’empty-handed.’ This is a word that clearly shows the current state of Korean women’s golf, which once commanded the LPGA tour. Last year, Korean players failed to win even one title out of the Player of the Year, Prize Money Champion, 1st place in average at bats (Bear Trophy), and Rookie of the Year. There was a big reason why the highly anticipated star, Ko Jin-young (28, Solaire), suffered a sluggish performance as she only won 1 win due to a wrist injury. With the brilliant performance of Korean players, the rapid progress of Thai players, and the success of a generational shift, Korean players are gradually losing ground in the niche of increasingly strong American players. Will Korean women’s golf be able to overcome its slump this year and soar again?
Korean players only managed to win 4 wins last year. This is the record for the fewest wins won by Korean players in a season since 3 wins in 2011. Korean players collaborated for more than 10 wins almost every year from 2013 to 2019. In particular, in 2015, 2017, and 2019, she dominated the LPGA Tour by achieving up to 15 wins. However, after the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (Corona 19), the number of championships decreased noticeably, with only 7 wins each in 2020 and 2021, and last year shrunk to 4 wins. It is clearly downhill.
Ko Jin-young, who was running for No. 1 in the world rankings with 4 wins in 2019 and 5 wins in 2021, showed off her spirit by winning the HSBC Women’s Championship, the first competition of the season in March last year, and is expected to lead the Korean player to double-digit wins. it was expected Expectations were higher for her, especially since she flew so much that in 2021 she won the most wins, prize money king, three consecutive wins, and the second player of the year, but due to her left wrist injury, she repeatedly missed the cut from last July. And her grades plummeted. In addition, Kim Hyo-joo (28, Lotte Championship) in April, Ji Eun-hee (37, Hanwha Q Cells, Bank of Hope Match Play) in May, and Jeon In-ji (29, KB Financial Group, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) in June added victories. Since then, he has not been able to break the link of unranked in 17 competitions.
With Korean players sluggish, the LPGA tour, which was a two-way system between Korea and the United States, is truly reminiscent of the spring and autumn warring states era. In particular, the performance of Korean players is fierce. Lydia Ko (26, Hana Financial Group), a Korean from New Zealand, won three victories including the CME Group Tour Championship in the final game of the season, sweeping away the player of the year, prize money king, and first place in average at bats. In addition, it ranked first in the CME Globe Race, which converts one season’s performance into points, and returned to the world rankings for the first time in five years since 2017. Korean-Australian Lee Min-ji (27, Hana Financial Group) also won two victories at the most prestigious major US Women’s Open and took second place twice, further narrowing the position of Korean players. He is currently ranked 3rd in the world.
Thailand, which won 4 wins in 2021, stayed at 2 wins last year, but the scary newcomer Ataya Titikkun (20, Thailand) won 2 wins alone and became the rookie king and continues to lead Thailand’s blast. In addition, Japanese players such as Hataoka Nasa (24, Japan) won two wins, and England, Canada, Australia, and South Africa also won two wins each.
The strength of American players who have succeeded in changing generations is also remarkable. South Korea kept its position as the “most winning country in the LPGA” for six consecutive years from 2015 to 2020, but the United States took it from 2021. The US, which traditionally divided Korea and the LPGA tour, won 7 wins last year, but Jennifer Cupcho (24, USA) led the US with 3 wins alone, including the Chevron Championship in major tournaments. With the addition of Nellie Korda (25, USA), who has 8 wins in the world, the power of American players is expected to increase even more this year. Corda, who won 4 wins in the 2021 season and won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, left the field for 4 months due to thrombosis surgery during the season, but succeeded in a perfect revival by winning the Pelican Championship after a year in November last year. This year, after competing to win the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Championships, which was held as the opening match last week, it ranked 4th and foreshadowed an outstanding performance. 안전놀이터
The opening match held last week was the ‘King of Kings Match’, in which only players who won the championship in the last two years competed. The full-fledged tour starts with Honda Thailand on the 23rd of next month and goes on a long journey until mid-November. A total of 35 tournaments are held on the tour, including five major tournaments and biennial matches such as the Solheim Cup and the Hanwha Life Plus International Crown, and the total prize money is $101.4 million (approximately 124.6 billion won), the largest ever. The U.S. Women’s Open is expected to have a minimum total prize of 10 million dollars and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to have a minimum prize of 9 million dollars.
About 20 Korean players are scheduled to play this year, including Ko Jin-young, Jeon In-ji, Kim Hyo-joo, Choi Hye-jin (24, Lotte), and Kim Se-young (30, Mediheal). Above all, Jin-young Ko’s quick recovery is the key for Korea to recover the double-digit championship. He submitted an application to participate in the opening match last week, but gave up at the last minute. He said it was because of the doctors’ judgment that he needed more time to fully heal his left wrist injury. Ko Jin-young, who was ranked number 1 in the world, has been pushed down the ranking to the current 5th place.
The most noteworthy Korean player this season is Choi Hye-jin, who finished adapting to the tour last year. He handed over the Rookie of the Year title to the T-tikkun because he failed to report the championship, but this year he is fully prepared to soar in splendor. Choi Hye-jin, ranked 20th in the world, participated in 27 competitions last year and showed consistent results, entering the top 10 10 times. Even without her win, she finished 5th in the CME Globe Race (2151 points) and she also finished 6th in season money (2,075,696 dollars).
Choi Hye-jin has a wide range of weapons that can be used on the American stage. She recorded an average drive shot distance of 263.73 yards (39th place) and a fairway landing rate of 80.08% (22nd place), so her drive shot went far and her accuracy was excellent. In particular, the highly sensitive iron shot, which was unrivaled in Korea, is also shining on the LPGA tour. In a recent interview with the LPGA Tour, Choi Hye-jin is burning her will, saying, “I will work hard with the goal of winning the first tour.”
‘Major Queen’ Jeon Ji-ji, who has recently turned into a painter by opening her solo exhibition based on her own nickname, ‘Flying Dumbo’, challenges the career grand slam. He won three of his four career victories in the majors, including the 2015 US Women’s Open, the 2016 Evian Championship, and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June 2022. Therefore, if I win one of the remaining Chevron Championships and AIG Women’s Open, I will complete the puzzle piece of the Career Grand Slam, so I am determined to make an all-out battle this year.