Top Super Sophs
1. Seon Hwa Lee: Dominated the Kyoraku Cup and Lexus Cup, proving herself to be the best player in Asia at the end of 2007. Perhaps to be changed to "in the world" in 2008? We'll have to see. (For a start, it would help if the Mostly Harmless Best of the LPGA system would rank her ahead of the other top Super Sophs! But that's the difference between a career ranking like this one and a season-plus ranking like that one for ya.) The fact that her birdies per round went down so sharply must be due to a combination of less accurate iron play and less deadly putting (she dropped from 1.75 putts per green in regulation [T2] in her rookie year to 1.81 this season [T25]). Given that her greens in regulation rate stayed almost steady while almost everyone else's plummetted this season (she was nowhere near the top 10 as a rookie but was in it as a Super Soph), I'd bet her putting bears slightly more blame for her PPGIR drop. But with a 12-1-0 record in match play over the past two seasons, she shouldn't be too upset with her putter. After all, she moved up from top 15 in scoring average to top 10, even though it was slightly higher in 2007 than 2006.
2. Morgan Pressel: Salvaged her Lexus Cup with a tough victory over Jeong Jang in singles matches, much like she did in the Solheim Cup by knocking off Annika Sorenstam. Right now I rank her the third-best American in the world, behind only Creamer and Kerr. Looking to improve on that status in 2008. Given how much she improved her putting as a Super Soph--a better scoring average despite a much lower greens in regulation rate this year (although still good enough for a top 10)--I wouldn't put anything past her.
3. Jee Young Lee: The best Super Soph without a win as an LPGA member on the LPGA Tour (she won as a non-member in the Korea event in 2005) and perhaps the second-best golfer in Asia, judging by her Kyoraku and Lexus Cups, should excel in 2008. It's more a question of "how many?" than "when?" when it comes to wins for the top-ranked Super Soph in our Best of the LPGA system. Just imagine what happens when she puts together a putting performance like her rookie year (T6 in PPGIR) and an approach shot performance like her sophomore year (4th in GIR).
Certified Super Sophs
4. Ai Miyazato: Has to be happy that Momoko Ueda is listed as a 2008 rookie. Looking to put her second-half sophomore jinx behind her. And it was a doozy--she went from being neck-and-neck with the top 3 to Granada and Lang's "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" territory. In fact, the GSPI puts Wessberg ahead of her, and Francella, Bae, Yoo, and Choi as her closest competitors--ahead of Granada and Lang--so you can tell almost precisely how tough their seasons were by how close the mid-level Super Sophs are to them.
5. Julieta Granada: Her big question is whether her 2008 will be more like her rookie or sophomore year. Was among the 7 Super Sophs with a scoring average below 73 in 2007 and suffered a less intense birdie drop-off than Lang or Miyazato, so she showed she can gut it out even in a bad season.
6. Brittany Lang: Had the toughest sophomore jinx of them all, so bound to have a better 2008.... Right?
7. Meaghan Francella: Looking to start 2008 as hot as she started 2007--and sustain her performance throughout the entire year. Staying healthy will be key to that project.
8. Kyeong Bae: Poised to make a quantum leap in 2008. She's a birdie machine!
Super Sophs in Waiting
9. Hye Jung Choi: Most likely to succeed of the Super Sophs who have been flying beneath most people's radar thus far.
10. Linda Wessberg: Exempt on both the LPGA and LET (where she stands #7 on the money list despite playing only 10 events--and hoping her 11th in Dubai will move her even higher), so will have an interesting choice of schedule in 2008. Here's hoping she commits to the LPGA full-time, like the other top European players. [Update 12/17/07: Ah, she faded to 15th at Dubai and got passed on the money list by Annika, who successfully defended her title.]
11. Sun Young Yoo: Crossroads year for her--can she improve on her strong cut rate with more top 20s and remain ahead of those charging behind her, or is she going to remain someone who makes cuts and keeps her card but doesn't contend?
12. Karin Sjodin: Looking to regain her standing as the top European in the class.
13. Teresa Lu: Like Francella, slowed by injuries after a fast start to 2007; looking forward to a healthy and productive 2008.
14. Katie Futcher: Apparently happy with the number of tournaments her almost-but-not-quite-non-non-exempt status will get her into, as didn't try for Q-School.
15. Nina Reis: Couldn't close the deal in LPGA Q-School like she did at the LET's. Looking to rebound next year from a terrible 2007 on both continents, probably by focusing on Europe and trying for relatively few LPGA events.
16. Minea Blomqvist: Like Futcher and Reis, non-exempt on the LPGA for 2008, but as a winner on the LET is fully exempt there in 2008, so has something to fall back on if she continues to struggle in the States. Look for her to continue her LPGA-centric schedule, but balance it out a bit more than in the past two years.
17. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Her Q-School was good but not-quite-good-enough for exempt status, just like the end of her 2007 season. Still, as the #2 Super Soph in Q-School, looks to be ready for a fast start to 2008. As yet another non-exempt player, she'll need one.
18. Kim Hall: Basically has had one good tournament a year, but this year's good one was good enough to get her fully exempt for 2008. Good for her.
19. Veronica Zorzi: Likely to scale back her appearances on the LPGA even further in 2008, as the only thing she has done well here is (barely) make cuts. [Update 12/17/07: Although how about her being close to contention in Dubai?!]
20. Na Ri Kim: Barely held on at Q-School for non-exempt status in 2008.
Super Sophs to Watch in 2008
21. Danielle Downey: The only Super Soph to snag a card for 2008 at Q-School. Has the worst career record of the bunch, but will have more chances than most to improve on it. First step: make more cuts!
22. Ashley Hoagland: Still waiting to hear about that medical exemption for 2008; if she gets it, will pass Kim the first cut she makes that Kim doesn't.
23. Louise Stahle: Got non-exempt status at LPGA's Q-School, so it'll be interesting to see if she decides to play in more than the European Swing events she's likely to qualify for in 2008. An official Friend of Ai-chan, here's hoping she plays more in the States! [Update 12/17/07: An opening 64 in Dubai put her in contention for awhile, but even though she finished the tournament weakly, she still closed out the season as the LET's Rookie of the Year!]
For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the December 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 played this season--how much money they made, how they scored, how many birdies they averaged per round, and how many greens they hit in regulation on average 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. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.10M (#5), 71.56 (+.26), 3.13 (-.33), 67.0% (-.8%)
2. Morgan Pressel, $.97M (#9), 71.34 (-.17), 3.44 (-.17), 66.9% (-4.1%)
3. Jee Young Lee, $.97M (#10), 71.62 (+.16), 3.45 (-.44), 68.4% (+.3%)
4. Ai Miyazato, $.79M (#17), 73.01 (+1.79), 2.87 (-.85), 57.4% (-10.9%)
5. Meaghan Francella, $.51M (#29), 73.09 (-.66), 2.79 (?), 64.0% (?)
6. Julieta Granada, $.41M (#33), 72.92 (+1.59), 2.60 (-.60), 61.3% (-6.7%)
7. Brittany Lang, $.35M (#39), 73.05 (+1.70), 2.77 (-1.11), 64.3% (-5.1%)
8. Kyeong Bae, $.31M (#41), 72.91 (+.58), 3.25 (+.21), 59.8% (-7.7%)
9. Hye Jung Choi, $.29M (#45), 73.08 (+.18), 2.73 (?), 61.3% (?)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.20M (#58), 73.60 (+.79), 2.75 (-.75), 62.0% (-6.1%)
11. Teresa Lu, $.18M (#63), 72.84 (-.04), 2.86 (-.05), 65.0% (-1.7%)
12. Linda Wessberg, $.17M (#65), 72.93 (-4.57), 3.10 (?), 54.1% (?)
13. Sun Young Yoo, $.13M (#75), 73.06 (+.53), 2.58 (-.38), 63.6% (-5.4%)
14. Kim Hall, $.13M (#76), 73.88 (+.14), 2.38 (-.14), 57.8% (-7.5%)
15. Minea Blomqvist, $.09M (#93), 73.96 (+.92), 2.64 (-.03), 57.2% (-3.4%)
16. Katie Futcher, $.08M (#95), 74.04 (+1.21), 2.50 (-.46), 61.1% (-6.7%)
17. Nina Reis, $.05M (#120), 73.84 (+.93), 2.77 (+/-.00), 59.5% (-6.5%)
18. Na Ri Kim, $.04M (#125), 74.15 (-2.80), 2.46 (?), 62.0% (?)
19. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.04M (#126), 73.48 (+.04), 2.82 (+.45), 61.1% (-1.2%)
20. Ashley Hoagland, $.03M (#136), 73.78 (+.90), 2.11 (?), 57.5% (?)
Career LPGA Money List (rank), Total Events/LPGA Majors/Wins/Top 3s/Top 10s/Top 20s/Made Cuts (rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). 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 been at this for only two years, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, 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 20s, top 10s, top 3s, and victories. So here's how they stand:
1. Julieta Granada, $2.05M (#78), 56/0/1/5/10/19/43 (.768)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $2.02M (#79), 56/0/2/6/16/31/54 (.964)
3. Jee Young Lee, $1.54M (#102), 48/0/0/4/16/28/46 (.958)
4. Morgan Pressel, $1.44M (#112), 49/1/1/4/18/29/45 (.918)
5. Ai Miyazato, $1.32M (#119), 45/0/0/4/14/19/37 (.822)
6. Brittany Lang, $.89M (#179), 53/0/0/2/9/21/36 (.679)
7. Kyeong Bae, $.60M (#226), 48/0/0/2/6/10/36 (.750)
8. Meaghan Francella $.51M (#238), 28/0/1/1/4/8/19 (.679)
9. Sun Young Yoo, $.36M (#273), 49/0/0/0/2/8/36 (.735)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.32M (#287), 43/0/0/0/3/9/28 (.651)
11. Hye Jung Choi, $.30M (#298), 27/0/0/0/3/7/18 (.666)
12. Teresa Lu, $.26M (#321), 41/0/0/0/2/5/26 (.634)
13. Katie Futcher, $.20M (#351), 40/0/0/0/2/2/24 (.600)
14. Nina Reis, $.19M (#356), 44/0/0/0/2/3/26 (.591)
15. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.19M (#361), 39/0/0/0/1/4/20 (.513)
16. Linda Wessberg, $.17M (#376), 14/0/0/0/3/4/9 (.643)
17. Kim Hall, $.16M (#381), 32/0/0/0/1/2/13 (.406)
18. Minea Blomqvist, $.16M (#383), 32/0/0/0/0/2/18 (.563)
19. Veronica Zorzi, $.09M (#450), 16/0/0/0/0/1/13 (.813)
20. Na Ri Kim, $.05M (#501), 24/0/0/0/0/1/9 (.375)
Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 12/10/07) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 12/9/07) 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, 5.27 (#12), 70.65 (#12), 0
2. Jee Young Lee, 4.95 (#14), 70.34 (#6), 2
3. Ai Miyazato, 4.49 (#17), 72.28 (#51), 14
4. Seon Hwa Lee, 4.42 (#19), 70.57 (#11), 3
5. Julieta Granada, 2.83 (#43), 72.95 (#79), 0
6. Meaghan Francella, 2.15 (#51), 72.49 (#58), 0
7. Brittany Lang, 2.08 (#53), 73.20 (#88), 0
8. Linda Wessberg, 1.74 (#70), 72.21 (#44), 5
9. Kyeong Bae, 1.37 (#85), 72.51 (#60), 3
10. Hye Jung Choi, 1.27 (#94), 72.91 (#77), 0
11. Karin Sjodin, 1.02 (#119), 73.31 (#97), 1
12. Teresa Lu, .96 (#127), 73.27 (#93), 0
13. Sun Young Yoo, .86 (#139), 72.53 (#61), 0
14. Veronica Zorzi, .81 (#150), 73.85 (#147), 2
15. Minea Blomqvist, .74 (#162), 73.86 (#148), 5
16. Kim Hall, .71 (#170), 74.28 (#182), 0
17. Nina Reis, .53 (#217), 74.06 (#166), 5
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .48 (#232), 74.12 (#171), 0
19. Katie Futcher, .44 (#241), 74.00 (#159), 0
20. Na Ri Kim, .19 (#376), 74.75 (#223), 0