As we wait another week for the tour to resume, let's have a little fun.
I think everyone would agree that the talent on the LPGA tour is deeper than anytime in its history. I think there are numerous reasons why that is so.
First, I think the ladies are starting out younger. I also think they are certainly much stronger. That said, I think the influx of international players is the key reason this tour has so much depth. In 2012 the LPGA roster has 128 international players from 27 different countries. South Korea alone has 42 players. They are followed by Sweden (13), Canada (10), Australia (8), Japan and Spain (6). With each tournament played, the LPGA puts on display the brightest stars from all over the world.
What I want to try to answer today is:
Who are the absolute best players?
Who have hit their peaks?
Do we have any future Hall of Famers?
That is what I would like to focus on now, the Hall of Fame.
First, let's look at the requirements:
1- Must have 10 years of service on the LPGA tour.
2- Must have won or been rewarded one of the following: an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy (lowest strokes per round average), or Rolex Player of the Year honors.
3- Must have accumulated 27 points, which are awarded as follows - 1 point for each LPGA official tournament win, One extra point if the win was a major championship, and one point for each Vare Trophy or Player of the Year honor earned.
Now let's look at the players still playing regularly, who have already met those requirements.
Karrie Webb - 49 points (37 wins, 7 majors, 3 Vare, 2 POY).
Juli Inkster - 38 points (31 wins, 7 majors, 0 Vare, 0 POY).
Se Ri Pak - 31 points (25 wins, 5 majors, 1 Vare, 0 POY).
That is a very short list. I want to mention that Lorena Ochoa has accumulated more than enough points (37), but retired before putting in the 10 years. I am sure the powers at be will vote her in, in the very near future.
Now for the fun part: I am going to play odds maker and try to handicap 16 of the current star players on tour that I think have any chance of qualifying some day.
The Sure Shot
1- Yani Tseng (13 wins, 5 majors, 1 Vare, 2 POY) Odds 1-5
I used to argue that 27 points was too hard to achieve. I thought it should be lowered. Yani threw that argument out the window, when she accumulated 11 points last year alone. At the age of 23, Yani already has 21 points. Open up the doors, Yani is taking the fast track.
Well On Their Way
2- Jiyai Shin - (8 wins, 1 major) Odds 2-1
2010 was an off year, by her high standards. She has looked very good so far this year. We tend to forget she is still only 23. Already a major winner, look for Jiyai to be amongst the best for years to come.
3- Paula Creamer - (9 wins, 1 major) Odds 11-5
Wrist surgery delayed her climb a bit, but she fulfilled the major championship requirement by winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2010. She proved herself healthy last year with 4 top 3 finishes. Still very young at 25 years old, Pauls is well on her way with 10 points.
4- Ai Miyazato - ( 7 wins, 0 majors) Odds 13-5
I think she is certainly as good as the two players I ranked above her. I have to rank her lower though, because she is older than both of them and has less points. The other blemish on her record (compared to Creamer and Shin), is that she has yet to win a major. I think that major is coming soon. She will need a couple of more years like 2010, which she is surely capable of.
5- Na Yeon Choi (5 wins, 0 majors, 1 Vare) Odds 3-1
To get into the Hall of Fame, she is going to have to turn more of those top 10's into victories. Won the Vare trophy in 2010, so we know she has the talent. Her Sunday rounds seem to lack confidence. At 24 years old, I see lots of wins in her future.
Running Out of Time
6- Cristie Kerr (14 wins, 2 majors) Odds 4-1
Several times she has come so close to winning the Vare Trophy and Player of the Year award, but has never won either. That may cost her dearly. She has accumulated 16 points, but at age 34 and 11 points short, it will be an uphill battle. Generally considered the best putter on tour, she will have to maintain that status to have any chance.
7- Laura Davies (20 wins, 4 majors, 1 POY) Odds 5-1
She belongs in the Hall of Fame. I think I read somewhere, where she has won another 50 tournaments overseas. Unfortunately she is still 2 points short. At age 48, chances are she isn't going to win again on the LPGA. She hasn't been on the leader board in quite some time, but stranger things have happened. Like Lorena, she will be voted in someday.
8- Suzann Pettersen (8 wins, 1 major) Odds 6-1
Why is it that when I think of the elite players on the tour, I always think of her very quickly? Why is she in this category? Because even though she is in her prime at age 31, she is running out of time. Unbelievably, she only has accumulated 9 points in her career. When I looked it up, I thought surely that had to be a mistake. It wasn't. She needs to start winning quickly. Two wins last year give her some hope.
They Need to Show Us More
9- I.K. Kim (3 wins, 0 majors) Odds 8-1
I am not sure yet how big a star she will be. Like Na Yeon Choi, she has to turn some of her many top 10's into wins. Seems to disappear on Sundays. At 23 years old she certainly has time on her side.
10- Brittany Lincicome (5 wins, 1 major) Odds 8-1
Brittany finally lived up to expectations in 2011 by winning twice. Nicknamed "Bam Bam" for her long hitting abilities, Brittany is still young enough at 26 to win regularly for years to come. Whether she will stay on the tour long enough is another question. Rumor has it she will only play another couple of years and then retire to her boat and fish. If she plays longer than that, she could beat these odds.
11- Stacy Lewis (1 win, 1 major) Odds 10-1
We knew when she came out of college that she had the potential to be a big star. She finally started living up to her potential last year, when she made her first victory a major. She seems to be in contention to win almost every week. A very emotional player, that seems to be her downfall. She has the tendency to turn bogies into triple bogeys with regularity. One bad hole leads to several bad holes. Stacy is one of those players who could step up and challenge Yani. Until she gets those emotions in check, it's not going to happen.
12- Michelle Wie (2 wins, 0 majors) Odds 10-1
Sometimes I wonder why I continue to put her on this list. The word "underachiever" is surely tossed around whenever discussing her. She has not won since 2010 and her short game is nothing short of a disaster. She seems to be going in the wrong direction. I am still going to give her the benefit of doubt, one more time. She will be graduating any time now, so sharing time with studies will no longer be an excuse. Still, if she ever puts it together, she could move up quickly. Her talent has never been questioned, but does she have the desire? Still only 22, I think this year will tell us alot.
13- Hee Kyung Seo (1 win, 0 majors) )Odds 15-1
A very talented and charismatic lady. The only reason I don't rank her higher is that she started on the LPGA very late, by today's standards. At 25, many of the girls listed above have many more points at a younger age. Hall or fame or not, she will be interesting to watch for years to come.
Okay, those are the players I think have at least a reasonable chance of qualifying for the Hall of Fame. Now I'm going to push this just a little bit further. The LPGA has 3 players who still are "babies" on the tour, but I think that they are so exceptionally talented that I have to put them on this list. Yes I know it's a bit premature, but since this is for fun, I'm going to do it anyway.
The Super Stars of the Future
1- Lexi Thompson (1 win) Odds 5-1
Has their ever been a golfer of any gender, this good, this young? Last year at 16, she won on both the LPGA and LET tours. The sky's the limit.
2- So Yeon Ryu (1 win, 1 major) Odds 6-1
Want to get yourself noticed? Try winning as a non LPGA member, and make that win the U.S. Open. That is what Seo Yeon did last year. Already got into a playoff in one of the 2 tournaments she has played this year in her rookie season. Now if I can only stop mixing her up with Hee Kyeong Seo. At 21, she is going to be a superstar.
3- Jessica Korda (1 win) Odds 12-1
Did not have a very good rookie year last year. She made us all forget that by winning the Australian Open in her only appearance so far this year. Was it a fluke? I don't think so. Greatness is in her bloodline. At 18 years young, more wins will follow.