2013 preview: 10 LPGA storylines to watch

Stacy Lewis admires her Rolex 2012 Player of the Year trophy at the LPGA Rolex Awards Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton Resort on November 16, 2012 in Naples, Florida.

Our LPGA senior writer Beth Ann Baldry takes a look at 10 players to watch in the upcoming 2013 season:

• • •

1. Stacy Lewis

But can she do it again? Lewis just wrapped up a terrific season, ending an 18-year American drought in the Player of the Year race and we’re already wanting more. Next up for Lewis: Overtake Yani Tseng in the Rolex Rankings. There’s still a lot of ground to cover, and Lewis will be feeling even more pressure now that she has raised the bar. Should be a fun show.

• • •

2. Yani Tseng

Which Yani will greet us in 2013? Honestly, it’s hard to predict. Tseng said all the right things at the end of the year, indicating that the rough patches in 2012 could be nothing more than a blessing in disguise. She talked about appreciating things more, working harder and becoming more disciplined. But it’s all just talk if she can’t play with confidence. What she needs is an early win.

• • •

3. So Yeon Ryu

Anyone else feel like Ryu is about to have a monster year? The LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year was extremely solid: 16 top-10s, second on the tour in GIR putts, second in scoring, second in birdies. She shot a blazing 62 on Sunday to win the Jamie Farr. The 2011 U.S. Women’s Open winner transitioned nicely to the LPGA in 2012. She’ll only get better.

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4. Inbee Park

It’s hard to overlook Park after she ripped through the second half of 2012, posting six runner-up finishes and two victories. Park won the money title and the Vare Trophy, and gave Stacy Lewis all she could handle in the POY race. She led the tour in two putting categories and recorded 10 consecutive top-10 finishes in 2012. Park will likely remain overshadowed next year, but that just means she’s playing with less pressure. Look out.

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5. Chie Arimura

The Japanese media made their way out to Daytona Beach, Fla., to watch a player ranked 19th in the world try to earn her card at Q-School. It wasn’t quite the hubbub caused by compatriot Ai Miyazato a few years back, but enough to know that Arimura is a star in her native Japan. A 13-time winner on the JLPGA, it doesn’t take long to figure out that this rookie means business.

• • •

6. Austin Ernst

Left LSU after two years and one NCAA Championship title. She’s got a confidence about her that’s fun and entertaining. Ernst said she’s been “living the dream” since she quit school and started treating golf like a 9-to-5 job. She’ll set high goals for 2013, and her attitude just might take her there.

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7. Brooke Pancake

Smart-as-a-whip Alabama grad is the quintessential All-American, Southern charmer. Pancake (definitely the best name in the rookie class), won the 2012 Honda Award as the nation’s top golfer after leading the Tide to their first NCAA Championship last May. The LPGA could use a whole stack of Pancakes. Seriously.

• • •

8. Lizette Salas

Scrappy player made 16 of 18 cuts in her rookie year, finishing 51st on the money list. U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon spent time watching the USC grad at the CME Group Titleholders. Birdied all three playoff holes to earn her card in December 2011, earning the nickname “Miss Clutch.” She’s easy to root for.

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9. Moriya Jutanugarn

She’s been a “little pro” for years, leaving Thailand to travel the U.S. with her sister for months at a time. This will be the first year the pair have been apart for any length of time and it will be interesting to see how they react. Jutanugarn is good, but her game hasn’t been tested at this level all that much.

• • •

10. Gerina Piller

Made great strides in 2012, doubling the number of cuts made, finishing 48th on the money list and placing sixth at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. A few veteran Americans took the Texan under their wings and will be pulling for her to get into the Solheim Cup mix next year. She’s currently 15th in points.

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