Keeping my 2014 preview series going, it's time to update my July 2013 ranking of the active LPGAers with 7 to 9 wins on tour, arranged as usual by their likelihood of winning in this coming season. The race to 10 wins is heating up, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if every active player on this list graduated from it by the end of 2014.
[Note: the numbers in parentheses indicate total LPGA wins and majors, respectively.]
Most Likely to Win in 2014
1. Stacy Lewis (8/2): The LPGA's $6M Woman is also among its very hottest players. She finished no worse than T8 in 11 of her last 13 starts in 2013, with 3 runner-up finishes in that stretch (and another on the LET to close out the season). Almost immediately after I predicted that her 3rd win of the season wasn't far away in my last ranking, she beat out Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, and others to win the Women's British Open at St. Andrews. The 2013 Vare Trophy winner has decided to strike while the iron is hot and start 2014 in the Bahamas. At the rate she's going, she could become to 1st player in this group to join the double-digit winners on the LPGA!
2. Inbee Park (9/4): Yes, she hit the wall, wins-wise, soon after my last ranking, but closed 2013 with 3 top 5s in her last 5 starts to hold off a charging Suzann Pettersen for Player of the Year. I don't see any reason for her not to pick right up where she left off when she starts the 2014 season in Thailand. As long as she keeps her putter in history-making mode (she's averaged under 1.73 putts per green in regulation each of the last 3 seasons), the wins are going to keep piling up for the world #1.
3. Na Yeon Choi (7/1): Her 5-year streak of million-dollar seasons ended in 2013, as did her 4-year streak of winning at least once per season, so I'm thinking she has extra motivation to make 2014 a special year. Her 3 worse finishes of 2013 came after the Manulife, but she still finished T2 at the Women's British Open and 5th in China, so it's not like she was shut out of contention during last season's 2nd half. That said, I'm sure she's happy it's a new year. And she's clearly eager to get it started in the Bahamas next week.
The Next Best
4. Paula Creamer (9/1): Her 1st win since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open will come during 2014. I guarantee it. How can I be so sure? She needs to get her fiance a great wedding present! Seriously, although she stumbled down 2013's home stretch after almost breaking through in Ohio, she's the best of anyone who joined the LPGA since 2005 at snagging top 20s and she has a proven track record of putting herself in contention in about 1 out of every 5 starts. Clearly, she can't wait for the 2014 season to start, as she's scheduled to play in the Bahamas, Australia, and Thailand!
5. Ai Miyazato (9/0): I maintain Ai-sama was just a little off in 2013. She was good at getting top 30s, fine at getting top 20s, but had trouble hanging with the best players on tour because her ball-striking was off in the 1st half of the season and her putter went a little cold by her standards in the 2nd half. I think she was playing sick or hurt during the fall Asian swing, as well, as she closed with 4 straight finishes outside the top 20, with a WD after 3 rounds in the CME Group Titleholders. So I was a little surprised to see her name in the field list for the Bahamas. I thought she might take a little more of a break and start 2014 in Thailand. But she is skipping the Australian swing, at least. I'm hoping she starts the new season with a bang! She has a history of strong starts.
Over and Out
6. Helen Alfredsson (7/1): She's dropped to #200 on the 2014 LPGA Priority Status List, down in Category 18, after all the retired players who have 8 or more LPGA wins in the last 20 years. So this is the last time she'll appear in this ranking. Congratulations on a fabulous career, Helen!