This week’s Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions kicks off the final third of the LPGA’s 2014 season, and players are now entering “crunch time” territory.
Lydia Ko may have already sewn up the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year title, but the battle for Rolex Player of the Year rages on with fervor. Six players have at least a legitimate mathematical shot to take home the honor and forever etch their names in the annals of women’s golf history, and the race should provide good theater for the season’s final three months.
Stacy Lewis, the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year, leads the way with 200 points thanks to an LPGA-best three wins and 11 additional top-10s. Not surprisingly, she is followed by reigning Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park, whose victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship made things more interesting by moving her to within striking distance with 169 points.
Park also won the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in June and has 10 other top-10 finishes this season, so she has put together another great year and will be a major factor down the stretch.
U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie is next with 151 points, but has been out of action for two weeks while nursing an injured finger on her right hand. She has begun putting again, but has not yet set a timetable for her return, and any lingering effects of what could be a nagging injury definitely hurt her chances.
Ko ranks fourth with 128 points on the strength of two victories this season, the most recent coming at the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I in mid-July. The 17-year-old has seven other top-10s in 2014 and has been playing great golf while not missing a cut all season.
Ko has steely nerves, experience from winning and being in contention on a regular basis and the right temperament to win the coveted award. It will be fun to watch if she’s able to put it together and chase down Lewis and Park.
Lexi Thompson, who won the year’s first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March, stands fifth with 104 points, while two-time 2014 winner Anna Nordqvist is sixth with 100. They are long shots going into the stretch run, but could once again become factors if they’re able to recapture their early season glory.
The good news for the “chasers” is that there are plenty of points available to snatch up in the season’s final 11 events. Wins at standard LPGA events are worth 30 points, with next week’s final major, The Evian Championship, awarding 60 points to its champion.
Only Nordqvist is teeing it up this week, so she has a chance to gain some ground with a victory in Portland. So Yeon Ryu (85 points) could add her name as a seventh contender if she is able to follow her win from last week with a triumph at Columbia Edgewater Country Club this weekend.
Whoever wins Rolex Player of the Year will almost definitely also capture the LPGA’s money title, and Lewis currently leads the way with $2,052,616. Wie is second with $1,627,653, with Park ($1,563,555), Ko ($1,240,766) holding down the next two spots.
Lewis, Park and Ko are also in a battle for the world’s No. 1 ranking, and it should be a thrill to see who is able to lock down the top spot when the season concludes. Lewis is the current top-ranked player, Park has held that honor this season and Ko is itching to reach No. 1 before her 18th birthday in April.
These races represent some of the Tour’s top storylines going forward, and there’s no doubt every player with a shot to win any of them will be working hard to make sure their games are in top form the rest of the year.
Topics: Player Feature