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 #7 players for 2015: Petra Kvitova (WTA), Momoko Ueda (JLPGA) and Cristie Kerr (LPGA).
PETRA KVITOVA (WTA)
2015 Prize Money: $3,288,722
Titles: Sydney International, Mutua Madrid Open, Connecticut Open; [Team] Fed Cup (Czech Republic)
It seems like every time I talk about Petra Kvitova I have to mention how I feel she is the most talented player on tour, the true heir to Serena’s throne. And of Serena’s 3 losses this year, the match against Petra was the one that I feel was most caused by the opponent. No offense to Belinda Bencic or Roberta Vinci, but Williams gave both of them a bit of help in beating her. Kvitova went out at Madrid and took the match from Serena, no gifts necessary. But with Petra’s allergies and mononucleosis, her practice time and energy comes and goes. And from a technical aspect, she could work a little more spin into her shots so she had greater margins of error with which to work. For now, I’m not going to back off the prediction that Petra is the next dominant player on tour, especially coming off a 3 tournament win (Sydney, Madrid, New Haven) season, a runner-up at the WTA Finals and a Fed Cup title, but at 25 this is the time she should be going into her prime. Whether Serena or Maria Sharapova play several more years or not, it’s time for Petra to assert herself and consistently become the player that she shows when she’s at Wimbledon winning titles.
MOMOKO UEDA (JLPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $737,791 USD (¥88,731,118)
Titles: [TEAM] The Queens (Japan)
I could be wrong about this…as I often am…but save for the 2007 season when she won 5 times and led the JLPGA money list and POY, 2015 was Momoko’s most consistently good year on tour. I say that knowing she won twice last year and in 2008. But 16 top 10s this year was very impressive, especially her 10 top 10s in her first 13 events. One of the best putters on the JLPGA, she rode that to prize money and scoring totals bested only by her otherworldly 2007 campaign. Of her 3 runner-up finishes this season, 2 were at Majors, the Salonpas Cup and the Konica Minolta Cup. She also was the captain of Team Japan as they won the inaugural Queens golf tournament pitting Japan, South Korea, Europe and Australia against one another. All of this reinforces my wish that Momoko would come back to the LPGA tour. At 31 now, it’s probably not in the cards. It’s just that when I see her playing so well I get that “Shane, come back!” feeling. Unfortunately, it seems for the remainder of her career, save for a few Major appearances in the States, I will have to admire Ueda’s play from half a world away.
CRISTIE KERR (LPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $1,294,301
Titles: CME Group Tour Championship, Kia Classic; [TEAM] Solheim Cup (United States)
What can one say about the enduring brilliance of Cristie Kerr? On a tour inundated with precocious neophytes, the veteran Kerr showed why she is closing in on 20 LPGA tour victories. She notched titles 17 and 18 this year, including the CME Group Tour Championship. It was her first multiple win season since 2010 and first time back in the year end top 10 on the money list since 2011. She also tied for 2nd at the North Texas Shootout. Let’s also not forget what a force she is for the USA Solheim Cup team both on and off the course. Cristie’s 3-0-1 performance in Germany earned Team USA 3.5 points, matched only by teammate Gerina Piller and Europe’s Melissa Reid. As I often mention with Morgan Pressel, Kerr’s efforts with her foundation to fight breast cancer makes her a champion regardless of what happens on the course.
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