Although the LPGA has completed only 7 of the 32 tournaments on the 2014 schedule, I don't think it is too early to take a look at some of the ladies who have been the biggest surprises and biggest disappointments of the year thus far.
As I do every year, I will do this again at the halfway point of the season and again at the season's end.
To further explain how I make my picks, the fact that Lydia Ko is doing so well and is not on my list is because I have such high expectations for her that this is not a surprise. The fact that the still slumping Yani Tseng, who was my biggest disappointment last year, is not on my list this year is because I have lowered my expectations so much that her continued poor play is no longer surprising.
With that in mind here are my early season choices:
Azahara Munoz Michelle Wie
1- Michelle Wie - I think over the last few years we have all lowered our expectations for Michelle. It certainly looks like we should start to rethink that. Michelle, for the first time in her career, appears as if she is comfortable with herself. She is enjoying playing golf again and it is showing in her results. She has not finished outside of the top 16 in any tournament this year, and her 69.75 scoring average leads the entire tour. She started the year the #61 player in the world, and is currently #24.
2- Anna Nordqvist - She won twice in her rookie year of 2010, including a major championship, and then didn't win again. Until this year that is. She has come out of the gate on fire winning two of the first 7 events of the season. She admitted "falling out of love with the game." She now has fallen back in love with it and the LPGA players are all taking notice.
3- Azahara Munoz - Her 2013 season was not a very good one. She didn't even get into the Titleholders Championship until the very last minute. She has never won a stroke play event on the LPGA tour and it was beginning to look like her match play victory was a fluke. Not any more! Azahara has gotten off to her best start of her career in 2014. She is the only player to have finished in the top 20 in all 7 tournaments. A miracle putt by Paula Creamer in a playoff prevented her from winning the HSBC championship, but it won't be long before she finds the winner's circle.
4- Gerina Piller - A late bloomer, Gerina has become one of the most consistent players in the game. Not that she is old at 29, but you usually don't see this dramatic an improvement at that age. 2013 was her best year by far as a professional, and she has been even better this year. Her finishes of 27th, 10th, 5th, 22nd, 10th, and 11th this year have vaulted her into the top 30 in the world.
5- Karrie Webb - Karrie has won twice already this year, and blew a 3 stroke lead on the back nine of the HSBC preventing her from winning a third. You may think that her being in the Hall of Fame should make this less of a surprise. I disagree. I don't think too many of us saw her playing this well in a year that she will be celebrating her 40th birthday.
Honorable mentions: Chella Choi (please win so your father can retire), and Jenny Shin.
Ai Miyazato Hee Kyung Seo Beatriz Recari
1- Ai Miyazato - Ai started slumping the second half of last year and hasn't shown many signs of coming out of it. In fact, she has failed to register a top 10 finish in her last 21 starts. Worse than that she has gone ten consecutive tournaments without a top 20. Her age suggests that she should be in the prime of her career. Has the ever increasing number of long hitters on the LPGA tour finally caught up to her? Once the #1 player in the world, for a total of 12 weeks, Ai has currently dropped all the way down to #34. As a person who spends lots of time at these tournaments, I want to say that Ai is one of the nicest and classiest people on the tour, and I will be rooting for her to return to form.
2- Beatriz Recariu - What a difference a year makes. Last year Beatriz won two tournaments and was the year's biggest surprise. This year she has failed to finish higher than 28th. She withdrew from a tournament a few weeks back, which may suggest she is suffering some kind of nagging injury. If healthy, look for her to be off this list at mid season.
3- Hee Kyung Seo - The model of the fairways, may have to find a runway soon. Seo has not contended in a tournament this year. In fact, I don't remember seeing a single shot of hers on TV. Her best finish this year is 29th. Hopefully at 27 years of age, her best golf is still ahead of her.
4- Ihlee Lee - Lee has started 6 tournaments this year, missing 2 cuts and finishing 29th, 46th, 50th, and 65th in the others. A winner last year in the abbreviated 36 hole tournament in the Bahamas may have raised our expectations of her higher than they should have been.
5- Moriya Jutanugarn - Last year's Rookie of the Year doesn't seem to have a clue this year. Moriya slumped badly the second half of last season and it has carried over to 2014. Her best finish this year is 27th and she has missed her last 2 cuts.
6- Mika Miyazato - Just two short years ago Mika was a top ten player and looked like she would be a mainstay there for years to come. Like Ai Miyazato, she also has dropped out of the top 30 and has not finished in the top 25 yet this year.
Dishonorable mentions: Brittany Lincicome, Jennifer Johnson, Carlotta Ciganda, Sun Young Yoo, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
Feel free to add your own surprises and disappointments in the comments section.
I will be back in a few days with a preview of the next LPGA tournament in Hawaii.
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