For a while, Hee Young Park kept pace, but
soon Shin's relentless consistency wore down all challengers.
She won a second time at the PAVV Invitational, and collected
one top finish after another after that. It seemed like almost
every week she would be in contention. Even those few events
where she was nowhere close to the leader, like when Jin Joo
Hong lapped the field at the SK Solux Invitational, Shin would
still be somewhere near the top of the leaderboard.
She wound up collecting an astounding 12 top
five finishes on the season. With several events to go, she
broke Se Ri Pak's ten year old record for most money made
in a season; she would wind up crushing it by more than 100
million won. She destroyed the field by 9 shots to win her
third event of the year at the Orient Chinese Open, and finished
the year with a scoring average of 69.72, the only sub-70
season scoring average in the history of the KLPGA tour. She
thus won every major award for the 2006 season, and all this
as an 18 year old rookie.
As it turned out, her 2007 season was so fantastic that
it made even her 2006 season, amazing as it was, pale in comparison.
Shin would play on four continents during the year, contending
for the title virtually every time she teed it up. She started
the year by joining Young Kim to represent Korea at the World
Cup; the pair would wind up third, just one shot behind the
American team of Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst. Shin would then
play two Australian events, notching top fives in both (including
a second at the ANZ Ladies Masters). She would soon after
dominate at the Thai Open, winning by ten shots. And all this
was before the KLPGA season had even started.
Remarkably, she did not immediately dominate
the KLPGA at the start of the year. Two other young golfers,
Sun Ju Ahn and Eun Hee Ji, both got out to great starts. Ahn
won the Korean Women's Open, and Ji won two events in a row
and nearly made it three. For her part, Shin did notch a bunch
of top threes, and did win the MC Square tournament, but still
found herself in third on the money list.
That didn't last long, however. Starting with
the Seokyung Open, Shin went on a holy tear. She won three
straight events, becoming the first to do that on the KLPGA
since Mi Hyun Kim in the late nineties. After a brief break
to play at the US Women's Open (see below), Shin returned
to Korea, had an 'off week' where she only finished fifth,
then won the next two events. Her win at the fourth KB Star
Tour event was particularly memorable, for it made her only
the second golfer in history to win five times in a season
on the KLPGA tour. It wasn't easy: the first round was not
finished on the first day due to darkness. Shin had the first
round lead, but when they finished the round the next day,
the referees stupidly placed the tee markers on one hole ten
yards closer. When they discovered the error, they had to
throw out the entire results from that round, including Ji
Yai's lead. This reduced the event to two rounds. Shin had
a weak second round, so instead of having the lead, like she
should have, she found herself four strokes back. Not to worry:
she shot a sizzling 65 in the third round and won anyway to
tie the record for most wins in a season.
The next week, she won again to become the
first KLPGAer to win 6 times on tour in a year. And she was
far from done. She would win three more events during the
season for an astounding nine total wins. Ji Yai Shin, who
had just the year before become the first woman to break 300
million won in one season, broke 600 million won in 2007.
She won half the events she entered on the KLPGA, and only
twice finished outside the top 5 (and only once, an 11th place
finish, outside the top ten). For the second straight year,
she finished under 70 in scoring average, nearly a stroke
and a half ahead of Eun Hee Ji. And even then she wasn't done:
she won the Orient Ladies Chinese Open in December, an event
that counted towards the 2008 KLPGA season.
2007 also marked the year where Shin really
made a splash in international golf as well. Besides the World
Cup and other events mentioned above, she played her first
Majors and other top LPGA events, and by and large continued
her success there. After a weak SBS Open, she played quite
well at her first ever Major, the Nabisco, finishing 15th.
But it was at the US Women's Open where she made the biggest
splash. Riding her three event win streak on the KLPGA, she
played brilliantly at the Open, staying near the lead the
entire week, and even holding the lead all by herself entering
Sunday. She wound up finishing sixth, but made quite a name
for herself nonetheless.
The next month, she almost won the Evian Masters.
She made a couple of putting mistakes towards the end that
cost her, but still had a shot at the playoff for the title.
On the par 5 18th, she put her second shot into a greenside
bunker, than nearly hit her sand shot into the cup for eagle
(it stopped on the lip). The birdie she made there left her
one shot out of the playoff eventually won by Natalie Gulbis.
At the end of the year, Shin also played the
two big team events, the Kyoraku Cup and the Lexus Cup. She
was surprisingly weak at the Kyoraku, losing both her matches,
but made up for it at the Lexus, where she collected 2.5 points
for team Asia. Shin finished the year ranked 8th in the world,
the highest ranked Korean of all, and the only player not
playing on the LPGA who ranked in the top ten.
She started 2008 in brilliant fashion. She teamed with good
friend Eun Hee Ji to represent Korea at the Women's World
Cup. They started the week by teaming in best ball to shoot
a mind boggling 61 to take the lead. They kept the lead or
a share of it much of the rest of the week, eventually finishing
second to the Philippines. Shin next played the Australian
Ladies Open. On the final day, she shot a 67, at the time
the best round of the week by anyone, to take a two shot clubhouse
lead. It looked like she had the tournament wrapped up, but
Karrie Webb charged from behind with two birdies on the final
three holes and beat Shin in a two hole playoff. Shin followed
this with a 6th place at the ANZ Ladies Masters.
Shin hardly slowed down for the rest of the
year. By the third event of 2008 on the KLPGA, she already
had two wins and had once again captured the money list lead.
She also notched two top tens in LPGA events and played the
Nabisco, where she had a mediocre finish by her standards.
Shin also entered a new arena: the JLPGA tour. Playing her
first event in Japan, the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup, Shin wound
up in a playoff with a JLPGA player for the title, eventually
winning in four holes. The win granted Shin membership on
the JLPGA tour. She would play three more events on the JLPGA
tour after that, including two Majors. She finished second
all three times, losing two of them in playoffs. Not a bad
average result, if a bit frustrating!
Shin also beat rookie star So Yeon Ryu in
a playoff at the Korean Women's Open to capture the KLPGA's
first Major event of the year. She would go on to win all
three KLPGA Majors in 2008, beating Sun Ju Ahn by two shots
at the KLPGA Championship and beating Ahn and rookie Hye Yong
Choi in a playoff at the final Major, the 4th KB Star Tour
Event. Needless to say, Shin was the first player to ever
sweep the calendar year Grand Slam on the KLPGA tour. It was
yet another phenomenal performance in a career full of them.
Meanwhile, further wins at the Hite Cup Championship
and the BC Card Classic brought her season total on tour to
7 wins in 16 starts. This put her over 700 million won in
earnings, breaking her own record for most money made in a
season, and also brought her career win total on tour to 20,
tying the all time record for most career wins on the KLPGA
tour. And she still wasn't even 21 years old!
There was still one thing that Shin had not
been able to accomplish, however, and that was win an event
outside of Asia. 2008 saw her do that as well. Her high Rolex
ranking allowed her to play in several Majors, but she did
not do as well at the US Women's Open or Evian Masters as
she had in 2007. But at the year's final Major, the Women's
British Open, she put herself into contention off the bat,
tying for 2nd after the first round. She was still in second
place, just a shot behind Japanese star Yuri Fudoh, going
into the final round. In the final round, Shin kept it close
on the front nine, then played brilliantly on the back, grinding
past Fudoh with a flawless 66 that included a magnificent
40 foot birdie putt on one hole. Shin strolled to her first
Major win with a three stroke cushion. Shin became the first
woman in more than 20 years to win an LPGA Major without being
a member of the LPGA tour, and her win gained her membership
on the LPGA and LET tours. So much for having to go to Q School!
Shin wasn't done yet; in November, she won
the Mizuno Classic in Japan by 6 shots, capturing her second
LPGA event of the year. And amazingly, she had even more heroics
in store for 2008. At the year's final event, the ADT Championship,
Shin made it into the final eight on Sunday, then outlasted
Karrie Webb and Seon Hwa Lee to win her third title of the
year and secure a million dollar payday. She became the first
woman in in the history of the LPGA to win three LPGA events
before joining the tour. She also became only the second Korean
after Se Ri Pak to win more than twice in a single year on
the LPGA, and she did it in only ten events played. If her
money had been official, she would have been third on the
Shin confirmed that she would be joining the
LPGA as a rookie in 2009, instead of playing in Japan like
she had originally planned. So at last Ji Yai Shin, the biggest
phenom to hit Korea since Se Ri Pak, would be able to test
herself on the big tour on a regular basis!
Shin's LPGA rookie year did not disappoint.
Although she did not contend and win nearly as often in 2009
as she had in previous years, she still had a fantastic year.
Facing one of the toughest rookie classes in years, one that
had three other players win events (including one who won
twice including a Major), Jiyai (as she was now spelling her
name) still easily won the Rookie of the Year award. She also
became the first Korean to lead the season ending money list,
in the process earning more money in a season than any Korean
ever had (over $1.8 million). She also finished second in
the Vare Trophy standings, and came tantalizingly close to
winning the Player of the Year award. How close? Had she made
a birdie instead of par on the final hole of the final round
of the final event of the year, she would have won it. In
fact, she led that race much of the season before falling
to Lorena Ochoa in the end.
But though Shin did not become the first Korean
to win the POY, she very nearly became the second player ever
(after Nancy Lopez) to win all four major season ending awards.
She won three tournaments in 2009 and garnered 12 top tens
in all. She did not have a particularly great season at the
Majors, but still finished third at the LPGA Championship,
8th at the British Open and 13th at the US Women's Open. In
addition, she also won an event on the JLPGA tour and played
on the winning Korean team at the Kyoraku Cup.
All in all, it was a fantastic debut for the
young star, with the promise of much more great stuff to come!
Jiyai had another fantastic season on the
LPGA tour in 2010, although for the first time she found herself
seriously challenged by another top Korean star, Na Yeon Choi.
Shin made nearly $1.8 million on tour that year, but still
finished behind Choi, who made roughly $100,000 more. She
carded 14 top tens in 18 starts, 12 of which were top fives.
She had top fives in three of the four Majors with a 14th
at the Ricoh Women's British Open. Right until the end of
the season, she could have won the Player of the Year award
with a great final event, but had a rare bad tournament to
fall out of the hunt.
Her success was all the more amazing because
Jiyai had serious health issues in 2010. She was struck with
appendicitis right in the middle of the season and was forced
to take several weeks off to recover from the appendectomy.
At her first event back, the LPGA Championship, she finished
tied for third; she had a fifth at the Jamie Farr and a 5th
at the US Women's Open in the following weeks.
Finally, she won her first LPGA event of the
year at the Evian Masters. She was the first Korean to ever
capture that event. It came down to a fierce battle, with
several players in the hunt, including 15 year old Alexis
Thompson and the aforementioned Choi. Shin hit her third shot
on the final hole to ten feet, while Morgan Pressel, with
whom she was tied for the lead, got a little closer. But Shin
made the birdie, Pressel missed, and the title was Jiyai's.
Shin would win her second LPGA title of the year at the Mizuno
Classic in Japan, her second win there in three years.
Shin achieved yet another milestone in Japan.
The event was the CyberAgent Ladies tournament on the JLPGA
tour. Shin captured the crown and, when Lorena Ochoa failed
to finish in the top five at the Tres Marias Championship
later that day, Shin became the first Korean, male or female,
to ascend to the #1 ranking in the world. Jiyai had a great
year in Japan, finishing in the top five in 6 of the 7 events
she played there.
She had another great moment at the KLPGA
Championship, that tour's second Major. She won that event
going away despite a stiff early challenge from Na Yeon Choi.
It was a very emotional win for her, as it gave her victory
#21, the all time career record for most wins on that tour.
All over the world, on three tours, Shin was a superstar yet
again in 2010, finishing the year as the top player in the
Shin started out 2011 as the top player in
the world, but her attempts to lengthen her driving distance
affected her during the year, and she had overall the weakest
season she had had since turning pro. By the time the year
was finished, she had fallen all the way to 7th in the world,
and had not managed so much as a single victory on any tour
during the entire year, a first for her since turning pro.
After three medicore tournaments to start
the year, Shin finally hit her stride during the Kia Classic
in late March. She was at or near the lead for most of the
week, but Sandra Gal, a German pro who had yet to win on tour,
hung with her doggedly the whole time. The Shin of old, the
one who had earned the nickname the Final Round Queen, would
have deep sixed Gal in the final round, but this Shin made
numerous mistakes and allowed Gal to hang with her. On the
final hole, a par 5, Shin and Gal were tied. Shin hit her
approach to a few feet, but Gal striped hers to less than
a foot. Shin then missed the almost-gimme to hand the title
Shin had a few other top ten finishes in 2011,
including another second place at the ShopRite. But she had
only one top ten in a Major, and that was a tie for 10th at
the US Women's Open. In total, she had 7 top tens and made
$720,000, less than half what she had made in her two other
seasons. Her scoring average was 4th in the league, but her
money list finish only 15th. Shin had some good finishes in
Japan, but was not able to win a tournament on the JLPGA,
Jiyai Shin struggled with injuries during
the 2012 season. She got hand surgery right in the heart of
the season and missed several events, including two Majors.
But when she returned, it didn't take her long to hit her
Shin started the year well, with a third place
in Thailand and an 8th at the HSBC. But after the Match Play,
she had her surgery, not returning until the Evian Masters
in late July. At her next event, the Jamie Farr, she was tied
for the lead going into the final round, but only ended up
7th. Two events later, at the Canadian Open, she was in the
final group Sunday, but was unable to stop amateur buzzsaw
Lydia Ko (she played in the same group as the teen). Shin
Bu Jiyai was just working the kinks out, and
she won her next two events on tour. First came the Kingsmill
Championship. Paula Creamer seemed to have this one wrapped
up, but missed a short par save on the final hole to fall
into a tie with Shin. She and Jiyai ended up in an epic 9-hole,
two day sudden death playoff; it was the longest two person
sudden death playoff in LPGA history. On Monday morning, Creamer
three putted the first playoff hole of the day, and Shin got
They immediately flew to Liverpool, site of
the year's final Major, the Ricoh Women's British Open. Shin
got there so late she was only able to play nine practice
holes before the event started. The weather was brutal much
of the week, but Shin was sensational. On the second day,
she shot a surreal 8 under par 64 to seize the lead. The final
day was a 36 hole marathon, but Shin played it even par to
destroy the field by nine shots, the largest margin of victory
in the event since it became a Major. Jiyai became the first
Korean other than Se Ri to win multiple Majors, and the first
to amass double digit wins on the LPGA other than the Hall-of-Famer
Although Shin did not win again in 2012, and
she still struggled with health, she collected 8 top tens
(including three thirds), and for a while led the scoring
average on tour (but even if she had finished on top, she
would not have been able to collect the Vare Trophy, because
she did not play the minimum number of rounds). She earned
$1.2 million on the year and finished 7th on the money list.
She wound up 3rd in scoring average, 3rd in driving accuracy,
5th in greens in regulation, 3rd in sand saves, first in rounds
under par and 6th in Player of the Year.
Off the LPGA, Shin played a few times in Japan
but did not win. She won both her matches at the Korea-Japan
Team competition, and finished third at the Swinging Skirts.
She was in contention there until a late bogey knocked her
one shot behind Na Yeon Choi (the eventual winner) and Theresa
2013 was a strange year for the Final Round
Queen. She started things off with a bang by winning her 11th
LPGA event at the Australian Women's Open. The week began
with teen wunderkind Lydia Ko going very low, but Shin kept
pace with her, and they duked it out for the title in the
final round. They were tied for the lead when Shin dunked
a pitch from behind an advertising sign for a birdie. Jiyai
went on to win, while Ko faded to third.
For her, that was the highlight of the year
on the LPGA. While Inbee Park climbed to #1 and won the Player
of the Year award, Shin had her worst season since joining
the tour. She made only $600K and finished 22nd on the money
list. She had four other top tens, including a 7th at the
Nabisco and a 5th at the LPGA Championship. But she played
only sporadically on the LPGA in the second half of the year,
focusing on the JLPGA instead.
Amazingly, Shin completely resigned from the
LPGA at the beginning of 2014 and moved to Japan to compete
full time over there. She did not even defend her title at
the Australian Women's Open. This is the first time in the
Se Ri Pak era that a Korean golfer has simply turned in her
LPGA tour card and left. Her reason was that she wanted to
be closer to her family in Asia.
It was a good move for Shin. She had a great
season in Japan, finishing fourth on the money list with over
104 million yen earned. She won four tournaments, had an additional
second and third place, and a total of 12 top tens. Her results
qualified her for the year ending Korea-Japan Team Championship,
where she played well.
Shin also played a few LPGA events. She notched
two top 20s and two more top 30s in five starts. Not bad,
but certainly not comparable to her golden days.