The battle for the top spot in the Rolex Rankings has been one of the most hotly contested races throughout the 2010 LPGA Tour season. Six players – Jiyai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Yani Tseng, Na Yeon Choi and Ai Miyazato – enter the LPGA Tour Championship poised to take charge of the No. 1 position. The top position has changed hands nine times between three players since Lorena Ochoa retired as the Rolex Rankings No. 1 in May. Shin, Kerr and Miyazato have all ascended to the top on more than one occasion, while Pettersen, Tseng and Choi have been mired in the mix on a weekly basis.
The Rolex Rankings awards points based on the field strength and evaluate a player's performance over a rolling two-year period weighted in favor of the current year, with even more importance placed on the most recent 13 weeks. Points are reduced in 91 equal decrements following week 13 for the remaining 91 weeks of the two-year Rolex Ranking period.
Shin was the first player to ascend to Rolex Rankings No. 1 after Ochoa’s retirement. She remained in the top spot for seven consecutive weeks before being sidelined by an emergency appendectomy at the LPGA State Farm Classic. Shin returned to the Tour two weeks later to find her No. 1 ranking lost to Japan’s Miyazato. Miyazato made her first trip to the top after capturing her fourth win of the season at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Miyazato’s initial stay at the top was short-lived. Her one-week reign fell to American Kerr after Kerr trounced the field by 12 shots at the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans. Kerr became the first American to sit atop the rankings since their inception in February of 2006. Kerr, who had won the LPGA State Farm Classic earlier in the season, spent three weeks in the top position before ceding it back to Miyazato, strangely enough on a week when the Tour did not play.
The shuffle at the top continued the following week when Shin regained the top spot after winning the Evian Masters. She remained there for three weeks before Kerr reappeared as the Rolex Rankings No. 1 for another week. Despite playing well, Kerr once again lost the top spot to Miyazato who won for the fifth time at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. On the strength of her five wins in a nine month stretch, Miyazato held the No. 1 crown for nine consecutive weeks.
Miyazato’s challengers worked hard to wrestle the No. 1 ranking away from her. Kerr nearly took the top spot on several different occasions, finally reclaiming it for one week after posting three consecutive top eight finishes. Kerr was not to stay long, however. One week later, Shin reemerged as the Rolex Rankings No. 1 after finishing tied for fourth at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship Presented by SK telecom. The following week, Shin solidified her position as the Rolex Rankings No. 1 when she captured her second victory of the season at the Mizuno Classic.
Shin has putt together a remarkable string since returning from her surgery in June. Since then, Shin has won twice and posted eight other top-six finishes. She has finished no worse than a tie for 14th in her last 12 LPGA starts.
While Shin, Miyazato and Kerr have been swapping the No. 1 spot, Pettersen, Tseng and Choi have been giving serious chase. All three players carry point averages above 10.00 and are within striking distance of Shin. While winless in 2010 Pettersen was poised to ascend to the No. 1 position mid-year, if only she had been able to convert some of her six runner-up finishes into a win. Tseng, who won three tournaments in 2010, has also been knocking on the door of No. 1, while Choi has steadily climbed her way into the mix the second half of the season. In her last 12 starts, Choi won twice, finished runner-up three times and tied for third twice.
The LPGA Tour Championship will decide who will end the 2010 LPGA Tour season as the Rolex Rankings No. 1, but with the top six players so close in points, the battle looks ripe to continue into 2011 and beyond.