It was back in July that I last looked at who I thought were the biggest surprises and the biggest disappointments of the 2012 season. Twelve more tournaments were played since then. Many things have changed.
The year ended with winners from eight different countries:
United States 8 - Stacy Lewis (4), Jessica Korda, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr
South Korea 8 - Inbee Park (2), Na Yeon Choi (2), Jiyai Shin (2), Sun Young Yoo, So Yeon Ryu
Japan 3 - Ai Miyazato (2), Mika Miyazato
Taiwan 3 - Yani Tseng (3)
Norway 2 - Suzann Pettersen (2)
Spain 1 - Azahara Munoz
China 1 - Shanshan Feng
New Zealand 1 - Lydia Ko
The year brought us six first time winners:
Lydia Ko (non LPGA member)
Here are who I thought were the biggest surprises and disappointments of 2012.
1- So Yeon Ryu - Before the season started I picked her to win the Rookie of the Year Award, which she did quite easily. I just never thought that she would rise to elite status this quickly. Not only did she win in her first season (she had won the U.S. Open previously as a non LPGA player), but she had 12 top 5 finishes and 16 top tens. She only missed the cut one time in 24 starts.
2- Inbee Park - Coming into this season she had better results playing in Asia, than she had on the LPGA tour. Always considered a very good player, she also stepped it up to elite status this year. She started the season slowly, failing to register a top ten in her first 9 starts. She then went on a roll that few have ever seen before on any tour. She had ten consecutive finishes in the top ten. She finished the season with 2 victories, 10 top fives, and 12 top tens. Look for her to compete for the number one spot in the world next year.
3- Stacy Lewis - She was ranked number ten in the world when the year started, so her having a good year was not a big surprise. What was a surprise was just how big her year would be. Stacy became the first American player since 1994 to win the Rolex Player of the Year Award. Not only did Stacy win 4 times, but she had 12 top five finishes and 16 top tens. The Rolex Rankings are based on a rolling 2 year period, which means the 7 wins that Yani Tseng had in 2011 will be wiped off the board during the 2013 season. Look for Stacy to be the favorite to challenge for that # 1 position.
4- Shanshan Feng - Shanshan became the first player to ever win from mainland China. She tends to be a bit more streaky than the three listed ahead of her here. In her finest season to date, Shanshan had 7 top fives and 8 top tens.
5- Azahara Munoz - Azahara made her 3rd season on the LPGA, her finest season by far. The 2010 rookie of the year won the Sybase Match Play Championship, making that one of her five top fives and 9 top tens on the year.
6- Beatriz Recari - Just like Azahara above, Beatriz is also from Spain. In 2010 Beatriz finished 2nd to Azahara for the Rookie of the Year Award, and always seems to be in her shadow. In 2012 Beatriz had a fine year of her own that seemed to go unnoticed. She was one of only 5 players to make every cut (Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb, Na Yeon Choi, and Jiyai Shin were the others), in the 2012 season. She never finished out of the top 20 in her last 6 tournaments of the year.
7- Jenny Shin - Cooled off some the second half of the season, but her 2 top fives and her 5 top tens tell me she has a bright future. She missed only 2 cuts in her 25 starts.
8- Karen Sjodin - Was 2012 a fluke? In her first 6 years on the LPGA tour she was just a marginal player.
Very consistent in 2012, Karen had 9 top twenty finishes, and made 17 of 21 cuts.
1- Morgan Pressel - What happened to her? Everyone seems to have their own opinion. Was it the well publicized penalty she was given at the Sybase Match Play Championship that cost her a victory? Is she playing with an injury? Is her upcoming wedding distracting her? What we do know is that Morgan, who had missed very few cuts in her entire career, missed 8 cuts in her last 11 tournaments. We also know that she didn't have another top 10 after Sybase, covering 14 tournaments.
2- Christina Kim - One of the more popular players on tour, Christina has failed to play up to her standards for 2 years now. Things have finally hit rock bottom. She teed it up 19 times this year without a top 10, or even being in contention. She failed to make the cut in eleven of those tournaments. This poor play forced her to go back to Q-School to retain her playing privileges. She was not very successful there either. Finishing out of the top twenty she will retain her card, but her priority rating will be so poor that she will be fortunate if she gets into a half dozen events.
3- Michelle Wie - She will not be on this list next year because I am now giving up on my expectations for her. Is there any part of her game that is good right now? If the holes on the greens were the size of manhole covers, she still wouldn't make a putt. In 22 starts this year she had one top ten.
4- Sophie Gustafson - What happened to the lady that won all five of her matches at the Solheim Cup Championship last year? Sophie made 22 starts this year without registering a top 20. In her last 12 starts she didn't even have a top 30.
5- Amanda Blumenherst - It just hasn't been a disappointing year for Amanda, but it is now turning into a disappointing career. Coming out of Duke University 3 years ago, she was supposed to be the greatest thing since the invention of sliced bread. Unfortunatly the only thing I see slicing are her drives. Teeing it up 23 times in 2012, Amanda had just one top 10. In her last 16 events she missed 11 cuts, with her best finish being a tie for 33.
6- Mindy Kim - Mindy had a very poor year with only one top ten and missed 11 of 22 cuts. She could not finish any higher than 25th in her last 10 events.
7- Meena Lee - Always a solid player, Mindy had only 2 top tens in 26 starts
8- Amy Yang - I know her season wasn't all that bad. She did have 5 top tens. The fact remains that she starts every year as the the best player on tour without a win. In 2012 six more players got their first wins, and Amy is still without one.
9- Ryann O'Toole - Everything seemed to go right for Ryann in 2011, she had a hot streak in the middle of the year and was picked for the Solheim Team. Things turned ugly this year. Ryann never was in contention in her 21 starts. Her best finish in stroke play was 37th. She missed her last 8 cuts, and 13 on the season. Barely finishing in a position to retain her card, Ryann better step it up or go it's back to Q-School next year.
10- Tiffany Joh - Her successful rookie season led us to expect good things from her this year. That didn't happen. She failed to have a single top ten finish in 22 starts. She finished in the dreaded 101st spot on the money list, meaning she will miss some tournaments next year.