With so much changed in the last 13 months in women's golf, it's well past time I updated my June 2012 ranking of the active LPGAers with 7 or more wins on tour, splitting it for the 1st time time into those with 7 to 9 wins and those in the double digits, arranged as usual by their likelihood of winning (again) this season. [Note: the numbers in parentheses indicate total LPGA wins and majors, respectively.]
Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2013
1. Suzann Pettersen (11/1): She's played dominating golf in brief bursts of late, at the end of 2012 (with back-to-back wins in Asia) and in her last 10 starts in 2013, where she has 5 top 3s and 7 top 10s (including 1 win). Putting aside those 2 bizarre missed cuts in that run, I think she's playing the best golf of anyone in this category and is ready to add to her major total.
2. Ji-Yai Shin (11/2): With all the focus on Ya Ni and Inbee of late, Ji-Yai's been almost the forgotten golfer and it's true she's cooled off since winning 3 times in 7 starts between the end of the 2012 and the start of the 2013 seasons. Her missed cut at Sebonack was only her 2nd as an LPGA member. But she remains the 2nd-ranked player in my career evaluation system and probably just needs to hit a few more greens per week to start contending and winning again.
3. Karrie Webb (39/7): During her 1st 11 seasons on the LPGA, she was a consistent threat for the money-list title (which she took 3 times), Player of the Year award (twice), and Vare Trophy (3 times, the lowest scoring average of the 3 coming in 1999, at 69.43). In her near-20-year-long LPGA career, she's never finished outside the top 30 on the money list, only once had a scoring average above 72, only twice failed to make the top 20 on the money list (once when her scoring average rose above 71.50 for only the 3rd time in her career), and only 4 times failed to enter the winner's circle (in 2 of those seasons, her best finish was 2nd; last year, it was 3rd; for the other, it was 4th). She's already won once this year at the ShopRite and playing well enough to win any time she tees it up. It's only a matter of when, not if, win #40 on the LPGA will come.
4. Cristie Kerr (16/2): 2011 was her 1st season without a win since 2003, although she extended her million-dollar-season run to 8 straight years. That was broken in 2012, even though she did salvage an otherwise disappointing season with a win at Lorena's place. She's started playing--and putting--better in 2013 and already has a win to her credit, but she may be protecting an injury, given her WD at the NW Arkansas event that's her only blemish in what would otherwise be a 6-event-and-counting top 20 run. Let's see how she does in the WBO and Solheim Cup--they could kick her season to a new level or set her back in a big way.
5. Ya Ni Tseng (15/5): She's missed 3 cuts in a row and 4 in her last 7 starts (in her previous 128 starts, she missed only 8 cuts). The problems start, as they did last season, with her driver. She's gone from being an Annika/Lorena-style straight-up bomber to more of a Michelle Wie-style wild bomber. This year, she's hitting only 56% of her fairways and despite good putting just is getting into too much trouble off the tee and not giving herself as many looks at birdies as she's accustomed to. She's still tops in my ranking system in top 3 rate and winnings per start and finish, but is falling fast in every category. Still, problems with the driver are something that can sometimes clear up very quickly, when a new club or swing thought suddenly clicks. So as bad as things look right now, I'm thinking a win is still possible for her in 2013.
Quantum Leap Candidate
6. Se Ri Pak (25/5): From 1998-2004, she was one of the 3 best players in the world of women's golf, racking up 22 golds, 14 silvers, 6 bronzes, and 83 top 10s in all. She won the Vare Trophy in 2003 with a 70.03 scoring average, but not in 2002 with a 69.85 one or in 2001 with a 69.69 (thanks, Annika!). She was a 4-time silver medalist on the money list and 2-time bronze medalist during this stretch. She hasn't been nearly that dominant since then, but she won her 5th major in dramatic fashion at the 2006 LPGA Championship, became a 5-time winner of the Farr (now Marathon) in 2007, the year she was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and got her 25th career win at the Bell Micro in 2010. She's been plagued by a shoulder injury the past couple of seasons and between that and her irregular schedule she's suffering a lack of consistency on the course. She's put together a lot of good rounds, but not a lot of good weeks. Still, she fought back over the weekend in Ohio to a T12 when it looked like she was out of it, so I wouldn't entirely put another win out of the question for her this year.
On the Bottom, Looking Up
7. Juli Inkster (31/7): She's gotten 2 top 20s this season, the most recent in NW Arkansas, but she's also missed the cut in 7 of her last 10 starts. She's still driving the ball pretty well, but her game lacks accuracy and precision after that. If she can start hitting her approach shots better, that could be the key to better scoring.
8. Laura Davies (20/4): She's gained a little distance this year, but continues her 3-season trend of bad putting. Until she gets the flat stick working, those last 2 Hall of Fame points she needs are looking further and further out of reach.