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 #3 players for 2015: Garbine Muguruza (WTA), Jiyai Shin (JLPGA) and Stacy Lewis (LPGA).
GARBIÑE MUGURUZA (WTA)
2015 Prize Money: $4,498,308
Titles: [SINGLES] China Open; [DOUBLES] Aegon Classic, Toray Pan Pacific Open
687, 432, 249, 104, 64, 21 and 3. That is the progression over the last 7 years of Garbine Muguruza’s rise up the WTA rankings. Of most significance are the last 3 years as a rising top tier player. In my opinion, when considering players under 25 years old who look to be the future of the tour, it comes down to 20-year old Madison Keys and 22-year old Muguruza. And for Gabi, the future is now. I thought she would have a good 2015. I didn’t think she would be runner-up at Wimbledon and finish the year world #3. She is way ahead of schedule. If I had one quibble, it would be for her to reduce or eliminate her doubles play and focus on singles. It’s hard to say that when she and playing partner Carla Suarez Navarro won twice and finished runners-up 3 times in 2015, including the 2015 WTA Finals. But it was those same WTA Finals that have me worried that full-time doubles is too much for Gabi to carry while trying to challenge for #1 in singles. In the semifinals against Agnieszka Radwanska, although it was a terrific match in terms of drama, Muguruza looked absolutely exhausted even before Aga started running her around the court. I think Gabi can and will eventually reach the top of the singles rankings. I just think she would get there faster if she had a little more in the tank late in tournaments so she could win more titles and the increased points that come with them.
JIYAI SHIN (JLPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $952,217 USD (¥114,861,293)
Titles: JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup (Major), Nichirei Ladies, Cyber Agent Ladies
Wherever Jiyai Shin goes, wins are sure to follow. After making the full-time move to the JLPGA, she won 4 times in 2014 and 3 more times in 2015. The latter season saw The Final Round Queen add her first JLPGA Major to her resume, the JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup. She now owns Major victories on the KLPGA, LPGA, LET and JLPGA tours. Once again, she was solid in nearly every statistical category on tour. She doesn’t bomb it off the tee, but everything else she does superbly. I am really bummed that Jiyai is on the JLPGA. Sure, I love the Japanese tour. That’s why I cover it so much. But Shin was building an incredible body of accomplishments on the LPGA, the world’s top tour. In my eyes, and the eyes of others who closely follow women’s golf on the global stage, she is one of the handful of greatest players of her generation. I just wonder and worry that now with Jiyai being successful out of the gaze of the American press that while she will get credit for all she accomplished in the States, she won’t get nearly the praise that her ability and results warrant. That said, wherever she choses to play, my gaze will follow. She is one of the most brilliant players I have seen since becoming a women’s golf fan these past 20 years.
STACY LEWIS (LPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $1,893,423
Titles: [TEAM] Solheim Cup (United States)
Oh boy. I wish I didn’t have to write about what I must write about for Stacy Lewis. First of all, Stacy is an absolute ace. She is, and has been for some time, the greatest America women’s golf player. Others get more hype. She just remains the best. But as wonderful as she is, there is a glaring stat that has to be driving her crazy. Since 2011, Stacy has 11 LPGA victories. Awesome. The problem is she also has 20 2nd place finishes. I point that out as if it’s a bad thing, but when on thinks about it 31 top 2 finishes over 5 years is fantastic. 99% of the tour would take that. However, Stacy is in that 1%…maybe less than 1%…of players vying not only to be the best player from their county but the best in the world. In 2014, with 3 wins and 6 2nds on the LPGA, Stacy was the best. This year, with 0 wins (other than the Solheim Cup team win) and another 6 2nds…she fell out of the top spot. 12 2nds in the last two years. Imagine if one-third of those were wins…if one-half of those were wins. She would probably still be on top of the women’s golf mountain. Still, let me conclude not with what didn’t happen. Let me celebrate the greatness that Stacy did exhibit. The fact that she is a rare and special talent, even when measured against the best in the world. She was an absolute superstar in 2015. It was a joy and pleasure to watch her perform.
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