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… Who’s next?
In 2011, the LPGA Tour witnessed the era of Yani Tseng, when each week the question was posed, “who will be her challenger?” Yet each week the question continued to be unanswered as she racked up seven victories en route to her second-consecutive Player of the Year title. It seemed that every other victory was over shadowed by yet another spectacular performance by the Taiwanese star.
Entering the 2012 season, the LPGA Tour was questioned if anyone was going to put a stop to Tseng’s streak and be the next breakout star?
Although Tseng carried her momentum through the first 10 events of the 2012 campaign, capturing three wins in five events, she hit a rough patch in her game and seemed to be in a slump for a lengthy stretch. It was during that time when players craved to steal the spotlight and made a run for winner’s circle.
And many players did.
In 27 events last season, there were 17 different champions.
There were seven LPGA pros with multiple victories, including Stacy Lewis (3), Yani Tseng (3), Ai Miyazato (2), Inbee Park (2), Jiyai Shin (2), Suzanne Pettersen (2) and Na Yeon Choi (2).
There were six Rolex First-Time Winners, including Jessica Korda, Azahara Munoz, Shanshan Feng, Brittany Lang, So Yeon Ryu, and Mika Miyazato.
Not to mention standout performances by LPGA greats like Angela Stanford and Cristie Kerr.
While Lewis’ breakout moment came at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the 27-year-old slowly inched her way into the spotlight and became a fan-favorite to win each week, becoming the top-ranked American on Tour. Her dominant play this year has resulted in 14 top-10 finishes, top ranks in four statistical categories and 2012 Rolex Player of the Year honors.
So the questions continue, can Lewis remain in her streak, or will the Tour see a new breakout star in 2013?
Maybe it’s I.K. Kim, who missed her chances of being a major champion by missing a 14-inch putt in a playoff with Sun Young Yoo. It’s been two years since Kim has stepped in the winner’s circle, but with five top-10s in 2012 and a fuel that’s fanning the flame from her loss, she has the potential to turn some heads this year.
Possibly Paula Creamer will break out of her two year winless streak. The nine-time tournament champ had spurts of brilliant play this year, notching seven top-10 finishes and playing a part of one of the most dramatic golf finishes of the season at the Kingsmill Championship, losing to Jiyai Shin in a nine-hole, two-day playoff.
Perhaps it will be Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, who silently lurked around the leaderboard last year notching 10 top-10s.
Or Brittany Lincicome, whose aggressive play landed her on top of the Tour in average driving distance. Following two victories in 2011, Lincicome came close to getting back in the winner’s circle with two runner-up finishes.
A handful of pros who remain in the hunt for their first-career LPGA victory could also be in the mix. With players like Vicky Hurst, Chella Choi, Sydnee Michaels and several others, the 2013 season could reveal some interesting results.
It may seem like the LPGA Tour has yet to be taken over by the next Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa. So, the designation remains unclenched until the Tour sees its next breakout star, and perhaps the 2013 season could unveil just that.