Monday, December 29, 2014

Five Bold 2015 PGA Tour Predictions Sure To Go Wrong

Happy New Year, everyone! The PGA Tour season begins resumes in one week, and after the roller coaster year that was 2014, there are plenty of questions and intriguing storylines entering 2015. So, let's take a few shots in the dark and try to make a couple of incredibly bold predictions for the year 2015. Important Note: it is highly unlikely that I get any of this correct.

5) Four majors, four champions.

Last year, we saw Rory McIlroy win the Open Championship and the PGA Champion to be the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win multiple majors in a season. I know this isn't a really bold prediction, but I do not see anyone making it two years in a row. Of course, the natural inclination is that McIlroy could do it again, and if anyone could do it, it is him; however, winning majors is extremely tough, and while I think Rory remains the number one player in the world throughout the entirety of 2015, I do not see him setting the world on fire like he did last year. Along with this prediction, I say that there will be a surprise major champion this year. Last year, all four majors were won by someone who had previously won a major. Someone will surprise the world and steal a major from the big name players this year.

4) Rickie Fowler will be the top ranked American.

Once Fowler wins his second PGA Tour event, which I suspect will happen soon, his trophies will start coming in bunches. He is an incredibly talented player that does not get spooked by the bright lights, as evidenced by his four top 5's in the majors last season. Currently, the top ranked American is Bubba Watson at number four, and while I don't think Bubba will have a terrible season or anything, he is the kind of player that runs in streaks. Fowler, meanwhile, seems to becoming one of the most consistent players in the world. I see Watson dropping from the top 5 (but remaining in the top 10), while Rickie can rise as high as number 3, though I don't think he'll be a challenge to Rory for at least another year.

3) Ryo Ishikawa will win on the PGA Tour.

This is a heart over head pick, but it stands to reason that Ishikawa should be able to break out in his third full season on the PGA Tour. Each year, Ishikawa seems to be improving and adapting to life in the States, and he now has two years of experience on several different golf courses. Many have given up on Ryo, but not me. The man is still only 23 years old. While we may have been spoiled lately with young superstars winning early in their careers, it doesn't seem fair that we write off Ryo as a potential superstar with so much of his career ahead of him. He will continue to improve all season until he finds that one golf course that suits his game perfectly, and he will finally silence his critics and break through in the United States.

2) Rory McIlroy will win the FedEx Cup.

While I don't think Rory will have as good of a year this year as he did in 2014, I still think he will win a couple of times and be right back in the thick of the FedEx Cup race heading into September. This time, however, instead of fading in the playoffs, Rory will be able to seal the deal and win his first ever FedEx Cup trophy. It probably doesn't mean as much as the majors he has accumulated, but it is still a rather large accomplishment. The question is going to be, how will the golf writers discuss Rory's season if he ends with three victories and the FedEx Cup but no majors?

1) The Internationals will win the Presidents Cup.

The Presidents Cup has become a joke as the International squad has only been able to manage one win and a tie in the ten stagings of the event. This year, however, with the event being held in South Korea, the Internationals will be able to make the event a bit more interesting as they defeat an American team still feeling the effects of their blowout loss to the Europeans in the 2014 Ryder Cup. The Internationals, lead by Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, will take the lead early, and the US Team, which will be without stalwarts Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, will not be able to pick up enough points during the single's matches. The loss will actually be good for the US Team, as it will give some rookies experience in the team format and will show them how valuable Fred Couples, who will be named the next Ryder Cup captain, was in keeping this team together.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 12/20/2014

On account of the holidays, there will be no posts next week. After that, however, I will be revealing my 2015 predictions for the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Other. Should be fun to see the kinds of things I'm going to screw up.

- My thoughts go out to the family and friends of Katrina Dawson, who was killed Monday in the tragic hostage situation in Sydney. Dawson's father, Sandy, was the captain of the R&A back in 2013. Dawson, 38, was killed trying to protect a pregnant colleague during the gunfire.

- Apparently Sam Torrance is not a fan of Sir Nick Faldo. The former Ryder Cup captain was asked about Faldo's comments towards Sergio Garcia during the 2014 Ryder Cup, and Torrance's response was a passionate one:
"To say that right in the middle of a Ryder Cup, what was the a**hole thinking about? Really, it was pathetic from Faldo. I've no idea where he was coming from with that stuff. You can quote me on that, I don't care. He's an a**hole."
Torrance was an assistant to Paul McGinley during the 2014 matches, and captained the 2002 team, which included Garcia, to a victory in 2002.

- Has the US selected their next Ryder Cup captain. This week, Fred Couples told that the Ryder Cup Task Force contacted Couples about the possibility of leading the squad in 2016. There have been a lot of people calling for Couples to lead the group after going 3-0 as the captain of the President's Cup team. No official word has been made yet, but it is become more likely that Couples will be the man in 2016. Still waiting word on whether the Task Force will contact Paul Azinger, the other man favored for the position.

- Is Rory McIlroy the next Tiger Woods? According to Colin Montgomerie, not only will Rory take his place in the world of golf, but Rory is already better than Tiger was. Monty came out this week and said that Rory is playing a level of golf better than Tiger did when Tiger was in his prime. Colin also said that Rory may very well sweep the majors, meaning that Rory would be the first person to complete the modern era Grand Slam, as well as become the first person to win six straight majors. I'm going to go ahead and doubt that as a possibility.

- The already crowded world of women's professional has just added another big name, as top ranked amateur Brooke Henderson announced this week that she was turning professional. The 17 year old Canadian tied for 10th at the US Women's Open last year and made the cut in every professional event she played in, as well as finished runner up at the US Amateur. Henderson has no status on any Tour, but expect her to use all six of her sponsor's exemptions. She should also receive an invitation to the US Women's Open on the heels of her top 10 finish last year. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Westwood Soars, Scott Struggles, And Hull Sets Record

- Lee Westwood fired a final round 67 to win against the star studded field in Thailand. Westwood won by one over Martin Kaymer and Marcus Fraser. It's great to see Westwood win again, but I want to see if this can translate to success on the PGA and European Tours next season.

- For Fraser, there is some prize in his runner up finish - he is one of the four players who qualified for the Open Championship, as this was one of the tournaments in the Open Qualifying Series. The other players who qualified were Australian Scott Hend, who has actually been playing good golf on the Asian Tour this year, Indian Anirban Lahiri, who won twice on the Asian Tour this year, and American Jonathan Moore, who has no status on any Tour and was playing the tournament on a sponsor's exemption. Moore is the obvious surprise - the only other major he played in was when he qualified for the 2006 US Open as an amateur, and he has not played an event on a major Tour in a year. Moore's wife is set to give birth in May, so he will play the Open Championship as a new father. Incredibly amazing story.

- For the second time in a month, a player shoots an incredible final round in Australia that defies logic. This time, it was Greg Chalmers, who shot an eight under par round on a day when scoring was tough to get himself in a playoff and eventually the victory. Chalmers, who is playing on the PGA Tour this season, has been around for a long time, but his victory is still a bit of a surprise considering how he has been playing, as well as who he was playing against.

- Chalmers may have had a fantastic final round, but there was no excuse for Adam Scott, who choked away the Australian PGA. His putter ended up being his downfall. As the former number one player in the world, he needs to win events like these. All props to Chalmers, but Scott should have won this one.

- Congratulations to Charley Hull, who at 18 becomes the youngest ever winner of the LET Order Of Merit. Hull finished with one victory and 8 top 10s in 17 starts on the Ladies European Tour. With teenagers such as Lydia Ko and Hyo Joo Kim playing lights out golf, I am no longer surprised when a teenager does something amazing in the sport of golf. That being said, what is impressive about Hull's accomplishment is she was able to top the Order Of Merit in only her second season on Tour. Hull missed out on full status on the LPGA Tour this year, but she will get plenty of exemptions into tournaments, so she will be right in the middle of the Rookie Of The Year chase.

- Hull secured the Order Of Merit after a T5 finish at the Dubai Masters, which was won by Shanshan Feng, who becomes only the second women to win that event twice. The other woman? Annika Sorenstam. That's some pretty good company. Feng is the fifth ranked player in the world, but seems to be somewhat forgotten about when people discuss the best players in the women's game. That appears to be fine for Feng, who will continue to win tournaments and notch top 10's while remaining out of the spotlight pretty much everywhere except her home country of China.

- Hyo Joo Kim has taken up LPGA membership and is preparing for her rookie season in the States, but that isn't stopping her from continuing to dominate the KLPGA Tour. In the first event of the 2015 KLPGA season, which took place in China, Kim finished at -14 and won by two for her sixth KLPGA event in the 2014 calender year. Another 2015 LPGA rookie Ha Na Jang finished tied for third with LPGA player Xiyu Lin. So, to recap - six KLPGA victory, a victory in her first start at a major, top 10's in every LPGA event she's played, the KLPGA Player Of The Year Award, and full LPGA membership next season. If there was an award for the top global female player, I would put Hyo Joo Kim ahead of anyone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Top 5 LPGA Rookie Prospects for 2015

The 2015 rookie class is deep. Like, incredibly deep. While last year's class had a superstar (Lydia Ko), this year's class seems filled with ready-to-win talent. There may be close to ten rookies who could conceivably win in 2015, so it is hard to narrow down the field to just five. In the end, I had to go with my gut and a little bit of my heart to come up with, what I think, are going to be the top finishers in the Rookie Of The Year race. Keep in mind, these are not long term projections. These are who I think could win a tournament right now on the LPGA Tour, and who I think are going to be the main players in the running for the ROY Award.

Honorable Mention: Sadena Parks
I don't have any Symetra Tour graduates in my top 5, mainly because I know very little about them, and partially because I don't really like their chances to win in 2015. Parks will receive the most attention of any of the Symetra graduates, and may be the best of the group, as well. She was a streaky player last year (her rookie season on the Symetra Tour), but when she is on, she can play some lights out golf. It would be a bit of a surprise if Parks won next year, but if anyone from that crop of 10 from the Symetra Tour can steal a trophy, it would be her.

5) Sakura Yokomine
This may be a pick from my heart more than from my brain, seeing as players from Japan have not had a good string of luck lately. I just get the feeling that a change of scenery will be good for Yokomine, the 23 time JLPGA champion. She's played well at the majors, with two top 10's in the US Open, including last year. She's also a longer hitter than it would seem considering her stature - she averaged 251 yards off the tee at the US Women's Open, which was above the average. At 28, she shouldn't have much of a problem adjusting to life in the States. She can be an inconsistent player, but when she's on, she's as good as anyone.

4) Ariya Jutanugarn
Ariya scares me. She seemed destined to give Lydia Ko a run for her money and become one of the best golfers in the world, but a shoulder injury seems to have set her back. She was talented enough to Monday qualify on the LPGA Tour a bunch of times last season, and she finished third in the Q-School, so she obviously still has talent. If she can put four rounds together, watch out. She can be deadly. It may just take her half a season to get to the point where she's contending on a regular basis.

3) Ha Na Jang
Forget the final round 80 at the Q-School. It was difficult conditions, and she had built up such a cushion that she felt compelled to play aggressively without worrying about losing her card. Her biggest strength is her length off the tee, but she has a solid short game that makes her different from traditional "bombers". Notched a top 5 at the Evian and was second to Hyo Joo Kim on the KLPGA Tour in nearly every category last season. She has the game that can travel, and she will not be intimidated by the big stages.

2) Minjee Lee
My only concern about Minjee are the expectations placed on her. She is supposed to be great, and some players can't handle that kind of pressure. Then again, Lydia Ko had a bunch of expectations placed on her, and she handled them beautifully. If Minjee just plays her game and doesn't worry about the distractions, she will be a huge name on the LPGA Tour. She was the top ranked amateur in the world, she had top 25's in three majors last year and nearly denied Cheyenne Woods her victory on the LET Tour. She was also the only amateur to play in the International Crown, and Karrie Webb couldn't praise her skills and abilities enough. If this were any other year, I would have circled Minjee Lee as the sure fire Rookie Of The Year. However...

1) Hyo Joo Kim
Hyo Joo Kim is the next great Korean superstar. Last season, Kim won the KLPGA's Player Of The Year award for winning five times, including a one shot win over Rolex Number One Inbee Park in October. In her four appearances on the LPGA Tour last year, she finished no worse than T7. Not to mention she won the Evian Masters in her very first start at a major. Kim is already inside the top 10 in the Rolex Rankings, and will be the number one player in the world some day. The only downside is that she will be playing a split schedule between the KLPGA and the LPGA Tours, but she is ready to win now and, in my opinion, is the favorite to be the Rookie Of The Year. It is also worth noting that the last Korean to win a major as a non-member was So Yeon Ryu, who was named Rookie Of The Year when she took up membership the following year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Thailand Golf Championship (Asian Tour)

The Asian Tour does not get a whole lot of publicity throughout the peak of the golf year, but as most Tours take a break at the end of the calender year, the Asian Tour provides a tournament for plenty of players to try and get some kind of form entering the new year, as well as some much needed World Golf Ranking points for those trying to get invitations into the majors next year. This has given the county of Thailand a much needed boost as they continue to try and build their golf industry in the country. Visiting players include Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, and Lee Westwood. For those players who may not be as well known as others, this will be a perfect opportunity to qualify for the 2015 Open Championship - as a tournament in the Open Qualifying Series, the top 4 players inside the top 12 not otherwise exempt will receive a spot on the major championship.

Fantasy Four:

Sergio Garcia - No stranger to winning tournaments in Asia. Any time he makes a stop on one of these Tours, he seems to walk away with a victory. Coming off a year that contained 11 top 10's, including a victory. Second highest ranked player in the field.

Thongchai Jaidee - Native of Thailand has a win and a runner up finish on the European Tour last year. By all accounts, it was a successful season for Jaidee, though he would have liked to perform better in the majors. Will look to cap that great season with a win in front of his home crowd.

Koumei Oda - Finished T3 last week on the Japan Tour. Is currently 53rd in the World Rankings, and top 50 by the end of the year get an invite to the Masters. He needs a big week to secure the invite, though he is likely in the majors next year based on his position in the Japan Tour Order Of Merit. Still, top 50 is a huge accomplishment and means he can enter almost any tournament he wants next year.

Victor Dubuisson - Finished second at the European Tour season ending event in Dubai to rocket up to 17th in the world. Finished 2nd an astonishing four times this year, but has failed to win anywhere in the world. There is no question about his skills and abilities, but now the world waits to see if the Frenchman can start closing the deal in more tournaments. This could be the perfect tournament to end the season on a high note. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Meet The LPGA Q-School Graduates

The LPGA held the finals of their qualifying school this week, and there were a lot of big name players from foreign tours and the amateur ranks that were looking to secure status for the 2015 LPGA season. The LPGA is going to have an incredibly deep rookie class next season, but before we talk about the players who are going to be on Tour next season, we should talk about some notables that were unable to regain their cards.

Birdie Kim - The 2005 US Women's Open Champion has not played in the LPGA Tour for a number of years, and was looking to revitalize her career by regaining her card. It was not to be, as she survived the 72 hole cut but finished near the bottom at the of Sunday's play. She'll likely be playing a full time schedule on the Symetra Tour next year.

Veronica Feibert - Rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2012 and captured a lot of attention for being one of the few South Americans on the LPGA Tour. Has struggled as of late, and will likely be playing on the Symetra Tour next season.

Charley Hull - In incredibly difficult conditions, she shot the round of the day on Sunday with a final round 68, but it was not enough to win her a LPGA Tour card. She will have conditional status on Tour, but with her name recognition, coupled with her LET Tour status, expect her to play a lot more than others in her priority ranking. She will have plenty of opportunity to get to the top of the reshuffle and play a full time schedule.

Stephanie Meadow - Burst on the scene with a top 10 in the US Women's Open last season. The woman from Northern Ireland had to come back and play on Monday, but ultimately fell short in the playoff for her card. She is another player that should expect a few sponsor exemptions on top of the playing time she will receive in her priority ranking, so if she can play well early, she might be able to play a full schedule.

In all, there were 20 players who received full time playing privileges from the Q-School. In order to tell the full story, allow me to break down those who received their cards based on their previous experiences, whether they be on the LPGA Tour or a foreign Tour.

Regaining Their Cards:
Maria Hernandez
Ryann O'Toole
Nannette Hill
Perrine Delacour
Garrett Phillips
Karlin Beck

Of these players, only Ryann O'Toole had full status on the LPGA Tour last season. Maria Hernandez had full status on Tour starting in 2009, but lost her card at the end of the 2012 season and played on the LET Tour last year. Karlin Beck, who won her Tour card by holing a 75 foot birdie chip on Monday, played twice last year, once being the US Women's Open, but has played primarily on the Symetra Tour for the past four years. Garrett Phillips and Nannette Hill both had very conditional status on the LPGA Tour a few years ago, but neither played more than a handful of tournaments and have played primarily on the Symetra Tour. Perrine Delacour played 12 times on the LPGA Tour last year with two top 20s. All of these players, with the exception of Hernandez, Delacour, and O'Toole, will essentially be playing their rookie seasons next year, but will not be officially classified as rookies. They are also complete unknowns and they may all be back here next year, or they may have really good years ahead of them.

EDIT: Perrine Delacour had full status on the LPGA Tour last season as one of the 10 Symetra School graduates from 2013; however, she did not play a full schedule. 

From The Amateur Ranks:
Alison Lee
Minjee Lee
Kelly Shon
Therese Koelbeck
Sophia Popov
SooBin Kim
Laetitia Beck

Laetitia Beck will become the first golfer from Israel to win a card on a US based major golf tour. She played for the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils and qualified for a few tournaments, including the Women's British Open last year. Kelly Shon and Therese Koelbeck are the only players among the group who have experience as touring professionals, as they were both rookies on the Symetra Tour last season. Sophia Popov from Germany played for USC and made her professional debut on the LET Tour last season. SooBin Kim from Korea was one of only two amateurs to win their Tour card. She played at the University of Washington last season. Alison Lee, co-medalist, plays for UCLA and played on the United States Curtis Cup team. She will turn professional after this event. The biggest story of this group, however, is Minjee Lee, the former number one ranked amateur in the world. Lee, 18, has the most experience of any in the group, having played in four of the five majors last season, as well as representing Australia in the International Crown. Minjee jumps towards the top as a Rookie Of The Year candidate. 

From Foreign Tours:
Ariya Jutanugarn
Sei Young Kim
Ha Na Jang
Cheyenne Woods
Sakura Yokomine
Ju Young Park

This is a power group, with a lot of experience being added to the Rookie Of The Year race. Ariya Juranugarn has been playing LPGA events since she was 17, and broke through with her first professional title two years ago on the LET Tour. She played in eleven LPGA events last season, Monday qualifying for a majority of them. She joins older sister Moriya on Tour. Sei Young Kim nearly won the KEB HanaBank Championship two years ago, and won a major on the KLPGA Tour. Ha Na Jang struggled with a final round 80 on Sunday, but had such a large cushion that she was able to hang on to her card. She is a former money list winner on the KLPGA Tour and can hit the ball a mile. Cheyenne Woods will be the talk of the Tour this season. She is the niece of Tiger Woods, and played all over the world, including several LPGA exemptions and Symetra Tour events. She won on the LET Tour last season. Sakura Yokomine brings 23 JLPGA Titles on Tour with her. She has played in numerous majors, including the US Women's Open last year, where she finished T7. She represented Japan at the International Crown last year. At 28, she will be the oldest member of this rookie class. Ju Young Park is the younger sister of Hee Young Park. She has no previous LPGA experience and has played exclusively on the KLPGA Tour since 2010.

In all 14 rookies gained full membership in Q-School, with Charley Hull and Stephanie Meadow also expected to receive plenty on invites. Add that to Hyo Joo Kim and Kyu Jung Baek accepting memberships, and this is expected to be one of the deepest, most competitive rookie classes in a very long time. I will do a breakdown of my Rookie Of The Year candidates, but in the meantime, congratulations to everyone who gained LPGA membership this weekend. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Players I'm Watching This Week

Some of the foreign Tours are at the end of their schedules this week, while others are beginning their wrap around seasons, so for most in the United States, there won't be any meaningful golf played for the next month; however, this does not mean there aren't plenty of story lines taking place in tournaments around the world. There are several players that are in search of big weeks for one reason or another. Here are a few tournaments, and the players I am keeping an eye on for one reason or another.

Japan Tour:
Koumei Oda - Oda opened the JT Cup 2014 with a 64 and jumped out to an early lead, but a second round 72 leaves him one shot back. Oda is currently leading the Order Of Merit and is within shouting distance of the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings. A win may secure an invitation to the Masters and the Open Championship next year.

Hiroshi Iwata - Was on fire for several weeks, but a missed cut last week put him in jeopardy to finish outside the top 3 in the Order Of Merit, which would get him into several of the World Golf Championship events next year. Iwata is currently at even par through 2 rounds, five shots back.

Ryo Ishikawa - I have never tried to hide the fact that Ishikawa is my favorite player, and I follow every event he is in. After several lackluster events on the Japan Tour, Ishikawa is looking for a big week to springboard him into next season. Ishikawa is currently in solo 6th and two shots back of the leader.

LPGA Q-School:
Sakura Yokokine - I have been advocating for Yokomine to join the LPGA for a couple years now, and I may get my wish, as she is participating in the Q-School this year. After two average rounds, Yokomine shot a third round 66 to put her in perfect position to get her card.

Ha Na Jang - The player from the KLPGA Tour that we would be talking about if Hyo Joo Kim didn't win every tournament she saw last season. Finished tied for third at the Evian Championship last year. A big hitter that is sure to overpower a few courses. Started off looking rough, but has rebounded, and is now in the lead at the Q-School. Should have her card, baring a collapse.

Charley Hull - Exploded onto the scene last year when, as a 17 year old, she dominated Paula Creamer in the singles match of the 2013 Solheim Cup. Became the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour last year. Has some work to do the final two days of the tournament if she were to get her card.

European Tour:
The Field - There are 29 players currently participating in the Nedbank Golf Championship in South Africa for the first tournament of the European Tour season. Currently, Luke Donald has a two shot lead over Ross Fisher at the halfway point. There are enough big names in this event to interest me the rest of the way.

Hero World Challenge:
Tiger Woods - I honestly don't care much about this meaningless tournament, but it is Tiger's first event back from injury, and I would be lying if I said I didn't have at least some interest in seeing how he does. He finished dead last on Thursday, but rebounded today and is currently -4 for the day (tournament currently in suspension for rain). Unfortunately for Tiger, the conditions are so good that his -4 didn't really gain him any ground, but he just needs to remain healthy and upright for four rounds and it will be a success.

Hideki Matsuyama - Two top 10's on the PGA Tour and a win on the Japan Tour is what Matsuyama is currently riding into this event. If we are going to see a new Asian Invasion onto the PGA Tour, Matsuyama is going to be the man who leads it. Could Matsuyama become the first Japanese player to win a major? Matsuyama is currently at -7, three back of leader Henrik Stenson.

Jordan Speith - Third place in Japan, followed by a dominating win in Australia, and Speith is rolling right now. A big event here will springboard him into the 2015 calender year. Speith finished yesterday with the lead, but has only managed a one under par round to this point on Friday, and is currently three back of Stenson.

Asian Tour:
Padraig Harrington - Padraig's time as a player may be running out if he doesn't make the most of the playing opportunities he currently has. He is currently tied for the lead at the rain delayed Indonesia Open. A win will help reestablish some kind of form for the three time major champion. 

Scott Hend - Up and down season on the Asian Tour this year, but had a win and a runner up finish in back to back weeks about a month ago. Had the opportunity to gain his Tour card, but unfortunately missed the cut in all four events in the Tour finals. Currently T4 and three shots back. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014 LPGA Year End Awards

All of the domestic Tours are completed for 2014, and a few foreign Tours will have their season ending events this week. As far as I am concerned, the year is over (with the notable exception being the event in Japan this week), so it is time to start handing out some awards! I already did the awards for the PGA Tour after the Tour Championship, but I have yet to present my LPGA Awards. Without further ado, I present to you:

The Anthony Distler Incredibly Important LPGA Awards Of Excellence! 
My 2014 LPGA Year End Awards

Player Of The Year: Inbee Park
- Stacy Lewis won the official award, but I honestly can't get behind that. It's not that Lewis didn't have a good season; in fact, she had a great season. She did not, however, win a major, and Inbee did, along with two other tournaments, which tied Lewis for most wins on the season. The only thing Lewis had going for her compared to Inbee is that Lewis had one more top 10 (18) than Inbee did (17). Inbee's performance in the first two majors might be the only knock against her, as she ended up with as many top 10's in majors as Lewis did, both with three. I will take major victories over consistency any day. Ask Stacy Lewis if she would trade her Player Of The Year Award for a major, I'm sure she would do it in a heart beat.

Rookie Of The Year: Mirim Lee
- I am disqualifying Lydia Ko from this category on the basis that she was already competing on the LPGA Tour pretty regularly prior to this season. It was her first year as a touring professional, true, and you will not see me say a negative word about the year Ko had. I just have a tough time calling someone a "rookie" when they already won twice on the LPGA Tour. Ko is absolutely deserving of the official award, but for me, it would be a shame if Mirim Lee did not get some recognition on the season she had. Relatively unknown entering the season, playing in the rookie class that included Future World Number One Lydia Ko, Mirim got off to a sluggish start, but ended up with two wins and a total of four top 10's for year that banked her close to a million dollars. She actually came close to Ko at one point, until Ko rattled off four top 10's including a victory in her final four starts. This rookie class gave us a glimpse into the greatness of Lydia Ko, but is also introduced us to a pretty darn good player in Mirim Lee.

Comeback Player Of The Year: Michelle Wie
- There were quite a few options in this category, as you could make the case for Paula Creamer, Mo Martin, Mi Jung Hur, and Christina Kim. In the end, though, it has to be Wie, who came onto the Tour as the next greatest golfer of all time, and over the past couple of years, she had been reduced to a punchline. Not only did she win her first tournament in four years, but she also won the Women's US Open for her first major title, notched a career high 13 top 10's, and finished 6th in the Rolex Rankings. All of this took place in a season where she missed considerable time with a thumb injury and played poorly for a stretch while that finger was injured.

Biggest Disappointment: Japan
- I was almost going to give this award to the entire continent of Europe, who had a lousy 2014 season, but Suzann Pettersen is still in the top 5, Anna Nordqvist won twice, and Spain won the International Crown. They're off the hook for now. Instead, the disappointment of the year has to be every player from Japan. Ai Miyazato, once the number one player in the world, failed to notch a single top 10 and fell all the way to 98 in the Rolex Rankings. Mika Miyazato, who at one point had 6 top 10's in 8 majors, also did not have a top 10 this season and fell to 77 in the Rolex Rankings. Chie Arimura's LPGA career may be over, as she missed 8 cuts this season and fell all the way to 200 in the rankings. Currently, the top 8 Japanese players in the Rolex Rankings all play on the JLPGA Tour. The Japanese player with the most top 10's this season was non-member Sakura Yokomine, who finished T7 at the US Women's Open and T4 at the Mizuno Classic. Perhaps the silver lining from this disaster season for the Japanese women is the fact that Yokomine is scheduled to compete in the LPGA Q-school. If she qualifies, Yokomine will be the top ranked Japanese player on the LPGA Tour and will bring years of international experience with her.

Tournament Of The Year: Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship
- The LPGA was not short of great tournaments this year. In fact, every week it seemed like the event was coming down to the final hole with a stacked leaderboard. In the end, however, Inbee Park holding off a charging Stacy Lewis with the number one ranking in the world on the line had to be my tournament of the year. Inbee's win set up an incredibly exciting finish to the LPGA season.