Inbee Park set the women’s pro golf world on fire in 2013. She put 5 victories on her resume, tied Babe Zaharias’s long-standing record for number of majors won in a single season, and is starting the 2014 season with 39 weeks in the Number 1 Rolex Rank. She’s the best of the best among women golfers. Or is she?
The South Korean started 2013 strong, won the Honda LPGA Thailand in February with 4 sub-par rounds and an average score per round of 69, and went on to win Kraft Nabisco Championship and the North Texas LPGA Shootout, both in April, then the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, the Walmart Northwest Championship Presented by P&G, and the US Women’s Open, all in June. But then her winning streak ended.
Just as Park was poised to write a fresh page in the history book her red hot putter went stone cold. She went from a stunning 4-round romp to the top at the US Women’s Open to a dismal 42nd place finish at the RICOH Women’s British Open 6 weeks later. At St Andrews Park Park carded only 1 sub-par round and went to the clubhouse after the final round 6 shots over par.
Park never recovered the magic of her early season after St Andrews. The Serene Queen of Golf just couldn’t get her flat stick going. The consistent robotic swing that carried her to the top of the Rolex Rankings in the spring and early summer turned stiff and forced during the late summer and stayed that way into the fall.
Inbee Park’s coming into the 2014 season riding a No. 1 rank based on a performance level that ended last June. The 2013 Rolex Player of the Year can’t hold on to the top spot much longer if she doesn’t get her game back. Who’s in line to nudge her off the top?
Suzann Pettersen would certainly like to take the top spot and she made an heroic run at it during the 2nd half of the 2013 season. The Norwegian’s win in April at the LPGA Lotte Championship Presented by J Golf was just a prelude to what came later. Pettersen’s wins at The Evian Championship in September and then at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship in October almost got her there, but she needed victories at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the CME Group Titleholders to finish the job and she couldn’t do it.
Pettersen finished the 2013 season with an impressive but personally disappointing record. Has the Rolex Ranked No. 2 player lost her opportunity to take the top spot?
Can Stacy Lewis reclaim the glory of top ranked player? There’s no doubt that Lewis has a superb game in her bag. 2013 was a very good year for her, with early season wins at the HSBC Women’s Champions in February and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in March and her comeback victory at the RICOH British Women’s Open in August. Lewis consistently finished among the top-10 throughout 2013, and she also consistently let the pressure of the moment take precedence over her golf game.
If Lewis has strengthened her mental game she might reclaim the top spot in the rankings. But she’s going to face some stiff competition from the teenagers.
American Lexi Thompson and New Zealander Lydia Ko both ended the 2013 season very hot and they’re coming into the 2014 season ready to take on everybody. Ko’s not playing at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, but Thompson is, so we’ll have a chance to get an early look at the competitive dynamic between the top players and this young, aggressive, talented golfer.
This could be Thompson’s year. She ended the 2013 season on a high note, with victories at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November. I’m looking for Thompson to come off the first tee at Paradise Island hot and stay that way through her final putt!