With the completion of the Kyoraku Cup and Lexus Cup, it's time once again for Mostly Harmless's attempt to combine the best systems for ranking the top LPGA golfers--'tis the (BCS) season, after all. By using the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the LPGA Official Money List, and Hound Dog's Top 30, I hope to identify the Best of the LPGA. [Update 1/7/08: Mulligan Stu discusses the latest survey on which golfers made the most money, on- and off-course, in 2007 at Waggle Room.]
As before, one player is light-years ahead of the pack:
1. Lorena Ochoa: Across-the-board #1--by far. Should qualify for the Hall of Fame in 2008--only question is, how quickly will it happen?
And again, only one player is ranked in the top 5 in each system:
2. Suzann Pettersen: #2 money, #4 RR, #4 GSPI, #2 HD. Let's hope her back/hip injury sustained during the Lexus Cup turns out to be a minor one. Wants her 2008 to be better than the 2007 of Karrie Webb, 2006's #2 player.
There is now a trio in the top 10 in each system:
3. Paula Creamer: #3 money, #6 RR, #2 GSPI, #3 HD. Closing on Pettersen at the very end of 2007. Poised for a breakthrough in 2008.
4. Mi Hyun Kim: #4 money, #9 RR, #5 GSPI, #4 HD. Let's hope she comes back in 2008 well-rested from the many injuries that have been bothering her over the last several months. As banged-up as she has been, it's amazing how well she has performed in that span--she stayed neck-and-neck with a very hot Creamer.
5. Cristie Kerr: #6 money, #5 RR, #10 GSPI, #8 HD. Among those who started their careers in the Sorenstam Era, behind only Webb, Pak, and Ochoa in career victories and only $30K behind Kim on the career money list. But no longer the best American golfer.
Surprisingly, only one player makes the top 10 in 3 of the 4 systems:
6. Jee Young Lee: #10 money, #14 RR, #6 GSPI, #10 HD. Best of the Super Sophs without a win as an LPGA member. Should end that drought before Miyazato. Played great in the Kyoraku and Lexus Cups.
That means there's a big bunch among those in the top 10 in 2 of the 4 systems:
7. Morgan Pressel: #9 money, #12 RR, #12 GSPI, #5 HD. Seems to be coming out of a late-season slump just in time for 2008. Ready to contend for top American status.
8. Seon Hwa Lee: #5 money, #19 RR, #11 GSPI, #6 HD. My #1-ranked Super Soph remains #3 in this system. The way she played in the Kyoraku Cup and Lexus Cup, not for long, it looks like. Perhaps the best golfer in Asia right now. When will Rolex figure out just how great she is?
9. Angela Park: #8 money, #29 RR, #13 GSPI, #9 HD. If the 2007 Rookie of the Year also figures out how to win on the LPGA in 2008, watch out!
10. Annika Sorenstam: #25 money, #3 RR, #3 GSPI, #12 HD. Seems to be physically recovered from her serious back and neck injuries; should be playing her best again in 2008, but how far up the rankings can she go?
11. Stacy Prammanasudh: #14 money, #15 RR, #9 GSPI, #7 HD. Had a tough time in the Lexus Cup, but still one of the best--and steadiest--American golfers.
12. Karrie Webb: #22 money, #2 RR, #7 GSPI, #23 HD. Will fall fast in 2008 unless she can put together a streak like she had in the second half of 2006 and pre-season of 2007.
Next we have golfers in the top 20 in all 4 systems:
13. Se Ri Pak: #16 money, #10 RR, #16 GSPI, #13 HD. Now that her Hall of Fame year is over, can go back to concentrating on golf, building on the momentum of captaining Team Asia to victory in the Lexus Cup, and recovering from her various late-season injuries. Looking to extend her shrinking lead on Kim and Kerr (well, about $2M, that is) on the career money list in 2008.
14. Jeong Jang: #7 money, #11 RR, #20 GSPI, #11 HD. Athough she came on in the second half of the season, 2007 has to rank as a disappointing year in the context of her excellent career--capped off by missing a putt to keep Team Korea alive in the Kyoraku Cup and being one of the few on Team Asia with a losing record in the Lexus Cup. Unlikely to be blocked from the winner's circle in 2008.
There are a bunch of Americans in the top 20 in 3 of the 4 systems, but whether they'll do as well in 2008 is an open question:
15. Juli Inkster: #18 money, #7 RR, #23 GSPI, #20 HD.
16. Nicole Castrale: #15 money, #28 RR, #14 GSPI, #14 HD.
17. Brittany Lincicome: #13 money, #16 RR, #25 GSPI, #17 HD.
18. Angela Stanford: #19 money, #32 RR, #17 GSPI, #16 HD.
There's quite an international bottleneck among those in the top 20 in 2 of the 4 systems or in the top 30 in all 4, and all except Ai-chan are looking to move up in 2008 as they did in the second half of 2007 (she's just looking to get her game back):
19. Natalie Gulbis: #12 money, #21 RR, #27 GSPI, #18 HD
20. Maria Hjorth: #11 money, #31 RR, #31 GSPI, #15 HD.
21. Sherri Steinhauer: #23 money, #24 RR, #18 GSPI, #19 HD.
22. Catriona Matthew: #28 money, #25 RR, #19 GSPI, #26 HD.
23. Sophie Gustafson: #30 money, #26 RR, #21 GSPI, #25 HD.
24. Sarah Lee: #20 money, #42 RR, #15 GSPI, #24 HD.
25. Ai Miyazato: #17 money, #17 RR, #51 GSPI, n.r. HD.
Then there are those ranked in the top 30 in 3 of the 4 systems:
26. Laura Davies: #21 money, #39 RR, #29 GSPI, #21 HD.
27. Shi Hyun Ahn: #27 money, #36 RR, #24 GSPI, #22 HD.
28. Christina Kim: #23 money, #46 RR, #26 GSPI, #27 HD.
29. Laura Diaz: #26 money, #41 RR, #28 GSPI, #29 HD.
In 2008, look for Hee-Won Han to move back up these rankings even more quickly than Catriona Matthew has returned from her maternity leave this year--Han would be #14 in the GSPI if she had played in enough events this year, Hound Dog puts her at #28, and she's still at #35 in the RR. She'll soon be joined by Eun-Hee Ji--#8 in the GSPI once she gets enough events in to qualify, #30 on the Rolex Rankings, and certainly one of the leading challengers to Angela Park in the Class of 2007--along with In-Kyung Kim, Inbee Park, and Jane Park (who ran off a wire-to-wire Q-School victory to close out her season)--particularly if my gut feeling is right that she's going to play full-time on the LPGA in 2008. It'll be interesting to see if veteran Pat Hurst (#35 money, #34 RR, #32 GSPI, #30 HD) can claw her way back among the world's elite next season, but with Momoko Ueda (#13 RR, #8 GSPI) already listed as a 2008 LPGA rookie (thanks to her win at the Mizuno Classic), it's going to be very tough for Hurst--and, for that matter, everyone outside the top 20--to do it.