Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Last LPGA Post for Awhile: Mid-Season Assessment

I'm going to be laying low at Mostly Harmless over the next couple of weeks, just posting drafts of my upcoming talks on American representations of Japan that may be of interest here (I'll do some at CitizenSE that seem to fit better there, too) and doing the occasional quick hit. The LPGA is off for a week and starts up again with the Wegman's in Rochester--which I'd attend in person if I were already back in the States--followed by the U.S. Women's Open at the end of June (which is the subject of the first "Take Your Blog to the Course" week here). If anything compelling happens in the men's U.S. Open, I may put my two cents in, but besides ranking the Super Sophs next week, I'll be taking a break from golf blogging during this span.

So of course I have to post some thoughts on this quasi-halfway point of the LPGA season. If you look at the money list, you'll think that Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen are in a league of their own (both have won twice and passed the $1M mark already this season), that the next tier--#3 (Paula Creamer) to #10 (Jee Young Lee)--all between $680K and $480K, are relatively far behind them, and that the next tier--#11 (Karrie Webb) to #20 (Cristie Kerr)--all between $402K and $302K, are closer to the previous tier, that the next tier--#21 (Catriona Matthew) to #52 (Wendy Doolan)--between $270K and $100K, are lagging behind, and that the next tier--#53 (Michelle Redman) to #68 (Liselotte Neumann), all between $99K and $75K are far behind. And you wouldn't be far off, so far as finishes and money goes. But as we've seen from the big jumps of Pettersen, Castrale, Webb, and Kerr in recent weeks, a few top 10 finishes or a first-through-third place finish or two can change your standing very quickly.

So maybe you'll then look at the Rolex Rankings. It's based on the last two years of finishes, and there Lorena Ochoa has a huge lead on the next tier, made up of Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam (14.09 to 11.86 to 11.57), an even bigger lead on #4 (Suzann Pettersen) to #8 (Juli Inkster), who have between 7.45 and 6.71 points, a commanding lead on #9 (Ai Miyazato) to #17 (Yuri Fudoh), who have between 5.93 and 4.85 points, are light-years ahead of #18 (Mi-Jeong Jeon) to #29 (Sarah Lee), who have between 4.58 and 3.55 points, and that even people as good as #30 (Hyun-Ju Shin) through #54 (Joo Mi Kim) basically don't have a chance, with only 3.27 to 2.01 points. But then you'd have to consider how big a move this year's major winners, Morgan Pressel and Suzann Pettersen, have made, or that Na On Min, with only 8 events under her belt, just jumped 201 spots to #80 with her third-place finish last week, or that Meaghan Francella and Angela Park have leaped into the top 50 from nowhere this year, to see that the really tough thing to do is to get into, and move up in, the top 30.

Maybe then you'll decide the Rolex Rankings place too much weight on last year's performances and on the JLPGA, so you decide to take a look at the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, which admittedly sells Korean golfers short because it doesn't yet include KLPGA results, but does focus on all events in the past year. There, you'll see that Lorena Ochoa (67.91) is in a league of her own, as is Annika Sorenstam (68.70). Then a group in the 69s, from #3 Paula Creamer to #8 Shi Hyun Ahn, is trying to catch the two leaders. The group in the 70s (#9 Se Ri Pak through #23 Sophie Gustafson) and the group in the 71s (#24 Pat Hurst through #53 Momoko Ueda) seem fairly far behind the three elite tiers.

So who is in the top tier in each ranking? Only Lorena Ochoa.

Pettersen (#2 on the money list and #4 in the Rolex Rankings) is still relatively low in the GSPI (#17, 70.59), while Sorenstam (#2 in the GSPI and #3 in the RR) is only at #30 in the 2007 money list due to her injury-induced absence, Webb (#2 RR, #4 GSPI) is only at #11 in the 2007 money list due to inconsistent play, and Creamer (#3 GSPI, #3 money list) is still only #6 in the Rolex Rankings. So they're clearly in the next tier.

Perhaps Juli Inkster (#5 GSPI, #8 RR, #12 money list), Morgan Pressel (#5 RR, #7 money list, #10 GSPI), and Mi Hyun Kim (#7 GSPI, #9 money list, #11 RR) belong in a group of their own, rather than with the group ahead of them or behind them. What do you all think?

Next up are steady performers like Cristie Kerr (#6 GSPI, #7 RR, #20 money list), Stacy Prammanasudh (#8 money list, #11 GSPI, #15 RR), Se Ri Pak (#9 GSPI, #10 RR, #19 money list), Brittany Lincicome (#5 money list, #12 RR, #18 GSPI), Ai Miyazato (#9 RR, #15 GSPI, #16 money list), Jee Young Lee (#10 money list, #12 GSPI, #16 RR), and Nicole Castrale (#4 money list, #13 GSPI, #22 RR).

After that we have a group who aren't as consistently rated across these three measures or who are consistently rated lower in them all: Jeong Jang (#13 RR, #16 GSPI, #28 money list), Shi Hyun Ahn (#8 GSPI, #26 money list, #35 RR), Sherri Steinhauer (#14 GSPI, #23 RR, #23 money list), Sarah Lee (#6 money list, #29 RR, #37 GSPI), Pat Hurst (#20 RR, #24 GSPI, #29 money list), Seon Hwa Lee (#20 GSPI, #24 money list, #27 RR), Julieta Granada (#22 money list, #24 RR, #34 GSPI), Laura Davies (#17 money list, #21 GSPI, #39 RR), Catriona Matthew (#21 money list, #32 RR, #36 GSPI), Sophie Gustafson (#23 GSPI, #28 RR, #37 money list), and Hee-Won Han (#19 GSPI, #21 RR, #69 money list [due to maternity leave]).

It's hard to tell how this last group measures up against highly-rated RR/GSPI people who don't play on the LPGA regularly like Shiho Oyama, Yuri Fudoh, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Momoko Ueda, Sakura Yokomine, and Hyun-Ju Shin--one can only hope the Asian swing of the LPGA Tour and the World Match Play Championship late in the season are revealing in this respect and that some of them choose to follow Ai Miyazato to the LPGA in the near future.

You'll notice that some very good players--like Natalie Gulbis, Meena Lee, Kyeong Bae, Young Kim, Angela Park, Angela Stanford, Laura Diaz, Brittany Lang, Christina Kim, and of course Michelle Wie--don't even enter into this top 30 (actually 31 if I counted right) club. Someone oughtta generate a formula for weighting and combining the results of these rating systems! Personally I would like to see people incorporate scoring average and birdies per round into the mix, as I think together these are the best measure of who's playing well and due for higher finishes in the future.

I'm not going to do that for everyone, just for the Super Sophs...later! In the meantime, let's hope the lazy golf media actually figures out how to interest the American public in learning more about a few dozen rather than a few of the world's best women golfers.


hound dog said...

"Someone oughtta generate a formula for weighting and combining the results of these rating systems!"

Are you talkin' ta me?

I think combining these systems' results wouldn't accomplish too much - they are all measuring different things and different sets of players, too (some with KLPGA, some without, for example). Better to devise your own method which emphasizes what you feel is important in determining what makes one golfer better than another.

The Constructivist said...

I guess it's because these stats measure such different things that combining them makes sense to me. That is, someone showing up highly in each must be doing a lot right. Not that I'm assuming they're trying to measure the same "thing," but rather because they are actually measuring different things....

Does this make any sense?

hound dog said...

I see your point. If a player is a consensus Top 10 among those rankings then she would rank higher than a player only highly ranked in one or two of them.

If you consider each ranking to be of equal value, you could simply assign points for each position (1st down to 30 or 40) and add up the points.

Just be sure not to make it more work than what it's worth to you!