45th Anniversary Highlights
With 45 games, TOTO Japan Classic saw the best lift for the LPGA Cup. Two World Golf Hall of Fame winners Betsy King earned 34 LPGA titles in the event in 1992 and 1993. From 2001 to 2005, undisputed legend Annika Sorenstam was unbeatable in the event. In 2003, Sorenstam’s record of minus 24 192 points – which spanned two rounds of 63 – still stands. Shanshan Feng, the first player from China to reach No. 1 on the world, won in 2017 and successfully defended her title in 2018. The TOTO Japan Classic crowned several LPGA legends as its champion, setting an exciting precedent for the next week.
TOTO Japan Classic has rotated through a variety of courses in Japan since its inception in 1973. Since 2016, the event has rotated between Sita Golf Course in Shiga and Taiheiyo Club in Ibaraki. First visited by the TOTO Japan Classic in 1989, this week will mark the event’s 14th play at SITA Golf Course. The course was designed by Inoue Seiichi in 1967 and plays at just over 6,600 yards to 72 degrees.
A large number of defending heroes
Although the event had not played on the LPGA calendar since 2019, the TOTO Japan Classic was still played as part of the JLPGA’s regular season. So, there are two defending champions in the field: LPGA Defending Champion, 2019 winner Ai Suzuki, and JLPGA Defending Champion Ayaka Furue, who won in 2021.
Suzuki and Furio will hit the range with three other former champions: Jiayi Shin (2008, 2010, 2020), Nasa Hataoka (2018) and Momoko Ueda (2007, 2011). Suzuki’s 17 under par performance in 2019 was the first 17-time JLPGA Champion to win on the LPGA Tour. Furue, a junior season LPGA competitor and a first-time Rolex winner at the Women’s Trust Golf Scottish Open, scored 16 under a tie to win in 2021.
No. 1 new
On Monday, she was crowned the new No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. 19-year-old Thai rookie Attaya Thitikul defeated Korea’s Jin Young-koo, who held the number one spot for 38 weeks. Thitikul’s victories in the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol and Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, as well as more than a dozen other top-ten finishes, cemented the teen phenomenon to the top.
At 19 years, 8 months and 11 days, Thitikul became the second under-20 player to reach world number 1, joining Lydia Ko who first climbed to world number 1 at 17 years, 9 months and 9 days. Thitikul will launch her first defense of her top ranking at the TOTO Japan Classic.
Seven players still have a calculating chance of winning the Rolex Player of the Year award. With her second win of the season in the BMW Women’s Championship last week, Lydia Koe had a one-point lead over Mingji Li in the race. But Ko is not competing in the TOTO Japan Classic, leaving the door open for Lee or Thitikul, who is currently fourth with 129 points, to take a step with guaranteed money on the table.
Lee and Thitikul also compete for the Vare Trophy, where they also play Catch Ko, the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, Lee and Thitikul sit first and second, respectively, and Money Title.