Shin Ji-yai to Focus on JLPGA But Still Has Her Work Cut Out

Shin Ji-yai Shin Ji-yai

The HSBC Women's Champions that takes place in Singapore from Thursday will be a season-opener for Shin Ji-yai, but it will be harder to see her face on the U.S.LPGA Tour this year. She announced late in 2013 her intention to place more emphasis on the Japanese tour.

She officially resigned from the American ladies' tour last month, saying that she has been physically and psychologically exhausted from shuttling between the two.

Last year, Shin appeared in eight tournaments on the JLPGA Tour and ranked 47th in the money list with a total prize money of 20.45 million yen (W213 million). Having attained a permanent seed for the tour late last year, she decided to commit to her JLPGA membership as she decided that her playing style is better suited to the Japanese tournaments.

Some experts say that Shin, who has long suffered from back injuries, made the choice she feels less of a burden from the long swings demanded on the JPLGA Tour. Although she is not a U.S.LPGA member any more, she was automatically invited to compete in the Champions because she won the tournament in 2009.

During her career in the Korea LPGA, Shin claimed a total of 21 titles and topped the money list for the third straight year in 2008. In the U.S.LPGA, she won 11 tournaments over six years and ranked first in the money race in 2009. The following year she claimed the world No. 1 spot.

In Japan, she has claimed five titles. She now sits in 17th place in the global rankings and hopes to become the first player to sweep the money lists on the Korean, Japanese and U.S. tours.

However, she could find herself hamstrung from playing on both tours by U.S.LPGA regulations. These only allow its members to participate in two tournaments a year in a third country other than their homeland during the tour season.

But players given a full seed on the JLPGA Tour need to compete in over 60 percent of its tournaments, which compelled Shin to resign from the American tour.

She can still compete in up to six U.S.LPGA tournaments a year at the invitation tour sponsors. Also, if she stays at the top of the global rankings, she can potentially play in some of its four majors.

Shin has said she plans to attend just five or six big tournaments on the U.S. tour this year.

As her five-year sponsorship deal with Mirae Asset will end right after the Champions, she is currently in talks with Korean firms operating in Japan, as well as Japanese companies.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 27, 2014 10:29 KST