With Angela Stanford getting career win #5 in stirring fashion in Singapore, and Brittany Lincicome and Na Yeon Choi already getting great opportunities in playoffs for their 6th, I'm wondering who will be the next player to graduate from Club 36 to the 7-Up Club.
Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2012
1. Na Yeon Choi (5/0): She faded on the weekend in Thailand but hung in there in Singapore and almost lucked her way into win #6. She gave herself great chances from the fairway during the playoff, but her approach shots let her down when it counted. Still, there's no reason to think the world #2 won't keep putting herself in position to win. I'd just like to see her project a little more confidence and better body language when she's in the hunt.
2. Angela Stanford (5/0): Last June, I wrote, "I'm thinking that with her ballstriking coming back online, she has a chance to join the super-elite." She's not there yet, but she's closer than she's been in the last 3 years!
3. Brittany Lincicome (5/1): I'm still waiting for her to go on a real run and put herself in contention over several events in a row. For a bomber, she's pretty accurate off the tee, but she needs to be giving herself more and better looks at birdie to take it to the next level.
4. In-Kyung Kim (3/0): Last time, I wrote, "As she keeps putting herself in contention so often, I'm sure she's gaining the experience to start converting more great weeks into wins." But in her 10 top 20s (and 6 top 10s) since then, she's only broken 70 in a final round once (and that was to sneak into T18 at the Walmart last September). It's not that she's played terrible--quite the contrary, she's been mostly under par--but that hasn't quite been good enough to push her over the top just yet. I'm still confident win #4 is a matter of time.
5. Catriona Matthew (4/1): Last time, I wrote, "she's been striking many blows for the moms on tour this season, thanks to some truly impressive ballstriking (she's #2 on tour in GIR to Suzann Pettersen). Any week she gets her putter going is a week she has a great chance to win!" And sure enough, she contended at the Women's British Open and the Mizuno Open and won at Lorena's place. She's off to a solid start in 2012, which would be even better if she had played better on Thursday in Thailand and Singapore.
6. Maria Hjorth (5/0): She continued to play well over the 2nd half of 2011, but had a bad case of "one-bad-round-itis" that she hasn't appeared to be able to shake during the off-season.
Quantum Leap Candidates
7. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): She contended at the Women's British Open last season, but hasn't done anything all that special since and has gotten off to a rocky start in 2012.
8. Candie Kung (4/0): Since my last update to this list, she put together 3 top 20s in majors in a row, then closed out the season with top 20s in 3 of her last 5 starts, including a Thursday and Friday during which she thrilled the home crowd in Taiwan. But with a slow start during 2012's Asian swing, she's going to have to regroup in March.
9. Hee-Won Han (6/0): After suffering through one of the worst stretches of golf in her career over the 1st half of the season, she contended in Canada, got another top 10 in Taiwan, and found the top 25 in 6 of her last 8 starts. But she's started 2012 with an even colder putter than during that bad spell last season and will need a serious reset when the tour returns to the States in March.
10. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): Even with all her struggles the last 3 seasons (during which she's put together only 5 top 10s since the final McDonalds LPGA Championship in '09), she's just too good a golfer for the 1st slump of her LPGA career to last much longer. I'm looking for her to kick off 2012 with a bang at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, the site of her last top 10.
11. Wendy Ward (4/0): Since last writing, she hasn't been able to overcome an ice-cold putter, with her best finish a T11 in Taiwan. But really that's been the story of her career since 2006, as she's been bouncing between $200K and $400K in winnings and has failed to get below 1.82 putts per green in regulation over the last 6 seasons. She drove the ball great in 2011 but couldn't do much with it at all. Can she improve her iron play and putting in 2012? Maybe, but it didn't happen on the Asian swing.
On the Bottom, Looking Up
12. Pat Hurst (6/1): Her WD in Singapore didn't garner nearly the attention of Paula Creamer's or Song-Hee Kim's, but it's part of a troubling trend since her spring 2009 win, a long stretch marked by the fact that her only top 10s have come during majors ('09 KNC, '11 Wegmans LPGA Championship)....
13. Grace Park (6/1): At #93 on the 2012 Priority Status List, she should get into her share of events this season, but will need to do more than show flashes of her old game if she wants to keep her card in 2013.
14. Lorie Kane (4/0): At #105 on the Priority Status List, she'll get to play pretty much all the full-field events she wants to in 2012. She found herself in contention in Australia until blowing up with a final-round 80, so, coupled with some surprisingly strong play on the LET recently, there's some room for optimism for the veteran this season.
15. Wendy Doolan (3/0): At #99(a) on the priority status list thanks to a medical exemption, she, too, will get another chance to extend her LPGA career yet further. She missed the cut in Australia, but given that it was her 1st start since May 2010, just teeing it up was a huge victory for this breast cancer survivor.
16. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card since 2006 and sits at #192 on the Priority Status List. She's missed her last 7 cuts in a row dating back to October 2010--and has made only 1 cut in her 33 starts from October 2008 to the present. She's hung on longer than another former ROY, '07er Angela Park, but I have to wonder if this will be her last competitive season.