Best Of The Bunch

By Ron Sirak Photos by Charles Laberge
February 10, 2010

Jiyai Shin has made 42 of 43 LPGA cuts.

The 2009 Player of the Year race was the closest ever, with one point separating winner Lorena Ochoa from Jiyai Shin (right), who was trying to become the first Korean to win the honor. This year could be a scramble involving even more players with at least eight candidates for the top spot.

1. Jiyai Shin (2) Relentlessly consistent. Has made 42 of 43 LPGA cuts. Three wins, nine other top-10s in 25 '09 starts. Not long but extremely accurate, no matter the club.

2. Lorena Ochoa (1) Newlywed looks to improve on "off" 2009 (three wins after 21 victories the previous three seasons). Explosive player, should regain form.

__3. Cristie Kerr (6) __Has won at least once in seven of last eight years. Top-10s in six of her last 10 majors. Putter makes her always a threat. Dogged competitor.

4. Suzann Pettersen (3) Possibly an underachiever despite six wins and a major. Special talent, potential No. 1 if focused.

5. Paula Creamer (7) Since turning pro in 2005 has been in top 25 in 19 of 20 majors. Likely to shed 'best without a major' tag.

6. Yani Tseng (5) Just turned 21, has enormous physical skills. Potential breakout player. Has had 24 top-10s in 54 starts. Few weaknesses. Extremely long off the tee.

7. Michelle Wie (9) Can she build on her great Solheim Cup and first LPGA victory? She and the tour both hope so.

__8. Na Yeon choi (11) __Has made 53 consecutive cuts since joining the tour. Finished '09 with seven straight top-20s, including two victories. Always on the leader board.

9. Song-Hee Kim (15) Has $2 million in career earnings at age 21. Yet to win but finished T-21 or better in all four majors last year. Good bet as next breakthrough player.

10. Ai Miyazato (8) May yet reach lofty expectations of fans at home in Japan. Evian breakthrough win last year was one of seven consecutive top-10s.

11. Angela Stanford (10) Retooled swing has made her much more consistent. Coming off three wins the last two years, she could be entering her best seasons.

12. Brittany Lang (25) Twenty-four-year-old seems ready for next step. Had four consecutive top-eights at end of '09. Bidding to be first Duke woman to win LPGA event.

13. Vicky Hurst (62) Won't be 20 until June 19. A real talent. Was so-so rookie year simply a matter of adjusting to tour? We'll see.

14. In-Kyung Kim (12) Two LPGA wins at 21. Scoring average has dropped 1.63 strokes per round in three years on tour.

15. Anna Nordqvist (4) Tour Championship title validated LPGA Championship win. Extremely accurate off the tee.

16. Karrie Webb (13) Still a magnificent ball-striker at 35. When she putts with confidence, she wins. Focus is Sorenstam-like.

17. Sophie Gustafson: (18) Long hitter won at Birkdale in 2000; should be a favorite there this year. Hungry for big '10.

18. Kristy McPherson (20) Getting better every year. Still winless but connects well with galleries, really feeds off their energy.

19. Lindsey Wright (26) Winless late-bloomer, now 30. Two top-fours in '09 majors. Streaky player who gets on impressive rolls.

20. Brittany Lincicome (32) Three wins at age 24, including last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. Better focus will yield more titles.

21. Morgan Pressel (23) Lack of length hurts, but she's a real grinder. Great player where pars are precious. Still improving.

22. Seon Hwa lee (34) Took a step back in '09, going winless for first time since joining tour in '06. Tough to beat when desire's on.

23. Catriona Matthew (16) Won British Open three months after giving birth to her second daughter. At 40, still has plenty of game. Determination matches impressive calm.

24. Eune-Hee Ji (22) Struggled after winning U.S. Women's Open. Has three top-fives in nine majors played. Saves her best for the biggest events.

25. Se Ri pak (44) Has 24 career wins but only three since 2004. Only 32 and always a threat to go low, she must conquer occasional driver yips and self-doubt.

26. Stacy Lewis (48) Struggled in first full season on tour, but T-9 at LPGA Championship showed potential. Tough kid, likely to find missing consistency.

27. Momoko Ueda (27) Has eight international victories at age 23. Won 2007 Mizuno Classic to earn LPGA card. Benefits from Japanese media focus on Miyazato.

28. Angela Park (55) Talented 21-year-old had injury-plagued '09 (made one cut in 11 events from April to October). Good things still expected.

29. Inbee Park (45) Only LPGA win is '08 U.S. Open. Scoring avg. up .77 strokes per round in '09. Strong '09 finish suggests 2010 bounce-back.

__30. Natalie Gulbis (59) __Chronic back problems flared up at the end of '09. Only three top-10s in last two years. Still time for nine-year vet to improve.


1. Amanda Blumenherst Q-school medalist; three-time National Collegiate Player of the Year won U.S. Women's Amateur in 2008.

2. Mina Harigae 2007 Women's APL champ and '08 U.S. Curtis Cupper; won three times on Duramed Futures Tour and topped money list to get LPGA card.

3. Maria Hernandez 2009 NCAA individual champ captured 13 titles at Purdue. Spaniard is five-time gold medalist in European Team Championship.

4. Azahara Muñoz Won Madrid Masters on LET last year after graduation from Arizona State. Won '08 NCAA women's individual and '09 Ladies British Amateur.

5. Mariajo Uribe Colombian, 20, was two-time All-American at UCLA. Won '07 U.S. Women's Amateur.