For the past two years I have counted down the top 30 (2013) and top 25 (2014) players on the WTA and LPGA money lists as my year-end wrap-up. This year I am reducing the list to the top 15. However, I am adding the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) to the countdown. For the WTA, singles, doubles and mixed doubles are added to the total money earnings. For the JLPGA, I will approximate the US Dollar totals based on the day I look up the exchange rate. Here are the #11 players for 2015: Carla Suarez Navarro (WTA), Miki Sakai (JLPGA) and Morgan Pressel (LPGA).
CARLA SUAREZ NAVARRO (WTA)
2015 Prize Money: $2,001,705
Titles: (DOUBLES) Aegon Classic, Toray Pan Pacific Open
It was a tale of two seasons for Carla Suarez Navarro, both within her singles play and in comparing singles to doubles. Within just her singles, she made runs to the final of the Diamond Games (where she couldn’t play the championship match, resulting in tournament director Kim Clijsters playing a short set against finalist Andrea Petkovic…and winning it), the Miami Open and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Although she finished runner-up each time, that’s still a pretty good year especially when one considers that she cracked the Top 10 for the first time in her career. The blemish in singles was getting bounced out of Majors in the first round three times. For a player of her caliber, that’s far below her capabilities. Anybody can suffer an upset loss, but three in the first round of Majors in one year is a bit much. However, turning to doubles, she and playing partner Garbine Muguruza were a strong pair, winning in Birmingham and Tokyo. They also finished runners-up at the year-ending WTA Finals. I wondered it this year for Muguruza and the same holds true for Carla; maybe the physicality and grind of singles play in this era makes it a little tough to juggle both and be as succcessful as one can be in singles.
MIKI SAKAI (JLPGA)
Prize Money: $509,578 USD (¥61,278,327)
Before her breakthrough 2104 season, in which she won twice and finished 6th on the JLPGA money list, Miki Sakai had never finished inside 30th in prize money. So it was a question coming into 2015 as to whether she would maintain her level of play or slip. Well, she did slip, but not terribly. 11th on the money list in 2015, with 2 runner-up finishes including the JLPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup (MAJOR), is still a shining season. While I am concerned about her overall scoring average, which slipped over half a stroke from last year, Miki did manage 9 top 10s. 2 of those top 10s were at Majors, the aforementioned Konica Minolta Cup and the JLPGA Championship Ricoh Cup. Making the best of the biggest tournaments is a great trait for any pro.
MORGAN PRESSEL (LPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $962,794
While I enjoy blogging about many LPGA players, Morgan Pressel is one of my favorites of favorites. I just have so much respect and admiration for what she does off the course. How committed and active she is with her foundation and its fight against cancer, especially breast cancer, is inspiring. Morgan was presented the Charlie Bartlett Award at the Golf Writers Association of America Awards Dinner for her charitable efforts. And she was fairly inspiring on the course in 2015. Look, I am aware that her last tournament victory was in 2008. However, objectively speaking Morgan had a fantastic 2015, armed with a new swing, even without a win. She came darn close at Swinging Skirts, falling to Lydia Ko on the second hole of a playoff. She was 1 shot off the lead after the 2nd round of the Evian Championship. Add in 3 top 5s and a T11 in Majors this year, including a solo 3rd at ANA Inspiration where she led after the first round, and that’s a great year. She had a course record 8-under 64 in the second round of Kia. Morgan also led Shoprite after round 2. Once again, Pressel was a key member of the winning USA Solheim Cup team. If she has a 2016 season that matches 2015, that would be wonderful. But of course, as a fan I’d love to see her top it all off win a win next year.
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CARLA SUAREZ NAVARRO