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With Chella Choi just missing a breakthrough victory yesterday at the Mizuno Classic, it’s high time I updated my September 2012 ranking of the players most likely to make like Teresa Lu and get their 1st LPGA win.
Most Likely to Win in 2013 (or 2014)
1. Caroline Hedwall: A heroine of the Solheim Cup and a 5-time winner on the LET, I can’t picture anyone winning on the LPGA before Hedwall does.
2. Carlota Ciganda: A comeback kid during the Solheim Cup and a 3-time winner on the LET, I think she has the best bet of beating Hedwall to the winner’s circle on the LPGA.
3. Chella Choi: She’s really ramped up her game in recent years and has had a handful of memorable close calls, including yesterday’s, which brought her streak of top-12 finishes to 6 events in a row and counting. I think if she can’t win this season, she should let her dad retire from caddying for her!
4. Lizette Salas: She’s made an immediate impact as she’s transitioned from collegiate golf to the Symetra Tour to the LPGA, with several close calls of her own. I can’t help but think she’s ready to break through soon!
5. Jodi Ewart Shadoff: She hasn’t been quite as hot of late as she was in the middle of the season, but she’s still playing well.
6. Karine Icher: This 5-time winner on the LET has sprinkled 5 top 10s fairly evenly across the 2013 LPGA season, with 3 top 5s in the middle of it, but she hasn’t won on a major tour since 2005. Can she make like Teresa Lu and break through after a long drought?
Quantum Leap Candidates
7. Haeji Kang: I used to think of her as a player of the same rank as Chella Choi, but she really needs to pick up the pace to catch up to Choi now.
8. Chie Arimura: She’s had a truly horrendous rookie season on the LPGA, but this 13-time winner on the JLPGA is too good to continue playing this badly outside Japan.
9. Gerina Piller: She gets top 10s as often as anyone on this list, but like Salas she’s had some good chances slip through her fingers and has fallen swiftly down the leaderboard most every time she’s climbed near its peak.
10. Jenny Shin: Unlike many on this list, she has a top 3 finish on the LPGA under her belt. Plus she finished 4th at the ShopRite this season and has gotten 5 other top 20s thus far. Now let’s see if she can step it up a notch.
11. Caroline Masson: For someone who was LET Rookie of the Year and is one of three players from the LPGA Class of 2013 who still can win ROY, she doesn’t have that many great finishes.
12. Pornanong Phatlum: She’s another Symetra Tour grad who’s made a solid start to her LPGA career. Like many on this list, she’s proven she can make cuts with regularity; now it’s time to start contending.
13. Guilia Sergas: She had 3 top 10s in a row early in the season, but has had a horrendous 2nd half of 2013. Still, this veteran has plenty of talent
14. Mina Harigae: She rocked the minor leagues, but hasn’t yet translated that into a whole lot of success on the LPGA. Still, she’s showed steady improvements and has finished T5 and T17 in her last 2 starts.
15. Vicky Hurst: Another player who dominated the minor leagues but hasn’t yet played up to expectations on the LPGA.
16. Ayako Uehara: Yes, she’s won 3 times on the JLPGA and made the transition to the LPGA slightly better than Arimura, but I just don’t see as much upside to her 2014 as I do to Arimura’s. Still, she has a chance to be ROY if she can win the Titleholders and Masson and Jutanugarn can’t finish high enough on the leaderboard to pass her on points….
17. Moriya Jutanugarn: Yes, she has a chance to win the LPGA’s ROY race in the final event of the season, but she hasn’t impressed me with a capacity to make birdies in bunches or go low, two qualities that are crucial to winning on the toughest women’s tour on the planet.
18. Jane Park: She’s been healthy for what seems like the 1st time in her professional career, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her start climbing this list next year even faster than she did this year.
19. Danielle Kang: A T5 at the HSBC Women’s Champions shows what this 2-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is capable of on the LPGA.
The Best of the Rest
20. Alison Walshe
21. Mo Martin
22. Mariajo Uribe
23. Austin Ernst
24. Pernilla Lindberg
25. Lindsey Wright
26. Lisa McCloskey
27. Christel Boeljon
28. Katie Futcher
29. Cindy LaCrosse
30. Kristy McPherson
So who did I leave out that you think ought to be on this list? How would you rank the top players in the Class of 2014 that we already know of, or those from earlier classes who will rejoin the LPGA next season?