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 #4 players for 2015: Agnieszka Radwanska (WTA), Sun-Ju Ahn (JLPGA) and Sei-Young Kim (LPGA).
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (WTA)
2015 Prize Money: $4,412,293
Titles: WTA Finals, Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tianjin Open; [TEAM] Hopman Cup (Poland)
Awards: WTA Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year, WTA Fan Favorite Shot of the Year, WTA Fan Favorite Match of the Year (vs. Garbine Muguruza, WTA Finals Semifinal)
Before 2015 started, there was a buzz about Agnieszka Radwanska bringing aboard Martina Navratilova as a coach. But the results weren’t there and the partnership dissolved. Of course, Martina is one of the players in the conversation as the best ever. However, sometimes that doesn’t always mean there will be magic in the mix coaching a specific player. Aga caught fire in the second part of the year, winning in Tianjin and Tokyo while being runner-up in Eastbourne. She topped it all off with the biggest title of her career when she won the 2015 WTA Finals Singles championship. All the while the fans really love Radwanska. She is the 5-time reigning WTA Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year. She was also voted tops in Favorite Shot of the Year and Favorite Match of the Year for her victory over Garbine Muguruza in a semifinal match at the WTA Finals. Aga is only 26. She has time to fill in the one missing piece on her resume, a Major title. If she continues to play as she did in the second half of 2015, she should have many chances to come.
SUN-JU AHN (JLPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $872,158 USD (¥105,204,082)
Titles: Toto Japan Classic, Century 21 Ladies Golf Tournament
It’s no surprise to see Sun-Ju Ahn, a 3-time JLPGA Money List Winner and 3-time Player of the Year, once again in the mix atop the tour leaders. Although she didn’t reach the absolute peak this year, she still added 2 more titles to her sterling resume, bringing her career JLPGA total to 20. What’s more is that one of those victories was at the Toto Japan Classic, an LPGA and JLPGA co-sponsored event. So now the JLPGA all-time great has her first LPGA title. Sun-Ju was alongside In-Gee Chun and Brooke Henderson as non-member LPGA champions in 2015. With all due respect to other great JLPGA stars, if you look at the last 6 years, with 3 MVPs and 3 Money List titles along with 4th place Money List finishes in each of the other 3 years, Ahn is clearly the greatest JLPGA player over that time period. Bo-Mee Lee might have had a record year this season, but she would need to keep it up for a few more seasons before I ranked her alongside Sun-Ju Ahn. They are both special players.
SEI-YOUNG KIM (LPGA)
2015 Prize Money: $1,820,056
Titles: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, LPGA Lotte Championship, Blue Bay LPGA
There are rookie campaigns on the LPGA that are just extraodinary. Se Ri Pak in 1998 and Jiyai Shin in 2009 come to mind as players who not only won Rookie of the Year but tied for the most wins on tour that year. Sei-Young Kim didn’t tie for the lead in wins in 2015, but her 3 titles did equal the total Jiyai Shin put up. More importantly, there are certain seasons when the Rookie of the Year will be a player who heads a relatively weaker class. That was certainly not the case for Sei-Young. The 2015 rookie class was among the strongest and deepest in LPGA history. And I’m not even counting the sensational non-member In Gee Chun, who will be a rookie in 2016. Not only did Sei-Young win 3 titles, 2 of them were in playoffs. In the second of those playoffs, she stared down all-time LPGA great Inbee Park. Kim, a taekwondo black belt, delivered a blow with perhaps the shot of the year, an eagle on the first hole to end matters. With so much great talent from around the world fighting it out on the LPGA, it would be unfair to expect Sei-Young Kim to repeat or exceed her rookie achievements in her sophomore year. Or would it?
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