South Korean’s Jiyai Shin wins Wegmans LPGA, her fifth victory in 11 months

By Ben Dobbin, AP
Monday, June 29, 2009

Jiyai Shin gathers in a fifth LPGA title

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A year after her mother died in a car crash, Jiyai Shin picked up the first of 20 victories on the Korean professional circuit while still in high school in 2005.

In August, she won the Women’s British Open. And on Sunday, the soft-spoken player from Seoul took her fifth LPGA tournament in 11 months at the Wegmans LPGA — and dedicated her latest win, like all the others, to her mom.

“I have my mother’s picture in my course book,” the 21-year-old Shin said proudly after picking up a $300,000 prize that vaulted her to the top of the money list above Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Lorena Ochoa with $1 million.

“I have a lot of tournaments” left to play in 2009 and “maybe I try more wins,” Shin added. “Still, my goal is rookie of the year.”

She is making significant progress. Shin lengthened her lead over Michelle Wie in the rookie of the year standings to 405 points. What’s more, she also moved from fourth spot to first in the Rolex Player of the Year rankings with 90 points, nine ahead of Kerr.

Shin shot a 1-under 71 at the tricky, tree-lined Locust Hill course in suburban Rochester to win by seven strokes with a 17-under 271. It was the biggest margin of victory here since Patty Sheehan beat Nancy Lopez by nine strokes in 1992.

Kristy McPherson and Yani Tseng each shot a 66, the day’s best score, to surge into a second-place tie at 10 under. Another shot back were Japan’s Mika Miyazato (71) and rookies Haeji Kang (71) of South Korea and Stacy Lewis (74), the former NCAA champion from Arkansas.

First-round leader Sandra Gal (74) of Germany bogeyed the last hole to drop into a four-way tie for seventh at 8 under with Kerr (69), Meaghan Francella (70) and Sun Young Yoo (73).

The $2 million tournament drew 18 of the season’s top 20 money winners. Ochoa, the world’s top-ranked player, and Suzann Pettersen, the runner-up here last June, were among the absentees.

In 2008, Shin became the first non-LPGA member to win three events when she followed her major win at Sunningdale with late-season LPGA Tour victories in the Mizuno Classic and ADT Championship. In March, she won the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore for her first victory as a tour member.

Carrying a four-stroke lead into the final round, Shin never seemed to be in danger of being caught, even when she had two straight bogeys near the close as a downpour produced a flurry of leaderboard errors.

Shin rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 1 but got her first of three bogeys on No. 7 when her 7-foot putt curled left at the cup. She made amends from the same distance for a birdie on the next hole.

Morgan Pressel closed the gap to four strokes with an 8-foot birdie putt before the turn, but Shin’s lead increased to six when she birdied No. 10 from 12 feet. Shin faltered with bogeys on No. 13 — where Pressel’s prospects vanished with a triple bogey — and on No. 14, where she missed a 4-foot putt. But she birdied from 9 feet on No. 17.

Lewis, who tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer, reached 13 under at No. 13 but slumped with four bogeys on the last six holes.

“I played well this week but right now it’s pretty tough to take,” Lewis said.

Tiger Woods’ niece, Cheyenne Woods, made her pro debut but missed the cut by four strokes. Play was delayed for three hours on Thursday and nearly five hours Friday. After a sunny interlude Saturday, rain fell steadily over the last three hours of play.

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