LPGA 2014 Recap
January 31, 2015
by William Szczepanek
As the 2015 season starts the LPGA looks like it will have even a better year than last. The 2014 season provided much enjoyment and has been discussed at length on TV and in sports articles, but I’d like to take another shot at it from my personal point of view.
While the International Crown went to Spain the true global winners were the gals from the USA. Yes, the International Crown was a fun tournament with a lot of color and interesting matches, but it really just shows who was better over less than a week's worth of time. I actually thought Spain had a great chance of winning. In fact, any country on a given day could win the tournament and maybe that’s why it was so refreshing. But, like the Solheim Cup, some of the more prominent names in the game could not participate, like Suzann Pettersen. I’m still glad Mike Whan took my advice in devising this tournament. :-J
I look at the International Crown as a precursor to the upcoming Olympic Games in 2016. Unlike the match play of the International Crown the results for gold, silver and bronze will be determined by the lowest scores over 72 holes, like a regular tournament. The field will include sixty golfers and the eligible participants will be determined by the official rankings as of July 11, 2016. That’s where it will get interesting, since no more than 4 players in the top 15 from each country will be eligible, and only 2 players from each country for 16th place and higher to a maximum of 4 players per country.
There will be a fierce battle for the top 4 positions from the Korean golfers, who have 11 of the top 25 places taken at the present time, and also from the USA which has 9 of the top 25 players in the world. Suzann Pettersen looks like a shoo-in from Norway, as well as other popular players like Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Sandra Gal and Caroline Masson of Germany and Catriona Matthew of Scotland. I expect that the race for Olympic eligibility will be a major part of 2016 season, and some medals will go to countries that would not be expected to win.
Now the real winners in 2014 were those from the USA. After years of torment from the South Koreans the United States posted a win in the International Standings. I will take some credit for the kick in the butt that got the USA over the top with my articles about Korean discipline and work ethic. Right now in order to play on the LPGA it takes tremendous work and continual effort. Given that, I would expect some of the newcomers to be making a statement that could disrupt the current elite. The Koreans will have some seasoned rookies making the move to the LPGA this year.
The HSBS Women’s Champions featured the 75-foot winning-putt by Paula Creamer that went viral. I never tire of watching it and Paula’s reaction afterward.
Lexi Thompson battled Michelle Wei in the Kraft Nabisco with Lexi prevailing and getting to jump in the pond. It did, however, mark the revival of Michelle Wei who won the LPGA LOTTE Championship the following week.
The story of the year could be Michelle Wei in general. Watching her in the Founders Cup we noticed for the first time her ability to drive accurately with a 3 wood that tore through the sky like a bullet. Her shortened powerful swing gave her a distinct advantage of the competition.
I wrote about Michelle in 2013 and felt that she needed to stop trying to take advice from everyone and focus on what she can do well. A surprise to all was her new driving technique complimented by a new putting technique that was critiqued by everyone on the planet as being ridiculous. She stuck with and showed the world that she herself knew what she was doing. So, I’m really glad that Michelle took my advice. :-J I think the “Big Weisy” should be called the “Fabulous Flamingo”. We really need some great new nicknames to compete with the “Pink Panther”.
Wins by Mo Martin and Christina Kim cap this year of 2014 with emotional wins that increased interest in the game. Three wins by Lydia Ko, who shows little emotion for a 16 year old with a swing like a seasoned veteran, demonstrates that the game may be moving to a younger set in the coming years. There are so many great golfers out there it seems very difficult for any single golfer to win consistently on any given Sunday.
So, we have a catch twenty two. The LPGA needs a star, like an Annika Sorenstam to draw the crowds, yet it needs competitiveness to make the game interesting. We may have it in that we have multiple rising stars on the horizon and the LPGA seems to be going in the right direction. I’m glad I could help. :-J