Have I mentioned yet how excited I am at the beginning of the 2008 LPGA season? Team Philippines' shocking victory over Team Korea in the Women's World Cup of Golf, as covered by Hound Dog, kicks off this season just as the last one ended: with another huge upset that suggests we're in the midst of tectonic shifts in women's golf. What does it mean that struggling mid-career former stars Jennifer Rosales and Dorothy Delasin outplayed up-and-coming superstars Ji-Yai Shin and Eun-Hee Ji down the stretch this weekend? In this post, I want to focus on what it means for the LPGA veterans--the 10 active players whose LPGA careers began before 2000 and who are at or near the top of the career wins and money lists, along with 11 others whose careers I want to note.
1. Annika Sorenstam (1994) $20.84M (#1); 69/10 wins/majors in the era named after her: After her injury-induced worst season on the LPGA since her rookie year, can she do to Lorena Ochoa, who has been the top women's golfer in the world for the past two years, what she did in 2001 after Karrie Webb had been the best in the LPGA over the previous two years? How many wins and majors can she rack up before she decides to end her LPGA career?
2. Karrie Webb (1996) $13.46M (#2); 35/7: Can she bounce back in 2008 like she did in 2006? That is, can she regain her Hall of Fame form and contend again for Player of the Year?
3. Juli Inkster (1983) $11.99M (#3); 16/4 (31/7 overall): Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent? Can she get one more win and qualify for one more Solheim Cup before she decides to retire?
4. Se Ri Pak (1998) $9.79M (#5); 24/5: Can she beat Ochoa to the $11M mark in career winnings just as Ochoa beat her to the $10M mark? Can she maintain her lead on her in career victories and majors? Can she regain her Hall of Fame form and contend again for Player of the Year?
5. Laura Davies (1988) $8.41M (#9); 15/3 (20/4 overall): Can she get those last two points she needs to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame? (She's 0-11 when she's had her best chances to do it in the last 6 years.) Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent?
6. Mi Hyun Kim (1999) $7.86M (#10); 8/0: Can she maintain her lead on Cristie Kerr on the career money list and catch her in the career victories/majors race? Can she break through and actually contend for a Player of the Year award? Or, given her string of injuries in 2007, are her years as a top 10 player numbered?
7. Cristie Kerr (1997) $7.83M (#11); 10/1: Can she continue her 4-year run as best American on tour, or is she going to be stampeded in 2008 by the youth movement of Creamer, Pressel, Prammanasudh, Castrale, and Lincicome? Can she break through and actually contend for a Player of the Year award?
8. Lorie Kane (1996) $6.64M (#14); 4/0: Does Team Canada's surprisingly strong performance at the Women's World Cup herald a return to competitiveness for her? Can she follow Juli Inkster's career path, or is she going to be remembered as a top 15 player who had three fantastic years but lacked staying power?
9. Pat Hurst (1995) $5.91M (#15); 5/1: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 2002 and become a top 30 player again?
10. Sherri Steinhauer (1986) $5.85M (#16); 6/1 (8/2 overall): Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent? Can she keep pace with Hurst on the money list before her career runs out?
Best of the Rest
11. Rachel Hetherington (1997) $5.40M (#21); 8/0: Can she become a top 30 player again, or are her best years on tour behind her?
12. Catriona Matthew (1995) $5.06M (#24); 2/0: Can the #2 player from the class of 1995 catch Hurst and stay ahead of Carin Koch before their careers run out? Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent?
13. Laura Diaz (1999) $4.10M (#29); 2/0: Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent?
14. Carin Koch (1995) $4.05M (#31); 2/0: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 1997? Can she keep pace with Diaz on the money/victories lists before her career runs out?
15. Wendy Ward (1996) $3.93M (#33); 4/0: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 1999, or are her years as an exempt player numbered?
16. Sophie Gustafson (1998) $3.90M (#34); 4/0: Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent? (Team Sweden's disappointing performance at the Women's World Cup does not bode well for either her or Maria Hjorth.)
17. Maria Hjorth (1998) $3.74M (#36); 3/0: Can she pass Gustafson on the career winnings/victories lists? Is she going to be remembered as a player who had three great years in an otherwise undistinguished career?
18. Emilee Klein (1995) #3.15M (#47); 3/0: Appears to be the first top player in the class of 1995 to have retired.
19. Wendy Doolan (1996) $2.74M (#58); 3/0: Can she resurrect her career after the past 3 weak seasons, or is she heading in the direction of Ward and Klein?
20. Kelli Kuehne (1998) $2.12M (#76); 1/0: Got new life with her fantastic 2007 Q-School performance--can she carry it over to the regular season, something she's been unable to do the past 4 years?
21. Moira Dunn (1995) $1.97M (#81); 1/0: Can my old friend play well enough in 2008 to keep her card? Can she pass Kuehne on the money/wins career lists? Can she at least stay off Hound Dog's list of fluke victories since 1990? (He has her on probation right now.)