Over the final two weeks of 2013, we will be breaking down players that rose and fell over the past 12 months. Check out the entire series here.
• • •
Ranking/movement: +45 (No. 80 to No. 35)
Why the rise? Few players have walked off the 72nd hole having missed a 7-foot birdie putt to force a playoff and looked as happy as Piller.
“I’ve never led an LPGA event,” said Piller, who slept on a share of the 54-hole lead at the CME Group Titleholders Championship. “So to come out and grind like I did and give myself an opportunity to force a playoff, I’m pretty excited about that. I’m excited that I’m done for the year.”
And what a year it has been for the long-bombing Piller, who has doubled her earnings each season since 2011.
At the start of the year, Piller wanted to skip the first event in Australia because her ballstriking was so poor. She claims she couldn’t break 45 for nine holes back home in Texas. But Piller sought the help of Mike Wright, the instructor of good friend Angela Stanford, and rediscovered her confidence.
“Her game has always been good, but kind of raw,” said husband Martin Piller, a fellow pro golfer. “It seems like her game has gotten a little more polished every year.”
Wright said earlier this season that when the Pillers are hitting balls next to each other on the range, it’s hard to tell their shots apart judging by sound alone.
The Pillers liked Wright and Shady Oaks so much they recently bought a home in Fort Worth, five minutes from Stanford.
Piller, 28, called her captain’s pick for this year’s Solheim Cup team one of the best things that has ever happened to her. She had eight top-10 finishes this season and lowered her scoring average more than a full point. Biggest areas of improvement from last year were greens hit (14th), birdies (8th) and sand saves (18th).
Piller says: “Out here it’s easy to get in the mindset like ‘Do I belong or am I good enough to win?’, and when you compete on that kind of level (Solheim), I think that it shows a lot of what your potential is and how you handle things.”