Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Super Soph Top 20: June 2007 Edition

Well, it's time to do what I announced earlier this month: update my May Super Soph ranking. The purpose of the rankings is to determine who has had the best career to date, with improvement and consistency the key criteria. For those at the top, I'm counting their 2007 stats more highly than their career stats, as they already have the consistency and get more credit for improvement. For those at the bottom, I'm counting their career stats more highly than their 2007 stats, because that's a better indicator of potential than a slump early this season.

Super Sophs

1. Morgan Pressel: Has the first and only major, the most top 10s and second-most top 3s, tops the 2007 money list and is close to the top in career earnings, has made the biggest improvement in stroke average from last year to this among the top 5, and is making a lot of birdies. To tell you the truth, I wasn't ready to move Pressel this high right after her win, but she's played well enough and others have not since then to move her to the top. If she can figure out how to play better on Sundays in the second half of the season, watch out!
2. Jee Young Lee: Sure, she's cooled off since mid-April, missing the second cut of her career and finishing out of the top 20 except for a second-place finish at the Michelob, but Lee's still having the second-best 2007 of the top 5, her career stats are at least the equal of the rest of the top 5, only Pressel is ahead of her in both the Rolex Rankings and the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and she's leading the Super Sophs in greens in regulation and second (to Kyeong Bae) in birdies. So even though she hasn't yet won, I'm ranking her ahead of Seon Hwa Lee.
3. Seon Hwa Lee: True, last year's Rookie of the Year missed her first cut of her career this season and "only" has 3 top 10s thus far, but every 2007 stat except money hasn't slipped as much as Ai Miyazato's (not to mention she has a win on the LPGA), she's still tied for tops in top 3s, second in career earnings (due only to Julieta Granada's rather fluky $1M take in last year's ADT Championship), and, I think, shockingly underrated in both the RR and GSPI.
4. Ai Miyazato: My favorite golfer earns credit for consistently strong play in both seasons, but her terrible results in the past two events after three straight top 10s kept her from passing a cooling-off Jee Young and a struggling Seon Hwa. Still, this year's stats, both ranking systems, and her passing Julieta Granada in top 10s and staying within two top 3s more than offset Granada's lottery- ADT-aided career money lead.
5. Julieta Granada: Except for driving accuracy, Granada's stats are way off this year; while it's true that she made a second-half charge last season, you can't count on it happening again this year, when she's having trouble with both her irons and her putter. If she doesn't watch out, she's in danger of letting the charging Kyeong Bae think about passing her by the end of this season.
6. Kyeong Bae: Riding a hot putter, Bae has completely outplayed Brittany Lang this year, and stands to pass her in the career money list and Rolex Rankings if she can find more consistency with her approach shots (she's already passed her in every other measure).
7. Brittany Lang: Even though she's still hitting a lot of greens this year, everything else is way off from Lang's great rookie season, when she was one of the top 4 in her class. As it stands, that season is the only thing keeping her ahead of Meaghan Francella, who's on pace to pass her in career earnings and the Rolex Rankings once she gets more events under her belt.
8. Meaghan Francella: After beating Annika Sorenstam in a playoff for her first career win, Francella could have been a flash in the pan, but in only 14 career events she already has a top 10 ratio that's in Pressel's and Miyazato's league and is the third-leading money winner in her class this year. If she can get a bit more consistency with her irons, her putting stats are likely to improve and she'll have a good chance to catch and surpass the slumping Lang. At the same time, she'll have to show she can keep making cuts in the second half of the season to stay ahead of the top Super Sophs in Waiting.

Super Sophs in Waiting

9. Karin Sjodin: She's a bomber like Jee Young Lee with lots of top 20s this year who's improved her stroke average from last year despite not making nearly as many birdies, so if she can straighten out her irons and give herself more birdie opportunities, she'll make more cuts and more money and give herself more chances for good finishes. Better final-round play wouldn't hurt her, either.
10. Sun Young Yoo: Although she's not played that well this season, Yoo is still ranked ahead of Lang and Francella in the GSPI and could easily catch Francella on the money list if she can improve her iron play and putting. If not, Sjodin, Choi, and Lu stand to extend their leads on her in the 2007 money race and pass her in the career earnings list.
11. Hye Jung Choi: Like Francella, Choi is another fast-rising Super Soph with few events under her belt; in fact, she's making cuts at a better rate than Francella and just needs to improve her iron play and deal better with Sunday pressure to crack the top 30 of the money list this year.
12. Teresa Lu: Along with Francella, Sjodin, and Choi, Lu is one of the most improved of the Super Sophs. After a hot start to the season, she weathered a rough spot from mid-May to early June, missing 4 consecutive cuts, but every finish has been a top 30 or better and her stroke average is still comparable to those ahead of her. As a non-exempt player, she's going to have to make the most of the rest of her starts this season to keep pace, though. Only Jee Young Lee is hitting more greens than she is, so if she can get her approach shots just a little closer to the pin, she'll start making more birdies and moving up the money list.

Super Potential

13. Nina Reis: With 5 career international wins and exempt status on the LPGA this year, Reis stands to improve on her #12 ranking in career earnings among the Super Sophs and top-90 status in the GSPI, but even though she's been making cuts at a good rate and her stats are decent, she hasn't cracked the top 40 in any of her 12 starts in 2007.
14. Katie Futcher: She's struggling with her irons this year, and she's followed up her only top 30 in the SemGroup with truly awful play in her last 4 events, but she's still exempt, has one of the only two top 10s in this bunch, is within $30K of Reis in career earnings, and compares favorably in career stats and rankings with those below her.
15. Linda Wessberg: She's non-exempt, but her top 10 in the Corona has gotten her into her share of events this year and she's even making a little more money than those ahead of her in the rankings. But her ball-striking will have to improve greatly to keep her from falling behind in the second half of the season.
16. Virada Nirapathpongporn: She's exempt this year and has a good chance to keep pace with Reis on the career earnings list, but like Lu and Futcher has been struggling since mid-May. Still, her birdie rate is up from last year and she'll get plenty of chances to make more if she can improve her iron play and make more cuts.
17. Veronica Zorzi: She's non-exempt this year and hasn't played since April, but relatively highly ranked in the GSPI due to her strong play in the past year on the Ladies European Tour.
18. Minea Blomqvist: She's non-exempt but due to her relatively strong play last year Blomqvist has gotten into 11 LPGA events this year--and missed the cut in most of them. She'll have to play a lot better in the second half of the season to stay ahead of Hall and Hoagland, much less catch Zorzi.
19. Kimberly Hall: She's exempt, but Hall has the worst cut ratio of the Super Sophs. She could go either way.
20. Ashley Hoagland: She's exempt, but hasn't made a cut since mid-April.

Honorable Mention
21. Shinobu Moromizato: In the top 50 on the RR and top 75 on the GSPI, Moromizato is playing exclusively on the JLPGA thus far this season, despite being exempt on the LPGA.
22. Na Ri Kim: she's exempt and playing in a lot of events this year, so Kim certainly has a chance to join the top 20 next ranking.

For your reference--and mine--are the stats on which I'm basing the June ranking.

2007 LPGA Money List (rank), stroke average (compared to last year's), birdies per round average (compared to last year's), greens in regulation (compared to last year's): I'm going to focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they're scoring, how many birdies they're averaging per round, and average greens in regulation per round. (I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I won't include putts per green in regulation here. And by comparing this year's and last's results on those same three figures, I can see who's improving and who's backsliding.) Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.

1. Morgan Pressel, $556.8K (#7), 71.03 (-.48), 3.43 (-.18), 68.6% (-2.4%)
2. Jee Young Lee, $485.6K (#10), 71.39 (-.07), 3.45 (-.44), 73.4% (+5.3%)
3. Meaghan Francella, $367.4K (#13), 72.17 (-1.58), 3.14 (?), 66.5% (?)
4. Ai Miyazato, $330.6K (#16), 71.76 (+.54), 2.97 (-.74), 65.8% (-3.5%)
5. Julieta Granada, $258.1K (#22), 72.54 (+1.21), 2.66 (-.54), 64.8% (-3.2%)
6. Seon Hwa Lee, $250.4K (#24), 71.67 (+.37), 3.05 (-.48), 65.2% (-2.5%)
7. Kyeong Bae, $172.3K (#33), 72.50 (+.17), 3.67 (+.63), 60.6% (-6.9%)
8. Hye Jung Choi, $169.5K (#35), 72.56 (-.44), 2.95 (?), 63.2% (?)
9. Karin Sjodin, $143.3K (#42), 72.40 (-.41), 2.86 (-.63), 65.1% (-3.0%)
10. Brittany Lang, $138.3K (#43), 73.14 (+1.79), 2.40 (-1.48), 69.3% (-.1%)
11. Teresa Lu, $92.0K (#58), 72.48 (-.41), 3.00 (-.02), 69.9% (+3.2%)
12. Sun Young Yoo, $67.8K (#71), 73.36 (+.83), 2.69 (-.27), 63.9% (-5.1%)
13. Linda Wessberg, $39.0K (#100), 73.68 (-3.82), 2.84 (?), 55.9% (?)
14. Nina Reis, $34.7K (#106), 73.61 (+.70), 2.90 (+.13), 61.8% (-4.2%)
15. Kimberly Hall, $33.9K (#108), 74.15 (+.41), 2.33 (-.19), 60.3% (-5.0%)
16. Ashley Hoagland, $31.2K (#111), 73.78 (+.90), 2.11 (?), 57.5% (?)
17. Katie Futcher, $27.9K (#120), 74.55 (+.57), 2.39 (-.52), 58.7% (-9.1%)
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $26.2K (#123), 74.00 (+.54), 2.93 (+.56), 60.2% (-1.1%)
19. Na Ri Kim, $24.2K (#126), 74.83 (-2.12), 2.33 (?), 60.9% (?)
20. Minea Blomqvist, $23.2K (#127), 74.86 (+1.82), 2.64 (-.03), 55.6% (-5.0%)

Career LPGA Money List (rank), LPGA Majors/Wins/Top 3s/Top 10s/Made/Missed Cuts Percentage (and totals): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year. Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Super Sophs have not even been at this for two years, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing their short careers, even if it's a bit unfair to people who were not exempt in either or both years. What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now. I include these other ways of seeing how the Super Sophs finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to getting top 10s, top 3s, and victories. So here's how they stand:

1. Julieta Granada, $1.90M (#84), 0/1/5/9/.805 (33/41)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.17M (#131), 0/1/5/10/.975 (39/40)
3. Jee Young Lee, $1.06M (#140), 0/0/3/10/.944 (34/36)
4. Morgan Pressel, $1.02M (#151), 1/1/3/13/.882 (30/34)
5. Ai Miyazato, $.86M (#175), 0/0/3/11/.875 (28/32)
6. Brittany Lang, $.68M (#206), 0/0/2/8/.692 (27/39)
7. Kyeong Bae, $.46M (#249), 0/0/2/5/.771 (27/35)
8. Meaghan Francella $.37M (#261), 0/1/1/3/.643 (9/14)
9. Sun Young Yoo, $.30M (#295), 0/0/0/2/.737 (28/38)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.27M (#311), 0/0/0/3/.613 (19/31)
11. Hye Jung Choi, $.18M (#359), 0/0/0/2/.769 (10/13)
12. Nina Reis, $.18M (#361), 0/0/0/2/.694 (25/36)
13. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.16M (#366), 0/0/0/1/.548 (17/31)
14. Teresa Lu, $.16M (#367), 0/0/0/1/.655 (19/29)
15. Katie Futcher, $.15M (#384), 0/0/0/1/.606 (20/33)
16. Minea Blomqvist, $.10M (#427), 0/0/0/0/.500 (14/28)
17. Veronica Zorzi, $.08M (#448), 0/0/0/0/.833 (10/12)
18. Kimberly Hall, $.07M (#468), 0/0/0/0/.349 (8/23)
19. Shinobu Moromizato, $.06M (#472), 0/0/0/0/.000 (0/0) [this can't be right, but that's what her biodata form says!]
20. Ashley Hoagland, $.05M (#497), 0/0/0/0/.462 (6/13)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 6/11/07) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 6/10/07) and rank, International (as of the end of the 2006 season) and Non-Member LPGA Wins: This is a way of seeing how those Super Sophs who sometimes or regularly or always compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Morgan Pressel, 6.97 (#5), 70.19 (#10), 0
2. Ai Miyazato, 5.93 (#9), 70.50 (#15), 14
3. Jee Young Lee, 4.94 (#16), 70.27 (#12), 2
4. Julieta Granada, 3.92 (#24), 71.45 (#34), 0
5. Seon Hwa Lee, 3.75 (#27), 70.72 (#20), 3
6. Brittany Lang, 2.83 (#38), 72.14 (#59), 0
7. Shinobu Moromizato, 2.58 (#42), 72.37 (#72), 0
8. Meaghan Francella, 2.22 (#50), 72.10 (#57), 0
9. Kyeong Bae, 1.53 (#77), 71.61 (#40), 3
10. Karin Sjodin, 1.46 (#86), 72.51 (#77), 1
11. Veronica Zorzi, 1.17 (#109), 72.60 (#79), 2
12. Teresa Lu, .94 (#131), 72.93 (#94), 0
13. Sun Young Yoo, .91 (#133), 71.93, (#50), 0
14. Linda Wessberg, .82 (#146), 74.05 (#167), 5
15. Hye Jung Choi, .80 (#150), 72.68 (#81), 0
16. Nina Reis, .73 (#161), 72.85 (#89), 5
17. Minea Blomqvist, .71 (#171), 74.28 (#191), 5
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .53 (#217), 74.59 (#218), 0
19. Louise Stahle, .50 (#230), 73.73 (#145), 0
20. Katie Futcher, .38 (#270), 73.82 (#154), 0
21. Rebecca Coakley, .36 (#277), 75.04 (#255), 0
22. Ashley Hoagland, .26 (#320), 73.48 (#142), 0
23. Na Ri Kim, .23 (#346), 74.62 (#84, though for some reason is listed as having played in too few events to be included in the database officially), 0


Hound Dog said...

Great stuff dude! Some assorted comments:

I totally agree that Seon Hwa Lee is "shockingly underrated". For the amount of attention she receives, you would hardly even realize she was ROY of the greatest rookie class in history (hence the Super Sophs).

Of course it depends on how much you weigh '07 results versus '06, but I would have put Francella ahead of Lang - the Brittany of '07 has, to put it mildly, sucked. She did play very well last year.

When you talk about a Super Soph's career, are you including this year's numbers? If you are and then combine that with '07 numbers to get an overall rating, you would be giving double credit for '07 accomplishments. If that's what you intended to do, that's ok but if it's an accident, your results can be skewed.

Keep up the good work. The LPGA needs multiple rocket scientists!

The Constructivist said...

thanks for the thoughtful observations, HD. I am double counting $$ in the 2007/career totals, but that's part of my evil plan to make 2007 count more for those who played in both years. A surprising amount of the Super Sophs were on the Futures Tour for most of last year; some international golfers who played a lot last year are playing very little this year. So the double credit for 2007 money only affects the top 10 or so.

I see your point about Francella totally outclassing Lang this year. But I'm not yet convinced she can keep up the top 10 pace and improve her cut-making rate. She's one of 6 golfers with a stroke average in the 72 range on the list, so it's likely she'll keep posting top 30s and steadily add to her money total, but for me the jury's still out on whether she's ready to contend regularly as Lang seemed to be doing last season (unless my memory is way off!). As bad as Lang's been playing and scoring, somehow she's made over $135K already this season and she's still hitting lots of greens, so I see some potential for salvaging the season and avoiding the "worst sophomore jinx" label. If next month's trends mirror the season's to date, though, I'm ready to drop Lang still further down the list.

I was actually shocked myself to see how close to last season's key stats Seon Hwa Lee is. She has the third-best scoring average of the Super Sophs playing badly for her. I've been a big fan of hers since it was clear mid-season last year that Ai-chan couldn't catch her, so if even I was shocked to find out how well she's actually been scoring, I guess I can understand how the lazy and borderline racist U.S. golf media can miss that, too. But I can't for the life of me understand why both major ranking systems (besides yours, of course) place her so low. Gotta be a flaw in both formulae, 'cause there's no way she deserves to be averaging in the mid-20s.

What this exercise really made me curious about is just how good Shinobu Moromizato really is and whether she'd be performing better on the LPGA than the European Super Sophs who have won multiple times on the LET but are underachieving big time in the States. Given the woes of Riko Higashio and Moromizato's decision to stick with the JLPGA, my guess is, "not much better." Doesn't speak highly to the quality of competition on the JLPGA in any case....