Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why the Japan Women's Open Is the Most Important Women's Tournament of September

There are 3 events on the JLPGA schedule before the LPGA returns to action the 2nd week of October in the Navistar Classic:  the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, and the Japan Women's Open.

This week, in addition to the JLPGA's regulars and recent returnees Yuko Mitsuka and Shiho Oyama, dual members Momoko Ueda, Inbee Park, and Teresa Lu will be teeing it up. Next week, Ji-Yai Shin and Mika Miyazato join in the fun. But it's the most prestigious tournament in women's golf in Japan the following week that ups the ante the most. Not only is its purse larger than the LPGA-co-sponsored Mizuno Classic, it's tied for the highest on the JLPGA schedule, as well, with last week's Konica Minolta Cup. But its field is even more impressive than the JLPGA's 2nd major's. In addition to all the top JLPGA regulars (except for Shiho Oyama) and dual members (except for Ji-Yai Shin and Inbee Park), it also includes Ai Miyazato, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, Hee Young Park, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang.  But that's not all. The JWO is traditionally the coming-out party for top teenage amateurs in Japan and this year is no exception. Ai Miyazawa, Harukyo Nomura, Serena Aoki, Miho Mori, Mamiko Higa, Mami Fukuda, Natsuka Hori, and 14-year-olds Asuka Kashiwabara, Mio Kono, Haruka Morita, Shoko Sasaki, and Miyu Shinkai are some of the players to watch from this group. (I'm pretty sure that Miho-chan is Sakurako Mori's little sister and that Haruka-chan is Rikako Morita's little sister.)

It is a little strange to me that Ai Miyazato and Ji-Yai Shin are limiting themselves to 1 JLPGA event each this month and I'm frankly shocked that Seon Hwa Lee is skipping all of them. And it's true that the only LPGA event of the month, the NW Arkansas Classic, had a stronger field than the JWO.  But just like the U.S. Women's Open's only competition for top tournament in July is the Women's British Open, so, too, the JWO's only real competition for most important women's event in September is the KLPGA Championship (which takes place this week).  My vote is for the JWO (just like I'd vote for the U.S. Women's Open over the WBO), even if Ji-Yai Shin seems to have chosen the latter over the former.

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