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Shin Narrowly Loses LPGA Player of the Year Award

Posted November. 25, 2009 08:47,   


Shin Ji-yai yesterday lost LPGA Player of the Year honors by one point to Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, who won the honor for the fourth straight year.

At the LPGA Tour Championship in Houston, Shin added just three points in the Player of the Year race by tying for eighth at six-under-210. Ochoa finished second at 11-under-205, but added 12 points to overtake the Korean player.

Ochoa won the award by a score of 160-159 over Shin despite trailing by eight points just before the tournament. Shin thus failed to become the first LPGA golfer since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and the prize money title in the same season.

Shin saw the number of putts soar to 35 and blew seven chances for birdies. Her severe letdown was evident by her rejection of media interview requests after the tournament, a first for Shin.

Despite losing the title to Ochoa, Shin won the Rookie of the Year award, an honor a player has just one chance at winning. She is also the youngest player and first Korean to lead the LPGA in prize money in a season.

She also led the association with three wins this season.

Perhaps for this reason, Shin sounded cheerful just as usual over the phone after dinner. “I ate as much meat as I wanted, something that I couldn’t do because I was on a diet for tournaments. I can regain strength only when eating well. I tend to remember what I did well for a long time and instantly forget about things I failed in (laughingly).”

In the LPGA season opener SBS Open in February, she failed to make the cut due to inconsistent play. “I might’ve been complacent because I did so well for three years,” she said at the time.

Learning lessons the hard way and biting the bullet, she overcame unfamiliar courses and short driver shots to secure a string of wins. This season, her average driver shot was 246.8 yards, ranking 98th. Using a strategy to thoroughly follow the fairway to dodge roughs, which are deeper and tougher than those in golf courses in Korea, her driver distance got shorter.

Shin also suffered declining stamina in the second half of the season. Yet she managed to increase the accuracy of her wood shot, which she used to target long-distance par-four holes, among other improvements.

Despite her brilliant rookie season, Shin is already preparing for next season. She will leave for the Gold Coast in Australia Jan. 4 for intensive training focusing on boosting her muscular strength to raise her driver distance.