Former world No.1 Jiyai Shin can think of no better place to rekindle her LPGA fire than the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide.
Shin, 27, will play her first tournament outside Asia since July 2014 next month when she tees it up at The Grange Golf Club in South Australia for what could signify her return to the global tour she once ruled.
The delightful Korean, the 2013 Women’s Australian Open champion at Royal Canberra, has long been a crowd favourite in Australia, but opted to play exclusively in Asia, bar two major championships, since giving up her LPGA membership in 2013.
And news of Shin’s return thrilled tournament director Trevor Herden.
“Jiyai was one of the most popular visitors we’ve ever had, but for personal reasons she decided not to tour for the past few years,” he said. “So we are excited that one of our great past champions has decided to take that step, perhaps back towards the LPGA, right here in Adelaide.”
“She’s one of the all-time greats – not only on the LPGA, but with so many records in Korea and Japan, too – so she’s a superb addition to the field.”
Current world No.1 and defending champion Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, headlines the field as the tournament returns to Adelaide for the first times since 1994.
Five-time champion Karrie Webb, of Queensland, and LPGA Tour winner Minjee Lee, of Western Australia, have also committed to contest their national championship.
But Shin is still ranked world No.33 based primarily on her ongoing Japanese tour successes – seven wins in the past two years – and will be a formidable challenger to the throne.
“I am so happy to be playing the 2016 Australian Ladies Open in Adelaide,” Shin said.
“I have been to Australia several times now, but this will be my first time to Adelaide, so that will be great.
“Having won the Australian Open before, it holds special memories for me.
“I am looking forward to coming to back to the event, meeting the fans, challenging the course and playing my best. See you all soon.”
Those words will be music to the ears of her legion of Aussie fans who’ve watched Shin finish no lower than fifth in four previous appearances in our national championship.
Before her 2013 triumph, Shin was T2 at Commonwealth in 2011, lost an epic playoff to Webb at Kingston Heath in 2008 and was T5 at Royal Sydney in 2007.
Shin is one of the modern era’s most remarkable players with two British Open victories to her credit.
She has won $US6,148,668 on the LPGA Tour alone with 56 top-10s and 11 victories. She has also won 21 KLPGA titles in her homeland.
She was world No.1 for 25 weeks in 2010 and 2011, but said last year that, then aged 22, it had possibly come “a little bit early”.
Shin, fully recovered from hand and back injuries she has suffered in the past, last year said her goal was to become the Japanese tour’s player of the year, then she might consider a return to the LPGA.
A big result in Adelaide might have a key impact on that decision.
The 2016 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will be held from February 18-21 on The Grange Golf Club’s West Course with tickets on sale at www.Ticketek.com.au . The Open is the flagship tournament on the ALPG Tour and is jointly sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and LPGA. The prizemoney is $US1.3million (approx. $AUD1.85million), making it the largest prize purse in Australian golf this summer.