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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Ladies of 2012

Well, it's that time of year again -- the time when we get inundated with "Best of 2012" shows and retrospective looks at what did and didn't happen. Although I don't plan to do anything in-depth (there's plenty of that being done already), I do want to take a look back at 2012 and pick out a few of the major players and events -- and look ahead to what we may see in the future.

Today I'm looking at the ladies. What does 2013 hold for the LPGA and LET?

Clearly things have changed since January. While Yani Tseng is still #1 in the Rolex Rankings, I don't think anybody expects her to stay there. Granted, she might get her game back to where it was 12 months ago... but that remains to be seen.

I think it's fair to say the two new stars on the LPGA are Stacy Lewis and So Yeon Ryu, both of whom seem to have their games in good shape going into the new year. Inbee Park has also resurrected her career after a long quiet spell. Shanshan Feng is a bit streaky but is playing well even when she's a bit off. And Na Yeon Choi has quietly had a very consistent year. I suspect these five players will be the big movers in 2013.

Several players who have been top players in years past now seem to be fighting inconsistency -- Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, Paula Creamer, and Ai Miyazato come to mind. Some of that has been the result of injuries and some of it simply because they're trying too hard. They aren't "washed up" by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't look for their frustrations to go away in the next few months. I think they need to get in a rhythm, and that's hard to do when the playing schedule remains a bit sporadic and requires so much country-hopping.

Some of the Euro players like Mel Reid, Azahara Munoz, Caroline Hedwall, and Sandra Gal are in the same boat. When you're trying to get to that elite level consistently, it's easy to try too hard. They're going to face the same problems as the girls in the last paragraph.

Finally, I need to mention Michelle Wie. While several of the typically good players (like Morgan Pressel) have struggled and gotten a pass because of major life changes like getting married, Michelle hasn't. I still think folks are underestimating how disorienting it's been for her to leave the hectic schedule she had at Stanford for five years and try to set up new routines focused purely on golf. I believe Michelle is going to make a serious comeback around middle-to-late 2013.

As for the tours in general, the main thing I expect is for serious talks to start about holding a major in Asia. As I have said in past posts, I expect the LPGA Championship to become a joint LET/LPGA Championship and perhaps rotate throughout Asia. That would give the women two majors in the US, two in Europe, and one in Asia. Although I clearly don't expect it to happen in 2013, I do expect talks to begin.

The LPGA is truly a world tour now and has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with the other women's tours around the world. That trend is only going to continue in 2013, and so the women's game will evolve more than any of the men's tours going forward. It should be interesting to see what the world of women's golf looks like in 12 months!

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