bogeyed the final hole, but still managed to come up victorious by one shot over runner-up Ha Na Jang.

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Shanshan Feng will be trying to successfully defend the Toto Japan Classic title she won in 2016

This will be tournament #31 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule, and the 4th of 5 events on the current Asian swing.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Taiheiyo Club - Minori Course (this is a change of venue from last year's event).
Location:  Ibaraki, Japan
Defending Champion:  Shanshan Feng
Winning Score:  69-64-70 = 203 (-13)

Final Field:  78 players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,506
Purse:  $1,500,000

This is a 54 hole tournament!

My strength of field rating is 60% (up from 57% last year).  The construction of this field is very different from any other field on the LPGA schedule. There are only 44 players in the field that are LPGA members. Thirty-four of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List (not used on the Asian swing), and 16 of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Players skipping the event this week include: I.K. Kim, Brittany Lang, Amy Yang, Carlota Ciganda, Mirim Lee, Brittany Lincicome, and Sung Hyun Park. The reason why the field rating is as strong as it is (ranks in the middle of the year's strongest tournaments), is that there are a number of strong players from other tours. They include:

  • Jiyai Shin - #29 (in Rolex Rankings dated 10/23/17)
  • Teresa Lu - #35
  • Ai Suzaki - #44
  • Fumika Kawagishi - #46
  • Ritsuko Ryu - #60
  • Ji-Hee Lee - #69
  • Sun Ju Ahn - #72
  • Momoko Ueda - #73
  • Misuzu Narita #77
  • Erika Kikuchi - #87
  • Mamiko Higa - #88
  • Hee Kyung Bae - #92
  • Kotone Hari - #95
  • Soo-Yun Kang - #96
  • Yumika Yoshida - #99

Here are the first round pairings.

Here are the television times:
GC   Thursday  Nov 2,   11:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m. ET 
GC   Friday      Nov 3,   11:00 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. ET 
GC   Saturday  Nov 4,   11:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m. ET 

Players most likely to win: (Top players in the field)
So Yeon Ryu - Hanging on to the top spot by a thread
Lexi Thompson - Hasn't played much of late but is well rested and ready
Shanshan Feng - Ranked #4, and just missed winning this past week

Players to watch out for: (I'm feeling it this week)
In Gee Chun - How has she not won a tournament this year?
Brooke Henderson - Ready to join I.K. Kim as the year's only 3 time winner

Longshot picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
Sun-Ju Ahn - She always plays well here
Jessica Korda - Hasn't played well in awhile - is overdue

Other Tidbits:
As has been the case in the past several years, it appears the battle for the Vare Trophy will go down to the very last tournament. It appears to be a two person race right now with Lexi Thompson (69.125) holding a slim lead over Sung Hyun Park (69.169). The winner receives a Hall of Fame point.

It has been a big comeback year for players from the USA. After winning just twice in 2016, they now have seven victories this year. They also won the Solheim Cup. 

Cristie Kerr's win was the 20th of her career. She now has 22 Hall of Fame points. Twenty-seven is needed for induction.

Cristie Kerr and In Gee Chun both picked up their 10th top ten of the year. Only So Yeon Ryu (12) has more.

Brooke Henderson's 5th place finish was her 20th top 25 finish of the year, tying her with Moriya Jutanugarn for the most on tour.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Shanshan Feng makes the most important move this week (passing In Gee Chun and Anna Nordqvist) moving from #6 to #4. Cristie Kerr returns to the top ten moving up 4 spots to #10. Jacqui Concolino soars from #82 to #68, while Nelly Korda leaps up from #90 to #78.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)

Lexi Thompson, who has played in just one of the last 4, and 7 of the last 15 tournaments, amazingly still has the lead with 3,266 points. She is followed closely by Sung Hyun Park with 3,029 and So Yeon Ryu with 3,026. Brooke Henderson (2,785) and Cristie Kerr (2,583) fill out the top five.

Who's Hot:
Cristie Kerr has a win, two top fives, four top tens, and six top twenties in her last six starts.

In Gee Chun has three top fives, four top tens, and five top twenties in her last 5 starts.

Who's Not:
Haru Nomura has not had a top 20 finish in her last eleven starts.

This Week's Trivia Question: 

Only one American player has won this tournament in the last 23 years. Can you name her?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

Here are the fian results:

1 Shanshan Feng -15
2 Ai Suzuki -13
3 Charley Hull -10
3 Min-Young Lee -10
5 Momoko Ueda -9
5 Ayaka Watanabe -9
5 Stacy Lewis -9
5 Anna Nordqvist -9
5 Lizette Salas -9
10 Teresa Lu -8
10 Pei-Ying Tsai -8
10 Lydia Ko -8
10 So Yeon Ryu -8
10 Brittany Altomare -8
15 Minjee Lee -7
15 Mamiko Higa -7
15 Saki Takeo -7
15 Yukari Nishiyama -7
15 Jiyai Shin -7
15 Sei Young Kim -7
15 Nasa Hataoka -7
15 Jane Park -7
23 Eri Okayama -6
23 Angel Yin -6
23 Sun Ju Ahn -6
23 Sarah Jane Smith -6
23 Serena Aoki -6
23 Asuka Kashiwabara -6
23 Moriya Jutanugarn -6
23 Karine Icher -6
23 Mi Hyang Lee -6
23 Caroline Masson -6
23 Jenny Shin -6
23 Chae Young Yoon -6
23 Saiki Fujita -6

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.  They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog. Tournament results will be posted here at the end of each round. Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found at the top of this page.

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