Defending champ looks to capture first title of year
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (AP) ― Defending champion Shin Ji-yai is still looking for her best form and first title of the year entering the Evian Masters.
Shin birdied the 18th hole to win in dramatic style last year, becoming the first South Korean to capture the event.
The 23-year-old Shin maintains she will be confident when play starts Thursday.
“Actually, last year, before this week, before Evian, I didn’t win,” Shin said. “I think it’s time to win. I know a lot of my fans (are) waiting, and I’m also waiting for the win.”
Shin finished second at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last month and was runner-up at the Kia Classic in March, where she lost to Sandra Gal after the German sank a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
Otherwise, Shin’s best was an eighth place at the LPGA State Farm Classic and a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open.
“I think I played well, just a little bit up and down,” Shin said. “Just my putting, sometimes my putting doesn’t work. But I’m practicing a lot, so maybe the good feeling is coming.”
Shin faces a strong field, including Ai Miyazato of Japan. She earned her first LPGA Tour victory at the Evian Masters in 2009 and finished sixth at the recent U.S. Open.
“I played very good at the U.S. Open, and my confidence is coming back,” Miyazato said. “I’m feeling good, I’m in good shape.”
Two years ago, Miyazato clinched the Evian Masters with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole, beating Sophie Gustafson of Sweden.
“I have such a great memory from this tournament. I can’t believe it’s already two years,” Miyazato said.
Players had to put up with drizzly rain and muggy conditions as they practiced on Wednesday.
“It’s so cold and rainy. Feels like it’s Scotland,” Shin said. “But hopefully no rain in the next few days.”
Meanwhile, Michelle Wie hopes to find some form in Evian ― which is set to become a major in 2013. The LPGA announced Wednesday that it would become the fifth major of the tour and be held in September 2013.
Wie, who finished 55th at the U.S. Open, has not finished in the top three since she was runner-up to Yani Tseng at the LPGA Thailand in February.
Wie rebuffs recent claims by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam that she has become distracted by getting her degree at Stanford. Speaking during the U.S. Open this month, Sorenstam even questioned whether Wie is “mentally strong enough to finish at the top” of the game.
“I want to win majors, I want to win tournaments, and I’m working very hard at that. Right now that’s my No. 1 goal,” Wie said. “And even if I’m at school, you know, I don’t go to school full time.”
The 21-year-old Wie plans to graduate, and says going to school provides balance to her life.
“I think education has always been very important to me, especially ever since I was young,” Wie said. “So I’ve been playing on LPGA tournaments and going to regular high school and all of that, so it’s been very important.”