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2012 LPGA Tour Year In Review

3:11 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 LPGA Tour season looked like it would be dominated by its top player, but she struggled over the summer and let others jump to the fore.

Yani Tseng won three of her first five starts and looked to be off to the races. As she started to struggle in the middle of the year, other players stepped up and began to dominate.

Stacy Lewis had a stretch of six top-5 finishes in a 7-tournament span. Inbee Park had a run of six events in which she didn't finish outside the top three.

Tseng's three wins increased her total to 13 in the last three seasons, and were among 15 victories for Asian born players on the LPGA Tour this year. Lewis had half of the eight wins for Americans.

The season was marked by dry spells by some top players, some special runs by others, and maybe defined in the end by a missed tap-in.

Let's look at who did what in 2012:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- No more back stories

Everyone knows the story about Stacy Lewis sitting in a back-brace for hours on end because she was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11.

What people don't talk about as much was the fact that she was a decorated collegiate golfer at Arkansas.

She won the SEC Tournament as a freshman and again as a senior, while being named the conference's Rookie and Player of the Year thanks to those victories. Lewis earned All-American honors four times and was a two-time academic All-American as well.

So what does that have to do with this year? We should have seen it coming!

Among her accomplishments this year, Lewis led the LPGA Tour in wins, shared the tour lead in top-5 and top-10 finishes, and shared second in most cuts made.

Lewis' stellar season saw her climb to No. 2 in the world for a time, though she has slipped all the way to third as the year winds to a close.

Her four wins were the most by an American since Paula Creamer won four times in 2008.

Though she finished just third on the tour's money list, Lewis earned enough points to win the tour's Player of the Year honors.

Among the others considered were Inbee Park, who had two wins and six runner- up finishes, U.S. Women's Open champion Na Yeon Choi and Yani Tseng, who won three of her first five events of the year.

TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR -- Dinah Shore magic

The Kraft Nabisco Championship is annually the first major of the golf season, and year in and year out it seems to have the craziest ending.

Whether it be Karrie Webb's hole out eagle to force a playoff in 2006 or Brittany Lincicome's final hole eagle to win the 2009 title, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course always has an exciting finish.

Sometimes the excitement is after the round too; like in 2011 when Stacy Lewis' mom broke her leg on the traditional winner's jump into Poppie's Pond.

This year, Sun Young Yoo closed with a 69 to get in the clubhouse at 9-under par. I.K. Kim was chasing from the next group, and also closed with a 69.

Kim should have shot 68, but missed a short par putt on the final hole to drop into a playoff.

She had a chance to atone for her mistake in the extra session, but her 25-footer for birdie came up short. Yoo poured in her 12-foot birdie putt to win her first major championship.

Which leads us to ...

SHOT OF THE YEAR -- The missed tap-in

I.K. Kim's birdie putt on the 72nd hole stopped less than a foot from the hole. Instead of marking the ball to let her playing partner finish, Kim went ahead and putted the ball.

The simple tap-in horse-shoed the hole and spun out. A stunned Kim gasped and covered her mouth. The par would have given Kim her first major championship.

The crowd was just as stunned. No one knew what to say.

Kim was flabbergasted. Her caddie tried to prop her up reminding her it wasn't over, she still had a playoff to focus on.

But in reality, how could she focus on the playoff? She just blew a tap-in that goes in 99 times out of 100.

This wasn't Jean Van de Velde possibly playing out of a burn, or Phil Mickelson hitting one 100 yards into the trees at the U.S. Open, this was a putt that Kim could have kicked into the hole.

The putt could have crushed Kim not only for a week or two, but could have defined her entire season. She managed three top-10 finishes the rest of the year, including a share of 10th at the Women's British Open.

After three straight years finishing in the top-11 on the money list, Kim slid to 26 this year. It could have been far worse, but a missed 1-footer stopped it from being even better.

ROOKIE OF YEAR -- Another Asian star

Seven of the top-10 players on this year's money list were from Asia, so it should come as no surprise that one of those seven was a standout rookie.

A year ago, before she officially joined the tour, So Yeon Ryu became the third-youngest winner in U.S. Women's Open history.

Ryu used that win to gain her LPGA Tour membership, and she competed in 24 events in her rookie campaign. She matched Stacy Lewis for the tour lead in top-5 finishes (12) and top-10 finishes (16).

The 22-year-old fired a 9-under 62 in the final round to win the Jamie Farr Owens Toledo Classic by seven strokes.

Ryu made the cut in all four majors this year, with a share of fifth at the Women's British Open being her best finish.

GOOD YEAR

- Inbee Park topped the tour money list thanks to her two wins and six second- place finishes. Her first win of the year came at the Evian Masters, which next year will be the fifth major on the LPGA Tour.

- Na Yeon Choi took second on the money list thanks to wins at the U.S. Women's Open and the CME Group Titleholders.

- Yani Tseng could go on the good year and bad year list. She won three of her first five starts and looked to be en route to another dominating season. Like the men's world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, Tseng went into a summer slumber with three missed cuts in a 4-event span. After a great start to the year, Tseng ran off three straight top-5 finishes as the tour made its Asian swing.

- Beatriz Recari gets the last spot in the good year group. Though she finished just 32nd on the tour's money list, Recari was the model of consistency as she made the cut in all 27 events she started. She finished outside the top 50 four times, and was a first-round loser at the Sybase Match Play. Five 'bad' finishes in 27 starts, pretty impressive.

BAD YEAR

- Luckily for the good ole U.S. of A. this wasn't a Solheim Cup year as several top Americans had poor years. Natalie Gulbis finished 42nd on the money list with just one top-5 finish and only three top-10s. She shared fourth at the Evian Masters, where she won in '07, for her best finish.

- Morgan Pressel was three spots below Gulbis on the money list. She took third at the Sybase Match Play, but her next-best finish was a share of 20th. She tied for 40th at the ShopRite Classic the first weekend of June. She didn't have a better finish the remainder of the year, while tossing in three withdraws and five missed cuts as she battled a thumb injury. The plus side of missing all that action was that she had plenty of extra time to work on her plans for her January wedding.

- Michelle Wie was even further down the money list at 64th. She shared eighth at the Safeway Classic for her best finish of the year, but carded just two other top-20 finishes, while also missing 10 cuts.

- Tiffany Joh made 10 cuts in 20 starts, but didn't have a top-30. A first- round loss at the Sybase Match Play (T-33) was her best finish all year. She shared 38th at the Safeway Classic for her best finish in a stroke-play event.

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