It’s that time of year! The start of the 2013 LPGA season is quickly approaching and as we count down the days until the year’s first event, our eyes are focused on “What to Watch” for the upcoming season. So over the next two weeks on LPGA.com, we will take a glimpse at some of the top storylines on the LPGA Tour for 2013. Today’s storyline…Repping the Red, White and Blue
Although the LPGA prides itself on being Golf’s Global Tour, with more than half of the tournaments on the schedule played on U.S. soil every year there’s no question the American fan base craves for a standout. Americans were overshadowed by Yani Tseng’s dominating presence during the 2011 season with only four American players taking a title that year. So contingents of hungry U.S.-born players were ready for a resurgence in 2012.
Nearly every week Americans had lurked around the top of the leaderboard while fans watched and waited for a new wave of first-time winners and reappearances of veterans in the winner’s circle. Doubling their wins in 2012 - spearheaded by a fearless leader in Stacy Lewis - the Americans tied for the most wins by any country (8) with South Korea.
So the question becomes: can the Americans duplicate that success once again in 2013?
Lewis, who captured four victories in 2012, clinched the Rolex Player of the Year award in Guadalajara, Mexico last November after she finished tied for fourth. It was the first time an American had claimed the honor since Beth Daniel did in 1994. Lewis carried the torch for the Americans throughout the entire 2012 season and posted impressive numbers across the board, ranking in the top-five in seven statistical categories.
But Lewis wasn’t the only American to make a splash on the LPGA Tour last season.
Second-year Tour member Jessica Korda turned heads in Australia to start off the season to become a Rolex First-Time Winner at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australia Open. Korda had a gritty performance in the land down under where she won in a six-way sudden-death playoff against top names including Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Lewis and So Yeon Ryu. She sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole for her first victory.
Tour veteran Angela Stanford notched another American win before the Tour made its way back to U.S. soil and clinched her fifth-career victory at the HSBC Women’s Champions 2012 in Singapore. Stanford ended a wait of 14 years and four months for an American victory in a LPGA event in Asia and did so in a four-player playoff.
Another American had a coming out party in 2012 when seven-year Tour veteran Brittany Lang came out on top at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. The 26-year-old birdied three straight holes in the three-player, sudden-death playoff and did not make a bogey in either the third or final round. It was Lang’s first-career victory and broke the Duke curse on Tour, becoming the first Blue Devil to earn an LPGA win.
One of the most well-known American golfers broke back into the winner’s circle in 2012 when Cristie Kerr overcame a two-shot deficit on Sunday to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco. It was Kerr’s 15th career victory and first since 2010.
But in all the breakout wins the Tour saw this season, many Americans remain in the search for either earing their first LPGA victory or returning to the winner’s circle. Paula Creamer, an 8-year veteran on Tour, narrowly missed her chance for her 10th-career victory when she lost to Jiyai Shin in a nine-hole, two-day sudden death playoff at the Kingsmill Championship. A week later she finished third at the RICOH Women’s British Open. She closed out the season with seven top-10 finishes, but is still stuck in a winless drought since notching her first-career major championship at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.
Vicky Hurst, Katie Futcher, Gerina Piller and Amanda Blumenherst have all caught a glimpse of the spotlight with some outstanding performances last year, and each happens to be hungry for their first-career LPGA win. They averaged about three top-10 finishes in 2012.
Although Lewis may have the upper hand in the race to becoming the Tour’s next dominant player, the 2013 season could expose an outburst of aspiring young American talent or an encore of some of the Tour’s most vaunted veterans.