Like 2013, this year I will do a countdown of the top money list leaders from both the WTA and LPGA. Last year I did the top 30, but this year I will do the top 25. Note that as of this post, the retired Li Na has been removed from the WTA website money list rankings, but I will include her here. Thus, some WTA players will be off by one position on my list compared to the WTA website list. Also, Hyo Joo Kim is not on my LPGA list due to not being a member this year. I’m certain she will be on the list in the future. For the WTA, singles, doubles and mixed are combined for this top 25. Number 4 on this money list for each tour are Simona Halep (WTA) and Michelle Wie (LPGA).
SIMONA HALEP (Romania)
2014 Official WTA Prize Money: $4,519,763
Best Results: WINNER (2) Qatar Total Open, Bucharest Open; RUNNER-UP (3) Roland Garros, WTA Finals, Mutua Madrid Open; SF (2) Wimbledon, BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells; QF (3) Australian Open, Western & Southern Open, China Open
WTA Awards: Fan Favorite Major Match of the Year: Roland Garros Final (vs. Maria Sharapova)
Social Media: Facebook
When I did my top 30 countdown last year, I pointed out how despite winning 6 tournaments Simona Halep was “only” 18th on the money list. Usually, with that many titles a player would be first or second. But some of those wins were at smaller purse events. I was curious if Simona would take that next step and go further in bigger events, even if she didn’t win as much. Oh…yeah. Halep exceeded my expectations in a big way. I would have been satisfied with a deep run at one Major. Simona went deep three times with a quarterfinal berth at the Australian Open, the semifinals of Wimbledon and all the way to the final at Roland Garros. She gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in a match voted Fan Favorite Major Match of the Year. Simona’s brilliant play didn’t end there. WTA Finals? Runner-up. Ditto at Madrid. Semis at Indian Wells. Quarters at Cincinnati and Beijing. These are among the biggest events on the WTA Tour. As much as I loved what Halep did in 2013, I never imagined she would be this good in 2014. That’s even before mentioning her two titles at Doha and Bucharest. En route to earning four and a half million dollars in prize money, she reached her highest ever ranking of world #2 before finishing the year at #3.
With Li Na now retired, Simona is on my short list for new top favorite player. She is already my favorite to watch. That was even before Li Na retired. The way Halep changes direction on shots reminds me of Kim Clijsters. She’s not as powerful as Kim, but she is sneaky strong on some shots. Put it this way, she has more pop on certain strokes than given credit for having. The way she redirects her backhand up the line is a thing of beauty. I have a soft spot for Petra Kvitova, but part of me wants to make Simona my number one. Maybe I’ll have co-number ones in 2015…at least, until Madison Keys hits her stride and breaks through to the upper echelons of the game. But as it stands now, I can’t wait to see if Simona takes another huge step in 2015 and finishes next year as a Major champion.
MICHELLE WIE (United States)
2014 Official LPGA Prize Money: $1,924,796
Best Results: WINNER (2) US Women’s Open, LPGA Lotte Championship; 2nd Kraft Nabisco Championship, 3rd North Texas LPGA Shootout, T3 Airbus LPGA Classic, T3 Blue Bay LPGA, 4th Honda LPGA Thailand, T5 CME Group Tour Championship, T5 KEB LPGA HanaBank Championship, T6 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, T8 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, T9 HSBC Women’s Champions, T9 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic
LPGA Awards: Rolex Annika Major Award
This was the kind of season for which so many (of us) Michelle Wie fans have been waiting. Her 13 top tens were more than the previous three years combined. Her prize money total also surpassed her aggregate amount for 2011, 2012 and 2013. Her 69.82 scoring average was by far her best scoring season, even surpassing her child prodigy years when she was racking up multiple top fives in Majors. Winless since 2010, she shook that monkey off her back in Hollywood script fashion, getting back into the winner’s circle in Hawaii where she is beloved. The jewel in the crown was her victory at the biggest event in women’s golf, the US Women’s Open. And as wonderful a season as it was for Michelle, it could have been possibly even better were it not for time lost to injury. For her performance in Majors she was awarded the inaugural Rolex Annika Major Award.
I admit a few years ago things looked bleak. 2012 was the nadir with only 1 top ten and 10 missed cuts. Her scoring average ballooned to 73.48. It didn’t get much better to start in 2013 with 3 missed cuts in her first five tournaments. I even heard pundits beginning to speculate whether Wie was done as a top player. Some even contemplated the possibility of her walking away from the game. The one piece of solace I took as a fan of Michelle was that she still seemed to be a happy person loving her life. Ultimately, that is more important in the long run. But I still held hope for on-course success. Toward the end of 2013 she started to find her footing. Top 10s in Korea and Mexico, along with a T11 at the year end Titleholders made me wish 2013 hadn’t come to an end. Fortunately, she picked up where she left off to begin 2014…and then some. Her 2nd place finish at the first Major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, was not a fluke. It was a sign of things to come. I hope the entire 2014 season serves to herald great seasons to come for Michelle. She’s been around so long, since her days as a teen phenom, that it’s easy to forget that she’s only 25 years old. It’s possible that she’s only just begun to show her capabilities.
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