The coming 4 weeks resemble a tournament whirlwind for the LPGA. The Tour has left Malaysia and is heading north now, to Incheon, Korea and the LPGA KEB – HanaBank Championship, October 18-20. From there, the players travel to the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, October 24 and then to Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan and the Mizuno Classic, November 8-10. Altogether, there’s $4.3 millions in prize money on the table in these 3 remaining events. The winners and the top-10 finishers are going to be looking at some pleasant paychecks.
The HanaBank Championship is played at the Sky 72 Golf Club, Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus designed course that opened for play in 2007. It’s a demanding, Scottish-style course that overlooks the ocean and will provide enough challenges to keep the players busy and the fans engaged.
South Korea’s golf queen, Se Ri Pak, was the winner of the first HanaBank Championship in 2002. Suzann Pettersen, who won the tournament in 2002, is also the 2012 defending HanaBank champion. The Norwegian held off a spirited final-round charge by Scot Catriona Matthew last year, sinking a five-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole on No. 18 to clinch her ninth-career victory.
Although Stacy Lewis and Shanshan Feng are taking the week off, there’s a full field ready to take Pettersen on this year. Lexi Thompson, fresh off her win at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, is very hot. Swede Caroline Hedwall and Spaniard Beatriz Recari are both in the field. Although Hedwall’s not had a strong finish since her spectacular Solheim performance, both she and Recari are likely challengers to their Solheim teammate.
Ilhee Lee, who led and then faltered at the Sime Darby, may have had a chance to catch her breath and be ready for another run at a win. She certainly has the game, as do a number of other South Koreans who will be trying to take the championship away from Pettersen. I’m anticipating a hot event with some very exciting golf at the Sky 72 Golf Club.
The weather in Incheon will be considerably cooler than it was in Kuala Lumpur and also less humid. There’s no rain predicted in the long range forecast, so play should unfold as scheduled, with daily Golf Channel coverage from 11pm-2am, ET as well as my daily wrap-up of each round as the tournament unfolds.
From South Korea the LPGA Tour travels to the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, October 24-27 in Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan, where Suzann Pettersen is again the defending 2012 champion. Pettersen held off both Inbee Park and Yani Tseng in the final few holes of the 2012 tournament. She struggled with her putting at the Sime Darby last weekend. Did she get her flat stick straightened out so she can pull off back-to-back victories again this year as she did in 2012?
The LPGA Tour wraps up the Asia loop at the Mizuno Classic, November 8-11, at Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan. From 2001-2005 the Mizuno belonged to Annika Sorenstam. Last year Stacy Lewis made a powerful charge in the final round to beat second-round leader Bo-Mee Lee by one stroke. Lewis sat seven shots behind Lee entering Sunday’s round but carded 10 birdies and two bogeys to finish at 8-under par 64. The Texan posted rounds of 71-70-64 to finish 11-under 205 for the week. Lewis will return to Asia for this final event of the Asian loop and defend that championship.
The Golf Channel will provide daily coverage for both the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and the Mizuno Classic as well as the HanaBank Championship. As the events approach I’ll take a closer look at the competition the defending champs will face, and I’ll also be back with wrap-up for each round. Put these tournament on your calendars. There’s some good golf to be played before the Tour returns to the Western Hemisphere.