The Follow-Through: LPGA showcasing significant talent
By David Jordan, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - While not receiving enough attention, the LPGA has assembled one of the top-tier talent rosters in sports.
The talent has made for some fantastic golf over the past few months.
Headlined by the top three players in the world rankings -- Inbee Park, Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis -- the LPGA's 2014 season has been as competitive and entertaining as ever.
Ko is probably the most impressive of that group, just 17 years old. But don't let her youth fool you, as the Kiwi has already picked up three titles on tour.
The first two came as an amateur at the 2012 and 2013 CN Canadian Open before she outdueled Lewis this past weekend to claim her first win as a professional at the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
Lewis entered the final round of that event with a 1-stroke lead over Ko, but faltered to bogeys at the 10th and 13th to fall behind for good.
The American put together a late charge with birdies at Nos. 14, 16 and 18 to apply some pressure to Ko, but she showed a steely confidence well beyond her years by sticking her approach at the 18th to about seven feet and rolling in that birdie to seal the title.
I have a feeling that won't be the last time we see this duo battling for a title late on a Sunday in what could be the LPGA's version of Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson.
"It was just intense the whole way," Ko said after earning the win. "You know, when I just see (Lewis) play, makes me feel like I need to play good to I guess kind of keep up with her. She's such a great player and I admire her all the way. She's just a great player. Someday I want to become a great player just like her."
Lewis' second-place finish, meanwhile, was her third runner-up of the year and a tour-best seventh time she has ended inside the top six in eight starts. The only time the defending Women's British Open champion has ended outside the top 10 was at the HSBC Women's Champions, where she shared 40th place.
Right behind Lewis in top-10 finishes is Park, who has six in just seven starts this season.
The six-time winner last year is still searching for her first victory of the season, but it is obviously not for lack of trying.
With an overall scoring average of 69.96, it should only be a matter of time before Park breaks through.
Also, her scoring average puts Park third on the tour behind Lewis and probably the most talked about player of the year aside from Ko, Michelle Wie.
Once thought to never reach the lofty expectations placed upon her after storming on to the scene over 10 years ago, Wie has put all aspects of her game together and is a force to be reckoned with this season.
She has already picked up her first win in four years at the LPGA LOTTE Championship and her name has become a fixture at the top of the weekly leaderboards.
Always one of the longer players off the tee, it is Wie's much-improved short game that has spurred her success this year.
When she adopted her table-top putting technique last season, Wie improved her putting average by over a stroke from 31.16 in 2012 to 29.88 in 2013. She currently ranks 54th this season at 30.13 through 32 rounds.
Plus, she currently leads the LPGA by hitting 78.8 percent of greens in regulation, which allows her to put that improved putting stroke to good use.
With all of these players competing at such a high level, including 19-year- old Kraft Nabisco Championship winner and three-time LPGA titlist Lexi Thompson, it has been almost impossible to pick a unanimous favorite for any given week this season.
And with all of these players under the age of 30, we can look forward to seeing them all battle it out for supremacy in women's golf for the foreseeable future.
It's a prospect that will undoubtedly catch the attention of those who have not noticed to date.