It's not surprising that the SI Guys focus on Ji-Yai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Ya Ni Tseng, and Michelle Wie as potential #1s on the LPGA after Lorena Ochoa retires. I've seen Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer mentioned, as well. But I'd suggest it's going to come down to Ji-Yai Shin against a name nobody else seems to be mentioning: Ai Miyazato.
Yes, Ai-sama has gone through a tough stretch recently, finding it hard to make birdies in the run-up to and aftermath of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Yes, Shin is 21 spots ahead of her on the JLPGA money list and only 4 spots behind her on the LPGA money list. And even if Ai-sama retakes the top spot this week in Mexico and a few people pass Ji-Yai on the LPGA list, she'll fall much further behind Ji-Yai on the JLPGA one. But what really matters is the Rolex Rankings, where Ai-sama has dropped over a half-point behind Ji-Yai from being in a virtual dead heat with her most of last month. And it's there that both Ai-sama and Ji-Yai have a huge advantage over their top competitors on the LPGA this season.
Both are clearly among the top players on the JLPGA. Their odds of winning on the JLPGA are much higher than on the LPGA. And the strength of JLPGA fields, with 8 of the top 25, 15 of the top 50, and 36 of the top 100 playing there at least fairly regularly, means that good finishes (top 10s) and great finishes (top 5s) can help their world ranking in a meaningful way, even if they don't rack up multiple wins there in 2010. With the top players so closely bunched (Lorena at 9.11 is just over a point and a half ahead of Cristie Kerr at 7.50), and with just about any of the top 30 LPGA regulars capable of taking the top spot in the next few years, being able to augment your LPGA results with good or great play on other tours could end up being the deciding factor.
With Ji-Yai having played the last couple of weeks on the JLPGA but skipping the Salonpas Cup and Ai-sama having rested up for a trip back to Japan for it--and both players committed to the Bell Micro and the Sybase Match Play Championship in May--they'll have taken slightly different paths to the same goal: playing their best in the prime LPGA schedule in June and July. Can't wait to see how they do!
[Update 1 (5:21 pm): Thanks to Jay Busbee for the linkage!]