South Korea’s Inbee Park is on a roll going into the Mizuno Classic, with more than just a chance for another victory at stake.
Park opened the LPGA Tour’s Asian Swing with a victory in Malaysia and finished second last week in Taiwan, bringing her within range of American Stacy Lewis for the points-based LPGA player of the year award. She trails Lewis by 28 points, and each LPGA victory is worth 30 points.
An American has not won the award since Beth Daniel in 1994.
Lewis will play in the final two LPGA events, but she’s skipping the Mizuno Classic, which starts Friday at Kentetsu Kashikojima Country Club.
”I’ve been getting a lot of confidence over the last three months, especially with my long game,” Park said. ”My swing is getting really comfortable.”
The South Korean leads the LPGA Tour money list with $2.16 million, finishing among the top 10 in all but one of her past 12 tournaments. That includes two wins and five runner-up finishes.
Her competition likely will come from top-ranked Yani Tseng of Taiwan and Jiyai Shin of South Korea, who won here in 2008 and 2010. Suzann Pettersen, who won her last two tournaments, is taking this week off.
Defending champion Momoko Ueda hopes she can turn around a disappointing season against the 79-player field at the Mizuno Classic.
Ueda beat China’s Shanshan Feng in a three-hole playoff last year to add to her win here in 2007. The 26-year-old Japanese player has struggled this season without a top-10 finish.
”I know I didn’t have such a great start to my season or the middle part,” Ueda said. ”I guess I prepared myself a lot for this tournament and hope to make the best out of it.”