The 2018 LPGA season had some thrilling moments: first time major winners like Georgia Hall, breakthrough victories like Nelly Korda’s, and veterans like Michelle Wie returning to the winners circle.
The 2019 season kicks off with the inaugural Diamond Resorts Invitational in Orlando on January 17, and after that it’s full steam ahead until the season-ending CME Championship in November.
There’s a lot to look forward to. Here are eight top storylines to follow in the women’s game this season.
1. LEXI THOMPSON IS BACK!
America’s top female player has endured a tough couple of years. In addition to dealing with the fallout from her 2017 ANA Inspiration rules controversy, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and her grandmother passed away. Last July, Thompson withdrew from the Women’s British Open to “recharge [her] mental batteries,” and in October, she revealed she struggles with her body image. Ahead of the final LPGA event of the season in November, Thompson announced that she had split with her caddie. But then, despite all the adversity she had faced, Thompson triumphed at the CME with her brother on the bag, her first victory in over a year and the tenth of her career. Can she keep the momentum going in 2019?
2. MICHELLE WIE’S RETURN FROM INJURY
A perennial fan favorite, Wie had been in a victory drought since her stunning major triumph at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. But last March, she holed a 36-footer to capture her first LPGA victory in nearly four years at the Women’s World Championship in Singapore. A hand surgery in October caused Wie to end her 2018 season early, but fans will be looking forward to watching her compete again in 2019 — especially as a defending champion.
3. LYDIA KO’S RESURGENCE
It was only two years ago that Lydia Ko was the undisputed Queen Bee of the LPGA Tour. She won four times in 2016 — including a major, the ANA Inspiration. But a winless slump that extended into 2018 cast a shadow of doubt on her dominance. Ko changed equipment, caddies and her swing coach. Last February, she dropped out of the top 10 in the world ranking, eventually bottoming out at No. 18. But in April, Ko finally snapped her victory drought by prevailing in a playoff against Minjee Lee to take the LPGA Mediheal Championship title with a dramatic eagle — her 15th career win. Ko notched 10 top 11 finishes throughout the remainder of the season. Now ranked 14th in the world, can Ko continue her ascent back to the top?
4. WHO CAN CHALLENGE THE WORLD NO. 1?
Speaking of ascents to the top of the ranking, Ariya Jutanugarn has been holding the top or second-ranked spot since last July, after first claiming it for a while back in 2017. The Thailand native’s 2018 season was impressive, to say the least. She not only won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, but also the Rolex Player of the Year Award, Annika Major Award, and the season-long Race to the CME. It was the first time any player had ever won all those awards in a single season. Can anyone challenge the reigning World No. 1?
5. SISTER ACT, PART I: ARIYA AND MORIYA JUTANUGARN
In one of the LPGA Tour’s sweet stories of 2018, Moriya Jutanugarn, who is Ariya Jutanugarn’s older sister, claimed her first LPGA Tour title, becoming only the second set of sisters in history (Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first when Charlotta won in 2000) to win an LPGA event. Can they add more titles in 2019?
6. SISTER ACT: PART II: JESSICA AND NELLY KORDA
Not long after the Jutanugarn sisters made history, the Kordas made a mark of their own, becoming the third pair of sisters to claim LPGA Tour titles when Nelly joined big sister Jessica in the winner’s circle when Nelly won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship in October. Jessica is currently the second-ranked American on Tour at No. 13 in the world, while Nelly is quickly climbing and currently ranked 23rd. Which sister act will become the most formidable duo on Tour in 2019?
7. FRESH FACES GETTING IN THE MIX
England’s Georgia Hall made a big splash with her first career win at the Women’s British Open — and it just happened to be a major. The 22-year-old is heading into only her second year on Tour and surely has more wins up her sleeve in 2019. Another name to keep an eye on: Emma Talley. The former U.S. Amateur champion had four top-seven finishes in her rookie season in 2018. Ascendant talent? You bet.
8. SOLHEIM CUP: CAN TEAM USA PREVAIL ONCE AGAIN?
The Solheim Cup will take place at Gleneagles in Scotland this year. Team USA has been dominant, with 10 wins in 15 bi-annual matches. Juli Inkster will return as American team captain for the third time, having led Team USA to victory in two previous appearances. Can she maintain a perfect 3-0 record in hostile European territory? The action begins on Friday, September 13.