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The LPGA Tour is entering the final stretch of the 2012 season and will be in Malaysia this week for the first of four stops in the second Asian swing of the year. The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will be staged at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club for the third year and will host a field of 67 professionals and 5 amateurs in the no-cut event. Playing will be competing for a $1.9 million purse and a $285,000 first-place prize.
The tournament will move into the leadoff spot in the four-event swing after it followed the LPGA HanaBank Championship in South Korea a season ago. This year, Malaysia will be followed by the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and the Mizuno Classic in Japan. The Tour will return to North America for its final two official events of the season for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico and the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla.
Although this weekâ€™s field is smaller in numbers, it makes up in talent and star power. Forty-nine of the top 50 players on the 2012 LPGA Tour Official Money List will be competing in Malaysia this week. The event will mark the first event in Asia since all four LPGA majors have been won by Asian-born players this season. All four major champions Sun Young Yoo (Kraft Nabisco), Na Yeon Choi (U.S. Womenâ€™s Open), Shanshan Feng (Wegmans LPGA Championship) and Jiyai Shin (RICOH Womenâ€™s British Open) will be in action. Fifteen out of the 16 winners on the LPGA Tour this year, including Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng and No. 2 Stacy Lewis, will also be in the field. Tseng and Lewis are the only two players with three victories in 2012 and will be playing for their fourth wins of the season.
Fresh off her fourth-career victory and her third win this season, Stacy Lewis will be looking to add on to her banner year with her first international win this week. Lewis, the top-ranked American and Rolex Rankings No. 2, won the Navistar LPGA Classic two weeks ago when the LPGA Tour last teed up. With her win, Lewis received 30 Player of the Year points and now holds a commanding 56-point lead over Rolex Rankings No. 5 Jiyai Shin. The Woodlands, Texas native is looking to become the Tourâ€™s first American-born Player of the Year since Beth Daniel in 1994.
While Player of the Year honors appears to be in short striking distance for Lewis, a possible No. 1 world ranking has now become a reality as well. While Yani Tseng once seemed to be untouchable in the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Womenâ€™s World Golf Rankings, Lewisâ€™ Tour-leading 14 top-10 finishes and three victories this season has cut Tsengâ€™s lead to only 4.55 points.
Lewis has played in Malaysia the past two years and has fared well. She will look to improve on a T12 finish and 2010 and a T5 a year ago.
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Na Yeon Choi returns to Malaysia this week to defend her title in Kuala Lumpur. It will be the third time in her career that Choi has the chance to return to an event as defending champion. She has already proven that she can handle the pressure of defending a title and did so successfully in 2010. She won the LPGA HanaBank Championship as defending champ when she beat Vicky Hurst by two strokes. Her first-career victory came at the Samsung World Championship in 2009 and is no longer on the Tourâ€™s schedule. At the 2011 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Choi put together rounds of 66-68-67-68 to finish 15-under par and held off a late charge on Sunday from Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng who finished one shot back.
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