We are just a few days away from the start of the 2020 LPGA season! With 34 tournaments on the schedule (including the UL International Crown), this year promises to be one of the most exciting ever.
And with the LPGA adding more and more talented players from all over the world each year, it is very difficult to narrow this down to just 40 players, but I will give it a try.
In reverse order, here are my top 40 LPGA player of the year predictions for the 2020 season (last year’s actual money list finish in parenthesis).
40 – Pajaree Anannarukarn (71) – Because of a poor priority list ranking, Pajaree did not get into many tournaments in the first part of the season. When she did, she took full advantage and got reshuffled into full-time action the second half of the season. She missed just three cuts in twenty starts and had five top 25 finishes.
39 – Marina Alex (37) – After having a stellar year in 2018 (finishing No. 17), Marina fell back 20 spots last season. I look for her to have another solid but not spectacular season.
38 – Caroline Masson (29) – A very steady player on the LPGA tour for almost a decade, you can always count on her to finish in this area.
37 – Patty Tavatanakit (N/A) – One of two rookies on my list, she dominated the Symetra Tour last season winning three times in her first eight starts. She finished No. 2 on that tour’s money list in spite of not teeing it up until June and competing in only half of the tournaments.
36 – Nanna Koerstz Madsen (38) – After struggling on the LPGA tour in her rookie season (finishing 106th), Nanna turned it around in her sophomore season on the LPGA. Her 2nd place finish in Indianapolis was the highlight of her season.
35 – Kristin Gillman (43) – Kristin had an outstanding rookie season in 2019, finishing second in the race for the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award. A two time Women’s Amateur Champion, look for an even better year in 2020.
34 – So Yeon Ryu (23) – One of the most popular players on tour for almost a decade, she has slipped a bit the past couple of years. It appears her best days are behind her. I hope I am wrong.
33 – Angel Yin (28) – I have been predicting that Angel would have that breakout season for a few years now, but she still has not won on the LPGA tour. She has finished in this area three years in a row now. Maybe this is as good as she gets. If so, she is still a solid player.
32 – Lydia Ko (48) – 2019 was a year that Lydia will want to forget. Her days of being the No. 1 player in the world seem to be long gone. She has won only once in the last three years. It is hard to believe that at 22 years of age her best days are behind her. She still has one of the best short games on the tour, but finishing No. 152 in driving distance and No. 96 in greens in regulation is not a good combination for winning golf. Although I believe she will never be as successful as she once was, I think she will bounce back some this coming season.
31- Celine Boutier (28) – One of the big surprises of the 2019 season, Boutier won the ISPS Vic Open. She was also a member of Team Europe at the Solheim Cup, where she won all four of her matches. She tailed off some in the second half of the season, but I look for her to have another strong year.
30 – Moriya Jutanugarn (25) – Has slipped a bit the last couple of years, but still a solid player who will always be in the shadow of her younger sister Ariya.
29 – Yealmini Noh (N/A) – Noh had two top-ten finishes as a Monday qualifier in 2019. A can’t miss rookie, and my pick to win the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award. If she does, she will be the first American player to win the award since Paula Creamer in 2005.
28 – Eun-Hee Ji (24) – She will be starting her 14th year on tour but still flies under the radar. A five-time winner, look for her to have another solid if not spectacular season.
27 – Brittany Altomare (21) – Brittany had her finest year on the LPGA tour last season. That said, she will be entering her sixth season and is still looking for that first victory. She had two second-place finishes last year, and if she can break through and get that first win, she can finish much higher than this.
26 – Charley Hull (19) – Charley has never made a secret of the fact that playing golf is just her job and not her life. Certainly not a bad attitude to have in life, but one that I think will keep her from being the top ten player I always thought she could be.
25 – Su Oh (33) – Su had her best year on the LPGA tour in 2019. She recorded two second-place finishes and four top tens. She has to learn to be more consistent as she missed six consecutive cuts at one point last season. I think that the first career victory will be coming real soon.
24 – Megan Khang (32) – Another player that is coming off her best season. She finished the season strong, recording four top tens in her last ten starts. Look for her to improve again this year.
23 – Jennifer Kupcho (39) – Jennifer did not make her first start as an LPGA member until Late May last season as she chose to stay in school and graduate. The fact that she played just about half the season and finished No. 39 on the money list was quite a feat. Having three top-five finishes certainly helped. A future star on the LPGA tour, I look for her to get her first victory this year and quite possibly finish much higher than I have her here.
22 – Inbee Park (26) – When focused on playing golf, Inbee is still one of the elite players on tour. The fact that she skips so many tournaments prevents me from putting her any higher on my list.
21 – Hannah Green (12) – Hannah shocked us all in 2019 when she made her first LPGA victory a Major Championship! She proved that wasn’t a fluke when she won in Portland later in the season. Since she finished 73rd on the money list the previous year, nobody saw this coming. Was it a career year? No, I don’t think so. I do think she will fall back a few notches this season.
20 – Hyo Joo Kim (10) – It was a huge comeback season for Hyo Joo in 2019. Her twelve top-ten finishes were topped only by Brooke Henderson’s thirteen. Although she somehow avoided the winner’s circle, she did have three runner-up finishes. Look for a slight drop this season, but another solid one.
19 – Shanshan Feng (16) – After failing to win in 2018, Shanshan was back in the winner’s circle last year. One of the most consistent ball strikers on tour for over a decade, look for another solid season this year.
18 – M.J. Hur (14) – With all the great players from the Republic of Korea on the LPGA tour, this player seems to fly under the radar. Entering her 12th season on the LPGA tour, she seems to get better with age. She won twice last year for the first time in her career.
17 – Lizette Salas (13) – It is hard to believe that she has only one victory in her eight years on tour. She has put herself in a position to win on Sunday many times over the course of her career but has a very hard time finishing. I expect her to have another solid season but can’t put her higher than this until she shows that she can win again.
16 – Yu Liu (20) – Yu was one of the most consistent players on tour last season. She made the cut in 26 of her 28 starts. She had 18 top 30 finishes and seven top tens. Look for her to get her first LPGA victory this season.
15 – Lexi Thompson (6) – Lexi has won at least one tournament in each of the past seven seasons. That is the longest current streak on tour. In order to keep that streak alive this year she is going to have to improve her putting stats. She finished 145th in putting average in 2019. She does hit lots of greens, so her 61st place finish in putts per greens in regulation may be a better barometer. Still, she misses way too many putts inside 3 feet on a weekly basis. If she putts better in 2020, the sky is the limit. If not, this is where I think she will finish.
14 – Bronte Law (31) – When I did my top 40 predictions last year I predicted that Bronte would move up ten spots to No. 31, and that is exactly what she did. I am going to be even bolder this year and say she will move all the way up to here.
13 – Nasa Hataoka (18) – Not only did Nasa record her third win of the year last season, but also had two finishes in second place, one third, one fourth, and one fifth. She is certainly capable of having a multiple win season, and that is why I pick her this high.
12 – Amy Yang (17) – It is hard to believe that Amy is entering her twelfth year on tour and has just four victories. With her swing and overall game, that figure boggles my mind. She is still only 30 years old and has time to shake off that “underachiever” label. Look for her to get her first victory on American soil this year, and move up to this spot.
11 – Jessica Korda (22) – Jessica played in just eighteen of 32 tournaments last year but still managed six top tens and 13 top 25 finishes. Her health has been a concern in the past few years. Assuming that she is healthy, she should be back in the winner’s circle and move all the way up to here.
My Top 10 Predictions
10 – Carlota Ciganda (15) – With only two victories on the LPGA tour (in eight seasons), I feel the same way about Carlota as I do about Amy Yang. It’s about time she started turning those top tens (she has 37 of them) into wins. I look for that to happen this coming season.
9 – Ariya Jutanugarn (11) – After having won ten times in the previous four years, Ariya failed to record a victory in 2019. She is just too good for that to happen again this year.
8 – Sung Hyun Park (7) – Why do I feel like even though she won twice last year, her season was a disappointment? Because she is that good. There are so many great players on the LPGA Tour, and I put her in this position even though I know she could finish at the very top.
7 – Jeongeun Lee6 (3) – When I did my predictions before the 2019 season, I picked her as the favorite to win the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award. She did not disappoint, winning it quite easily. In fact, after she won the U.S. Women’s Open in May it wasn’t even a contest. She played a very heavy schedule (25 events), and that could be the reason she tailed off a bit at the end. Look for her to have another solid season and add a title or two to her resume.
6 – Danielle Kang (9) – This two time U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion was expected to make an immediate splash when she joined the LPGA in 2012. She didn’t. In fact, she did not win a single tournament in her first five years on tour. That changed in a hurry when she made her first win a major championship. She has now won three years in a row, and I look for her to have her biggest year yet in 2020.
5 – Sei Young Kim (2) – When this player gets on a roll there isn’t anyone better. In fact, she has the two lowest scores (under par) in LPGA history! The only negative is that you don’t always know which Sei Young Kim is going to show up. A three-time winner in 2019, look for more of the same this coming season.
4 – Minjee Lee (8) – Minjee is in contention on Sundays as many times as any player on tour. That statement is backed up by the fact that she has 47 top ten finishes in just five years. It is hard to believe that she has only won five times. I look for her to win more than once this year, and finish in this spot.
3 – Brooke Henderson (4) – Brooke has won twice in every full season that she has played on the LPGA tour. Her 13 top tens last year led the entire tour. She is the most successful golfer in Canadian history (male or female). Look for her to keep that streak going and once again win multiple times.
2 – Nelly Korda (5) – Nelly has taken over the title as the best American player on tour. A two-time winner in 2019, I think we have yet to see anything close to her best yet. If she stays healthy, I believe she can be a definite contender for the Rolex Player of the Year.
1 – Jin Young Ko (1) – I wanted to make this pick a little more dramatic, but after the season she had last year how could I pick anyone else? Her scoring average of 69.062 was the lowest on the LPGA tour in seventeen years and the second-best in LPGA history. She won four times in 2019, including two major championships. Look for a tight race this year with Ko finishing on top once again.
Players most likely to make me look foolish for not putting them on this list
Mi Hyang Lee, Ally McDonald, Azahara Munoz.
Players that could have a surprising impact on the 2020 season
Maria Fassi, Anne Van Dam, Albane Valenzuela.
Candidates for comeback player of the year
In Gee Chun, Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller.
Feature photo of 2019 LPGA Player Jin Young Ko at the LA Open and all the other photos in Tony’s article are by Ben Harpring.