Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 LPGA Tour season looked like it
would be dominated by its top player, but she struggled over the summer and
let others jump to the fore.
Yani Tseng won three of her first five starts and looked to be off to the
races. As she started to struggle in the middle of the year, other players
stepped up and began to dominate.
Stacy Lewis had a stretch of six top-5 finishes in a 7-tournament span. Inbee
Park had a run of six events in which she didn't finish outside the top three.
Tseng's three wins increased her total to 13 in the last three seasons, and
were among 15 victories for Asian born players on the LPGA Tour this year.
Lewis had half of the eight wins for Americans.
The season was marked by dry spells by some top players, some special runs by
others, and maybe defined in the end by a missed tap-in.
Let's look at who did what in 2012:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- No more back stories
Everyone knows the story about Stacy Lewis sitting in a back-brace for hours
on end because she was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11.
What people don't talk about as much was the fact that she was a decorated
collegiate golfer at Arkansas.
She won the SEC Tournament as a freshman and again as a senior, while being
named the conference's Rookie and Player of the Year thanks to those
victories. Lewis earned All-American honors four times and was a two-time
academic All-American as well.
So what does that have to do with this year? We should have seen it coming!
Among her accomplishments this year, Lewis led the LPGA Tour in wins, shared
the tour lead in top-5 and top-10 finishes, and shared second in most cuts
Lewis' stellar season saw her climb to No. 2 in the world for a time, though
she has slipped all the way to third as the year winds to a close.
Her four wins were the most by an American since Paula Creamer won four times
Though she finished just third on the tour's money list, Lewis earned enough
points to win the tour's Player of the Year honors.
Among the others considered were Inbee Park, who had two wins and six runner-
up finishes, U.S. Women's Open champion Na Yeon Choi and Yani Tseng, who won
three of her first five events of the year.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR -- Dinah Shore magic
The Kraft Nabisco Championship is annually the first major of the golf season,
and year in and year out it seems to have the craziest ending.
Whether it be Karrie Webb's hole out eagle to force a playoff in 2006 or
Brittany Lincicome's final hole eagle to win the 2009 title, the Dinah Shore
Tournament Course always has an exciting finish.
Sometimes the excitement is after the round too; like in 2011 when Stacy
Lewis' mom broke her leg on the traditional winner's jump into Poppie's Pond.
This year, Sun Young Yoo closed with a 69 to get in the clubhouse at 9-under
par. I.K. Kim was chasing from the next group, and also closed with a 69.
Kim should have shot 68, but missed a short par putt on the final hole to drop
into a playoff.
She had a chance to atone for her mistake in the extra session, but her
25-footer for birdie came up short. Yoo poured in her 12-foot birdie putt to
win her first major championship.
Which leads us to ...
SHOT OF THE YEAR -- The missed tap-in
I.K. Kim's birdie putt on the 72nd hole stopped less than a foot from the
hole. Instead of marking the ball to let her playing partner finish, Kim went
ahead and putted the ball.
The simple tap-in horse-shoed the hole and spun out. A stunned Kim gasped and
covered her mouth. The par would have given Kim her first major championship.
The crowd was just as stunned. No one knew what to say.
Kim was flabbergasted. Her caddie tried to prop her up reminding her it wasn't
over, she still had a playoff to focus on.
But in reality, how could she focus on the playoff? She just blew a tap-in
that goes in 99 times out of 100.
This wasn't Jean Van de Velde possibly playing out of a burn, or Phil
Mickelson hitting one 100 yards into the trees at the U.S. Open, this was a
putt that Kim could have kicked into the hole.
The putt could have crushed Kim not only for a week or two, but could have
defined her entire season. She managed three top-10 finishes the rest of the
year, including a share of 10th at the Women's British Open.
After three straight years finishing in the top-11 on the money list, Kim slid
to 26 this year. It could have been far worse, but a missed 1-footer stopped
it from being even better.
ROOKIE OF YEAR -- Another Asian star
Seven of the top-10 players on this year's money list were from Asia, so it
should come as no surprise that one of those seven was a standout rookie.
A year ago, before she officially joined the tour, So Yeon Ryu became the
third-youngest winner in U.S. Women's Open history.
Ryu used that win to gain her LPGA Tour membership, and she competed in 24
events in her rookie campaign. She matched Stacy Lewis for the tour lead in
top-5 finishes (12) and top-10 finishes (16).
The 22-year-old fired a 9-under 62 in the final round to win the Jamie Farr
Owens Toledo Classic by seven strokes.
Ryu made the cut in all four majors this year, with a share of fifth at the
Women's British Open being her best finish.
- Inbee Park topped the tour money list thanks to her two wins and six second-
place finishes. Her first win of the year came at the Evian Masters, which
next year will be the fifth major on the LPGA Tour.
- Na Yeon Choi took second on the money list thanks to wins at the U.S.
Women's Open and the CME Group Titleholders.
- Yani Tseng could go on the good year and bad year list. She won three of her
first five starts and looked to be en route to another dominating season. Like
the men's world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, Tseng went into a summer slumber with
three missed cuts in a 4-event span. After a great start to the year, Tseng
ran off three straight top-5 finishes as the tour made its Asian swing.
- Beatriz Recari gets the last spot in the good year group. Though she
finished just 32nd on the tour's money list, Recari was the model of
consistency as she made the cut in all 27 events she started. She finished
outside the top 50 four times, and was a first-round loser at the Sybase Match
Play. Five 'bad' finishes in 27 starts, pretty impressive.
- Luckily for the good ole U.S. of A. this wasn't a Solheim Cup year as
several top Americans had poor years. Natalie Gulbis finished 42nd on the
money list with just one top-5 finish and only three top-10s. She shared
fourth at the Evian Masters, where she won in '07, for her best finish.
- Morgan Pressel was three spots below Gulbis on the money list. She took
third at the Sybase Match Play, but her next-best finish was a share of 20th.
She tied for 40th at the ShopRite Classic the first weekend of June. She
didn't have a better finish the remainder of the year, while tossing in three
withdraws and five missed cuts as she battled a thumb injury. The plus side of
missing all that action was that she had plenty of extra time to work on her
plans for her January wedding.
- Michelle Wie was even further down the money list at 64th. She shared eighth
at the Safeway Classic for her best finish of the year, but carded just two
other top-20 finishes, while also missing 10 cuts.
- Tiffany Joh made 10 cuts in 20 starts, but didn't have a top-30. A first-
round loss at the Sybase Match Play (T-33) was her best finish all year. She
shared 38th at the Safeway Classic for her best finish in a stroke-play event.
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