Who’s ready to breakthrough and hoist a trophy for the first time in 2018?
There are so many players on the LPGA that have been close and appear on the cusp of adding a nice new piece of hardware and a nice chunk to the bank account.
There were just two Rolex First-Time Winners in 2017 (Sung Hyun Park, Danielle Kang). We predict a few more than that in 2018.
She’ll enter 2018 coming off the best season of her career. She climbed inside the top 25 in the world with 11 top 10s and 21 top 20 finishes in her 28 starts in 2017. Jutanugarn finished ninth on the LPGA’s money list and was in contention frequently towards the end of the year. She finished second at Blue Bay, fifth in Japan and third at The Evian Championship. Jutanugarn showed massive improvement compared to 2015 and 2016 when she totaled just three combined top 10 finishes. Top two reasons to believe she can win in 2018? She led the Tour in birdies in 2017 (428) and ranked fifth in putts per GIR (1.75). Also, if she needs any advice on what it takes to win, she doesn't have to look far. Sister, Ariya, has seven career wins.
Alex notched six top 10 finishes in 2017 including a tie for third at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. She is coming off the best year of her career and finished 27th on the money list. She nearly tripled her earnings from the year prior when she was 65th on the money list. Alex will head into her fifth season on the LPGA in 2018 and appears to be closing in on a big moment. She is really accurate off the tee (82.19%, 7th on Tour) and hits a lot of greens (76.19%, 6th on Tour). Alex graduated from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA in 2013. While she didn't win, she finished third on the money list. She seems due.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff
With 14 career top 10 finishes, Ewart Shadoff no doubt has the game to win on Tour. She got mighty close in 2017 with a final-round 64 at the Ricoh Women’s British Open to climb to solo second. She also finished fourth at the Manulife LPGA Classic with four rounds in the 60s. Ewart Shadoff will enter her seventh full season on the LPGA in 2018 so she has the experience and course knowledge in her favor. She has also played in two Solheim Cups and the inaugural UL International Crown. She also had a second place finish in 2016 at Lorena Ochoa’s event so it just seems like she’s ready to knock down the door.
She’s no longer the charismatic, funny, long-bombing rookie on Tour. Yin should enter her sophomore season on Tour with a ton of confidence after five top 10 finishes in 2017. Yin also recently (early December) won on the Ladies European Tour for the first time at the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic. She won in a playoff too. Yin absolutely mashes the ball ranking fourth with a driving distance of 272 yards and change. She also showed a solid stroke on the green, ranking in the top 25 in both putting average and putts per GIR. Then there is the Solheim Cup experience. She didn’t appear fazed by any of the hoopla or craziness that surrounds the event. Yin looked like a veteran yet still acted like her care-free self.
Similar to Yin, Korda will have the comfort of a year under her belt when she heads to the Bahamas to begin 2018. She also had five top 10 finishes in 23 starts as a rookie. Don’t be surprised if she puts her name on the first big check of the year. Remember, she finished in a tie for fifth at last year's Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Nelly is cool as a cucumber and showed it with some great Sunday rounds in 2017. The 67 in the Bahamas, the 68 in Michigan, the 65 in Malaysia and the 68 at the CME Group Tour Championship to finish in a tie for eighth. Pressure has never really bothered the 19-year-old. If you recall, she finished T6 at the final Symetra Tour event in 2016 to jump inside the top 10.
Nicole Broch Larsen
She finished 57th on the money list and had three top 10s in her first full year on Tour. It’s clear that Broch Larsen can play and contend with the best in the world. Take the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open where she posted rounds of 69-68-66-71 to post her best finish of the year (T3). She really has power off the tee (13th in driving distance), but will likely have to improve her putting and driving accuracy to compete regularly. She had 81 rounds in the 60s last year (18th on Tour) so she can clearly go low. Keep in mind, Broch Larsen won the final Symetra Tour event of the year in 2016 in a duel against fellow Tour pro Ally McDonald. Oh, and she also has a win on the Ladies European Tour and represented Denmark at the 2016 Olympic Games. Plenty of big stage experience at just 24 years old.