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 #8 players for 2015: Lucie Safarova (WTA), Erika Kikuchi (JLPGA) and So Yeon Ryu (LPGA).
LUCIE SAFAROVA (WTA)
2015 Prize Money: $2,946,261
Titles: (SINGLES) Qatar Total Open; (DOUBLES) Australian Open (Major), Roland Garros (Major), Stuttgart Open, Rogers Cup; (TEAM) Fed Cup (Czech Republic)
It was a career year for Lucie Safarova. She reached her first singles Major final at Roland Garros. She teamed with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win 4 events, including 2 Majors (Australian Open, Roland Garros). Lucie achieved her highest ranking ever in both singles and doubles. But it could have been even better. After reaching the final of the Connecticut Open, she suffered an abdominal tear in the championship match against Petra Kvitova and ended up acquiring a bacterial infection that hospitalized her for a week and took months from which to recover. She was ill in her first round at the US Open and never really returned to full strength, even though she returned to the tour in time for the WTA Finals and Fed Cup. I hope Lucie has another career year in 2016, but this time gets the opportunity to finish what she started.
ERIKA KIKUCHI (JLPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $732,900 USD (¥88,274,415)
Titles: KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open
Speaking of career years, the JLPGA’s Erika Kikuchi had her best year ever on tour. She was simply on target for most of the year, with 14 top 10s and 3 runners-up finishes. She was top 10 on the money list, scoring list and putting. Her prize money and scoring average were both professional bests. The highlight of her sensational season was a wire to wire victory at the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open. On tour since 2008, it was Erika’s first career JLPGA victory. It’s tough to predict how much higher she can go from here. The very top the JLPGA is extremely tough to crack. I’d like to see 27-year old Kikuchi make a run for the top 5, but in the end we’ll see. All I know is this year she had a victory with 3 runners-up. What if she had won 2 of those 3 bridesmaid finishes? She might have been top 5 this year.
SO YEON RYU (LPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $1,292,395
Sometimes I hate the way it sounds when I say a player could have or should have done something, or underachieved on this list. A player wouldn’t even make the top 15 money list standings on this countdown if they weren’t among the handful of the world’s best. So keep in mind that I am judging by a player’s own incredibly high standard. That goes for the amazingly talented So Yeon Ryu. I think she is one of the most special players in the world. That’s evident not only by her success on the LPGA but the fact that she won on the KLPGA and LET tour in 2015. But while she had 10 top 10s in 2015 on the LPGA tour, she didn’t take a title. She has 3 career LPGA victories. I truly believe she has the talent to win 3 titles in a year. Of her 10 top 10s, 9 of them were top 5s. She puts herself in the mix so often. For the past few years, I’ve started the WTA season saying it would be the year ultra-talented Petra Kvitova breaks through to the top of the tour. Well, let me start a trend for the LPGA by saying 2016 will be the year ultra-talented So Yeon Ryu breaks through straight to the top of the tour.
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SO YEON RYU