Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ji-Yai Shin to Focus on JLPGA in 2014

Courtesy of the Seoul message boards, I came across this story from the Yonhap News that Ji-Yai Shin will be spending most of her time on the JLPGA next season.  According to the article, she'll still play the 12 LPGA events required to be eligible for membership in 2015, but will be making the JLPGA her primary tour for 2014.

Although this goes against the grain of the trend I just identified of formerly dual LPGA-JLPGA members deciding to focus exclusively on the LPGA, I can see why Shin is making this decision.  She can play 20+ events in Japan and have a legitimate chance of contending in most of them, which will be great for her confidence and competitive edge.  She can play more 54-hole events and travel much shorter distances, which will be great for the fatigue issues cited in the Yonhap story.  She'll be much closer to friends and family in South Korea, as well, and can also enter the occasional KLPGA event without changing time zones.

If all goes well, Shin can revitalize her game on the JLPGA like Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng have done in recent years.  And if her comeback comes quicker than expected, there's no reason she can't add more LPGA events to her 2014 schedule than currently planned.  With 9 LPGA events in the Asia-Pacific region and 5 majors, there are plenty of obvious candidates, but it would be easy to put together a worldwide schedule that minimizes travel and maximizes wins and winnings potential.  Conceivably, she could play all February on the LET and LPGA, all March on the JLPGA (perhaps playing the LPGA's Kia Classic at the end of the month), compete in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April, take a break in Hawaii and wait till the LOTTE, then stay on the JLPGA except for trips to the U.S. Women's Open in June, the Ricoh Women's British Open in July, the Wegmans LPGA Championship in August, and the Evian Championship in September, and finally take her pick from among the LPGA's 6 Asian swing events in the fall to round out her schedule.  If she's in the hunt for season-ending LPGA titles and the Hall of Fame points that go with them, she can play more of them and add Lorena's event and the CME to her schedule; if she's got a better chance to win the JLPGA money-list title, she can play the minimum required to get to 12 starts and keep her LPGA card for 2015.

I'll be very interested in comparing and contrasting Shin's approach to scheduling in 2014 with fellow dual-LPGA-JLPGA members Shanshan Feng and Momoko Ueda.  I would hope that Feng realizes she is a legitimate pre-season favorite for LPGA end-of-season honors in 2014 and makes the LPGA her primary tour.  I wouldn't be surprised if Ueda frontloads her LPGA schedule and doesn't play on the JLPGA until May or return to the LPGA until the fall Asian swing (except for the occasional LPGA major she qualifies for).

[Update 1 (1:42 pm):  More on this tomorrow, but it's looking like Momoko Ueda won't be playing on the LPGA in 2014 much, if at all.  With Harukyo Nomura doing the opposite and choosing the LPGA over the JLPGA, that leaves just Shin and Feng as dual LPGA-JLPGA members, although it should be noted that Teresa Lu's Mizuno Classic victory means she will also be a dual member next season....]

[Update 2 (10:18 pm):  Clark Miyazaki tweeted me a link to a longer Yonhap story on Shin's decision.  It notes that her sponsorship with Mirae Asset ends this February and will not be renewed, so she'll be seeking a Japanese sponsor in 2014.  And it emphasizes that between exhaustion and injuries to her back and wrist, the 25-year-old has been pulled thin by her hemisphere-hopping.]

[Update 3 (12/22/13, 11:07 am):  Thoughtful response from Ruthless Mike.]

[Update 4 (1/15/14, 9:34 am):  Well, Shin's name no longer appears on the 2014 LPGA Priority Status List.  She's focusing exclusively on the JLPGA in 2014!]


Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...
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Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

Wow the Jiyai news is a big surprise to me. I know she had an off year last year, but her game did not appear to be in that bad a shape.
With all due respect to the JLPGA, this is a step backward, the LPGA is the place to play. Look at Lee-Anne Pace, arguably the best player on the LET the last 5 years, still wanting to give it another try against the world's best.

As far as Momoko goes, she almost lost her full time card this year. Cutting back more might be the end of her LPGA career.

thejamierbelyea said...

The earning potential on the LET is significantly lower compared to the JLPGA, though Tony. So, Lee-Anne's quest to compete against the world's best may be a quest for more cash.

She played in 20 LET events in 2013, finished 2nd on the order of merit, and only pocketed the equivalent of 300k USD.

Contrast that with Rikako Morita, the JLPGA money list winner, who won an equivalent of over a million dollars.

Still less than the LPGA, but not too shabby. I think this is one of the biggest reasons many of the JLPGA's finest stay put, the world class players can earn world class money.

Whereas on the LET, the gap is so large, that the very best need to move on.

The Constructivist said...

I wonder if there's an International Crown/Olympics calculation going on here, as well. If you win a lot on the JLPGA, you shoot up the world rankings. Given that Ji-Yai will still be playing a dozen LPGA events, as well, most of them with top fields, good performances there can boost her even higher.

The Constructivist said...

As for Momoko...