Naturally, I wanted to see how the LPGA’s first couple of tournaments played out before I graced all of you WomensGolf.com faithful with any of my grand sweeping predictions on just how I think this whole 2016 LPGA season might go.
I’ve only been wrong a couple of times in my life… the first time being when I took my unofficial visit to Dook University (why?!) and the other time…. well, I can’t quite remember… but it probably involved a beer or two!
Okay, seriously though, enough with my goofing off- here are some of my genuine thoughts about who might bring it this year on the LPGA. Unlike previously stated, I have been wrong many, many times…. so please read the fine print at the bottom acknowledging that: A) I could be wrong again…. and B) golf is a completely unpredictable game so if I do get any of this right then you mine as well start calling me “Allie The Golf Oracle”.
Alright, enough small talk, let’s have it:
My Front Runner for Rolex Player of the Year: Lexi Thompson
Well, I might be a little bit biased in choosing hard-firing, fighter Lexi Thompson… but we go back… and she has what it takes to win the 2016 Player of the Year (determined by top tens with extra emphasis on the majors).
I say we go back because Lexi was my roommate during our fabled East Coast vs West Coast Cannon Cup 2008. That was the year we East Side kids had to battle Jordan Spieth and company (I personally, along with my partner Luke Guthrie, lost 5 and 3 on August 30th, 2008 to Jennifer Johnson and Spieth himself!). It was one of the many years it did not go well for the East. It still makes me mad!
But anyway, back to Lexi. She was a great golfer back then and now she is even better. Last year she made the cut in 23 of her 24 LPGA starts and she also snagged 13 top tens, three of them being in majors.
In her first two events this year she has gone T17 in the Bahamas and T9 at the Coates Golf Championship. After her first three rounds in Thailand at the Honda LPGA Lexi is sitting in first place at 16 under… and hopefully she finishes it off! Just like in 2014, when she was the Kraft Nabisco Champion. This year look for Lexi to add the Evian Championship to her list of many outstanding golf accomplishments. Go EAST!
Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year: Megan Khang
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Sie-Young Kim opened 2016 with a nice T2 -16 at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic and then backed it up with T3 -8 at the Coates. Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a big year out of Sie-Young with a couple of wins for sure.
But that was last year and this year. I think this year’s top rookie will be Megan Khang. My Megan Khang story is that she was the teenage punk who knocked me back to an alternate spot at last year’s US Women’s Open qualifier. But I don’t think it was a fluke.
Khang backed that performance up with a T35 at the Open and a 6th place finish at Stage III of Q-School to get her LPGA card. Thus far, she has already made her first LPGA cut with a T11 -13 in the Bahamas. She just might be the next Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, young sensation phenom… but does this excellence out of teenage women golfers really surprise us anymore?
Speaking of Michelle Wie
So I’m also a big Michelle Wie fan. I don’t have any Michelle Wie stories minus I watched her hit some balls on the range once… I do however have incredible respect for Wie. I admire the character it took for her to overcome the circus that was her golf youth and then come back to eventually win the 2014 US Women’s Open and oh yeah, also earn a degree at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, Stanford.
So, I don’t expect Wie to just fade away with all of this new young talent blazing in from all sides as well as a score of old veterans to battle. I’m thinking instead that she will make a good run at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and potentially get the W.
What about the ANA Inspiration?… Gerina Piller
So if Michelle is hoisting the KPMG Trophy then who will win this year’s first of the five majors? This is my X factor pick… my longshot… my Cinderella woman… my Seabiscuit if you will… Gerina Piller. Who could forget Piller’s clutch putt on 18 for the win at last year’s Solheim Cup to keep the US alive. I predict Mz. Clutch’s putter will stay hot just long enough for her to get this first major. With a T44 at the Coates, Piller is going to need to get her whole game going here soon in order to win a major. But she is on her way.
On the flip side of the coin, I wouldn’t look for Inbee Park to do much until the middle of the season. Despite being the best golfer over the last few years, Park is infamous for her slower starts to the season. However, I do think, inevitably, Park will get it going again this year and battle down to the wire for every major save the first two. I just don’t know if she will be able to have any major W’s with so many fierce competitors to fight off.
The US Women’s Open: A Qualifier or… Paula Creamer?
Obviously, I have to pick one of the many qualifiers to win this year’s Open because why would you ever bet against yourself?! But if it’s not me as a qualifier then I like the Pink Panther’s chances of getting the job done. Creamer did it once in 2010 and she will have a good shot at it again in her home state California this year.
The Ricoh British: Anna Nordqvist
By the time we get to England for the Women’s British Open, Anna Nordqvist will have all cylinders firing and it will be time for a Swede to once again hoist the trophy. Captain Annika will be happily watching her soon to be Solheim Cup star dominating.
The Evian: Back to Lexi
And we have come full circle. Lexi Thompson will win the Evian and consequently, she will earn enough points to secure herself Rolex Player of the Year. Game over.
BUT What about…. Stacy and Brookey, Ha Na and Vicky, Cheyenne and Suzann, Min Seo and Casey?
Well, first, let’s recall the most famous golfer of all… Juli Inkster
In 1984, Juli Inkster was the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year… and this year – 2016… She just made the cut for the season opener in the Bahamas! What!? I don’t know what she has in store for us this year but it will certainly be fun to keep an eye on that.
The 2014 and 2013 winner of the Vare Trophy for lowest stroke average, Stacy Lewis, will once again bring the fight necessary to win tournaments this year. I just don’t know if she will get a big one.
Henderson has reportedly switched from a 47” driver to a 48” driver and has gained 20 yards. Her average driving distance is currently 9th on tour at 278 yards. I want a longer driver! With this and all of her other talents, she has the capability to win a big one this year for sure.
Ha Na Jang
Well, she won the Coates and proceeded to do the coolest samurai-fist-pump-ninja-move ever. See below. I hope she wins again so I can see more of this.
The return of the chosen one! You have got to think LPGA veteran, Vicky Hurst will heat up this year after a few missed cuts to start. Her year after the injury toughing it out on the Symetra Tour and getting back to the LPGA will surely help her once she gets warmed up.
Still one of the classiest golfers going, we would all love to see Cheyenne on her A game. It’s doable for the Demon Deacon who proved herself by once again earning her LPGA tour card.
So we all know that the Solheim Cup was a rough go for Suzann. I would like to say in her defense, sometimes things go wrong in the heat of the moment. Forgive and forget. I would love to see the veteran overcome the naysayers and have another great year.
Min Seo Kwak
So this one time… on the Symetra Tour… Min Seo Kwak won another golf tournament (on her way to the LPGA)… and then she bought the whole tour dinner at the next tournament. I mean, she picked up the WHOLE THOUSAND SOME DOLLAR tab and everyone chanted KWAK KWAK KWAK. This girl is cool. She opened up this season with a top ten at the Bahamas and I would expect to see more of that.
I had to throw in one of my Tar Heel golf teammates! Casey is a Symetra grad and rookie on the LPGA this year. She just made her first cut at the Australian Open. Go Heels!
And after all that I just realized that I forgot to mention Lydia Ko! Wow, for real!?… This might be one of the hardest jobs in the world…. being a “Golf Oracle”! There is just such a depth of talent on the LPGA these days that it could be any one of these extremely talented stars that wins. Or it could be some upstart from out of nowhere. It’s possible that golf right now is the most competitive, world-wide female sport going. And isn’t it fun to be a part of that!
Allie White from Lancaster, Ohio, is a professional golfer and golf journalist. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at Ohio University. With four years of experience on the Symetra Tour, a cut-made at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, and a 2016 Ohio Open Championship, White hopes to continue her golf career during her academic breaks.
My two biggest golf dreams are to play in Toledo Ohio’s LPGA event and to make it back to another US Open. I’m still hunting for that first hole in one!”