With Lydia Ko joining the ranks of the LPGA's 2-time winners, it's time to update my ranking from last March and offer up my latest best guesses as to who's most likely to enter "Club 36" (3-to-6-time winners on tour) in 2014!
Most Likely to Win in 2014
1. So Yeon Ryu: The #1 player in the LPGA's Class of 2012 (yes, ahead of Lexi Thompson) is also my pick for 2-time LPGA winner most likely to get her 3rd in 2014. She had 7 top 5s last season without a victory. 'Nuff said.
2. Lydia Ko: Her 2013 stats for her limited LPGA schedule were world class: 70.413 scoring average, 4.04 birdies per round, 72% GIR, 1.736 putts per GIR! (Even better than 2012's.) I'm not saying she's guaranteed a win in 2014, but I don't think anyone would be surprised if she got 1 (or more)!
[Update 1 (1/26/14, 8:24 pm): Let's leave a space here for Jessica Korda when I next redo this forward-looking ranking!]
3. Hee Young Park: The #3 player in the Class of 2008 has the ability to win in bunches. Even when she struggled after getting a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at various points in the middle of last season, she still managed to make it into the top 20 in 4 of her last 9 starts of 2013. Will 2014 be the year that the Rocket truly harnesses her talent?
4. Anna Nordqvist: Hound Dog claims her rookie season in 2009 was the best by anyone in LPGA history who failed to win the Rookie of the Year award and ranks it 8th overall. So it's astounding that the #3 player in the Class of 2009 has only 5 top 3s in her entire LPGA career. Let's hope that changes soon--Sweden needs her at Solheim Cup strength if they're going to have a chance for the International Crown! [Update 2 (2/23/14, 1:13 pm): Nice win for Anna in Thailand!]
The Next Best
5. Morgan Pressel: The Class of 2006's #2 player notched a T3 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and a T4 at the Ricoh Women's British Open and finished last season with 5 top-25 finishes in her last 7 starts. If she can improve her iron game in 2014, watch out for her!
6. Sun Young Yoo: A straight shooter in the Cristie Kerr/Angela Stanford/Brittany Lang mold, this '06er struggled early in 2013 but closed with 6 top 25s in her last 7 starts, including 2 top 10s in a row at the very end of that run. Maybe she's ready to raise the level of her game in 2014 beyond the little plateau she's been on the last couple of seasons.
7. Michelle Wie: We may look back at the 2013 Solheim Cup as that long-awaited turning point in her LPGA career. She notched a couple of top 10s and another top 20 in the run-up to it, then followed it up with a T3 in Korea as part of an end-of-season run that included 8-straight made cuts and 5-straight top-25 finishes. That's enough for me to move her a lot closer to where she belongs on this list, or others.
Quantum Leap Candidates
8. Eun-Hee Ji: Which is a better predictor of her 2014 chances--her 4th-place finish in Taiwan or her 63rd-place finish at the Titleholders? After a great run to start the 2012 season, the #3 player in the Class of 2007 has been quite inconsistent, with only 3 top 20s in all of 2013. She needs to hit more greens to improve on that stat in 2014.
9. Meena Lee: Her approach shots and putting haven't been as accurate the last 3 seasons as is usual for her, but she still was able to go on a run in the lead-up to the Women's British Open that included a 4th-place finish at the Manulife, a 7th-place finish at the Marathon, and a T11 at the WBO. Let's see what 2014 has in store for her.
10. Katherine Hull-Kirk: She never was able to improve on the T8 that opened her 2013 season, although she did have a T15 at the Evian Championship. Let's see if she can turn things around in 2014.
On the Bottom, Looking Up
11. Jeong Jang: It's definitely been taking her awhile to get back in the swing of things since coming back from maternity leave in 2012 after taking all of 2011 off. Her only bright spot in 2013 was an out-of-nowhere top 5 at the ShopRite. Here's hoping little Seul Samantha allows her mama enough practice time in 2014 to return to the form that put her regularly in contention before wrist injuries derailed her career.
12. Jimin Kang: Her T13 at the RR Donnelley was a great start to her 2013, but it ended quickly due to injury and she's back in 2014 on a medical exemption.
13. Jennifer Rosales: She was a top-30 caliber player from 2002-2005, when she notched her 2 wins and 17 of her 20 top 10s, but she hasn't broken into the top 10 for ages, although she did get 4 top 20s in the middle of last season. Between injuries and bad golf, she's been missing more cuts than she's made since 2005, yet still hanging onto her card. Let's see if she can put it all back together in 2014.
14. Ji Young Oh: My doubts from February 2010--"Somehow I can't believe that this Junior Mint has as promising a future on the LPGA as the other Young Guns on this list...."--have been right on target the last few years. Her best finish last season was T35.
15. Karen Stupples: This veteran and mother of 2 got back in shape in every respect but her golf game in 2013. She'll get plenty of starts in 2014. Let's see what she does with them this year!
16. Christina Kim: The good news is, she got a couple of top 20s last season. The bad news is, she's been in a prolonged slump with few other signs of coming out of it.
17. Laura Diaz: She'd been a regular in the top 40 and on the Solheim Cup since 2000, and even had 2 consecutive top-10 seasons early last decade, but coming back from the birth of her daughter has proven quite difficult. From 2009 to 2013, she found every aspect of the game challenging and is now hanging onto her card by the tips of her fingers, at #142 on the LPGA's 2014 Priority Status List.
On the Outside, Looking In
18. Momoko Ueda: She'll be spending 2014 at least on the JLPGA. Her 2 LPGA victories both came at the Mizuno Classic, so let's see if she can get a 2nd non-member win soon!
19. Carin Koch: She notched 56 LPGA top 10s between 1995 and 2008, but only 2 wins--and at the Corning Classic and in Mexico (2 warning signs from my 1-time winners' ranking). But she moved back to Sweden in 2009 and has played only the 2 dual LPGA-LET events per season ever since. Don't get me wrong--she's often played well on the LET and finished 2013 at #75 on their Order of Merit in only 9 starts--but she's just not giving herself many chances to add to her LPGA win total.
20. Gloria Park: I actually don't know if she's still playing full-time at home in Korea, but I assume so.
Over and Out
21. Stacy Prammanasudh: Although she's listed at #65 on the priority status list, she retired at the Titleholders last season after a great career that included a Solheim Cup and $3.54M in winnings (she finished 2013 at #67 on the career money list).
22. Janice Moodie: At #224 on the priority status list, this 3-time Solheim Cupper has ended her active career never having lost her LPGA tour card, even when she gave birth in 2006 and played only 10 events. Her last win came in 2002; she earned $3.68M overall and finished 2013 at #58 on the career money list. (She did play twice last season and missed the cut both times, so maybe she'll get a start or 2 this season, as well.)