Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Super Soph Top 20: October 2007 Edition

With only the Mizuno Classic, the Tournament of Champions, and the ADT Championship left to play, it's time to update my May, June, July, August, and September Super Soph rankings. The main purpose of these rankings remains to determine who among the Rookie Class of 2006 has had the best career to date, with consistency and improvement the key criteria. Feel free to disagree in comments!

Top Super Sophs

1. Seon Hwa Lee: Holds onto her #1 ranking for the second (and what should be the third) time in a row.
2. Morgan Pressel: Has a chance to pass the $1M mark on the season if she can recover from her late-season slump in her last two tournaments.
3. Jee Young Lee: Back from her injury, looking to join the $1M club, and due for her first win soon--maybe even this year.

Certified Super Sophs

4. Ai Miyazato: Showing some signs of life after revealing that she's been struggling with a nagging injury since her runner-up finish at the HSBC, but no longer close to the top 3. [Update 11/3/07: Here's hoping her friend Louise Stahle does well in Q-School, because there are no big names from the JLPGA in the field for yet another year.]
5. Julieta Granada: Needs a late charge over the next two weeks to sneak her way into the tournament she won last year and salvage a disappointing 2007.
6. Brittany Lang: Looking to improve on her best finish since the Canadian Women's Open in Thailand (T11) at the Mizuno Classic this week and build some positive momentum for 2008.
7. Kyeong Bae: Has shown she can make cuts--she's on pace to pass Granada in cut rate soon--and if she continues to show improvement in GIR is bound to win in 2008 on the LPGA.
8. Meaghan Francella: Holding on to one of the last two spots for the ADT Championship by her fingernails; has a chance for a great finish to the year if she plays well at the Tournament of Champions and ADT.

Super Sophs in Waiting

9. Hye Jung Choi: Won in Korea, but not enough to move her up this LPGA ranking. Still most likely to succeed of this group.
10. Linda Wessberg: Next-most-likely to succeed. Like Bae, can win in 2008 if she starts hitting more greens.
11. Sun Young Yoo: A late charge has helped salvage her 2007, but needs to do more than make cuts if she wants to move up the ranking.
12. Teresa Lu: Can extend her lead on Sjodin with a good finish in Japan.
13. Karin Sjodin: Looking to end her late-season slump in Japan.


Super Potential

14. Katie Futcher: Looks like it's back to Q-School to try to improve on her non-exempt status for 2008. [Update 11/3/07: Surprise, surprise! Futcher is not in the final field at Q-School.]
15. Nina Reis: Gave it the old college try on the LPGA for two years, but as a fully exempt player in 2008 on the LET likely to play there full-time and reduce her LPGA schedule to Zorzi-like proportions. [Update 11/3/07: Shows what I know: Reis is in the Q-School final field.]
16. Minea Blomqvist: In the same boat as Futcher. Did not try for Q-School on the LET, so putting all her eggs in the LPGA basket for 2008. [Update 11/3/07: Yet not playing in Q-School. Curious.]
17. Kim Hall: Exempt for 2008. Goes to show that one tournament can make your season, no matter how few cuts you make.
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Played better at the end of the season, but still in the same boat as Futcher and Blomqvist. [Update 11/3/07: And unlike them, she's actually going to Q-School.]
19. Veronica Zorzi: Full-time LET player content with non-exempt LPGA status, it appears, as she can make cuts but can't seem to crack the top 50 here.
20. Na Ri Kim: In the same boat as Nirapathpongporn, except for the playing better at the end of the season part. Is she KLPGA-bound in 2008? [Update 11/3/07: I guess a lot depends on her Q-School results.]

For your reference--and mine--are the stats on which I'm basing the October 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. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.06M (#6), 71.60 (+.30), 3.10 (-.36), 66.4% (-1.4%)
2. Morgan Pressel, $.95M (#9), 71.26 (-.25), 3.46 (-.15), 67.7% (-3.3%)
3. Jee Young Lee, $.93M (#10), 71.62 (+.16), 3.45 (-.44), 68.2% (+.1%)
4. Ai Miyazato, $.77M (#16), 72.92 (+1.70), 2.93 (-.79), 57.5% (-10.8%)
5. Meaghan Francella, $.49M (#27), 72.94 (-.81), 2.73 (?), 63.9% (?)
6. Julieta Granada, $.40M (#33), 72.87 (+1.54), 2.59 (-.61), 61.3% (-6.7%)
7. Brittany Lang, $.33M (#37), 73.16 (+1.81), 2.73 (-1.15), 64.3% (-5.1%)
8. Kyeong Bae, $.31M (#39), 72.84 (+.51), 3.31 (+.27), 59.8% (-7.7%)
9. Hye Jung Choi, $.27M (#46), 73.20 (+.30), 2.66 (?), 61.3% (?)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.18M (#61), 73.72 (+.91), 2.72 (-.77), 62.0% (-6.1%)
11. Teresa Lu, $.17M (#63), 72.90 (+.01), 2.87 (-.04), 65.0% (-1.7%)
12. Linda Wessberg, $.17M (#64), 72.93 (-4.57), 3.10 (?), 54.1% (?)
13. Kim Hall, $.13M (#74), 73.84 (+.10), 2.40 (-.12), 57.8% (-7.5%)
14. Sun Young Yoo, $.13M (#75), 73.03 (+.50), 2.65 (-.31), 63.6% (-5.4%)
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 (#118), 73.84 (+.93), 2.77 (+/-.00), 59.5% (-6.5%)
18. Na Ri Kim, $.04M (#122), 74.15 (-2.80), 2.46 (?), 62.0% (?)
19. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.04M (#123), 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), LPGA Majors/Wins/Top 3s/Top 10s/Made Cuts Rate (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 been at this for barely 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, $2.03M (#78), 0/1/5/10/.759 (41/54)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.98M (#80), 0/2/6/14/.963 (52/54)
3. Jee Young Lee, $1.51M (#104), 0/0/4/15/.957 (44/46)
4. Morgan Pressel, $1.41M (#112), 1/1/4/17/.915 (43/47)
5. Ai Miyazato, $1.30M (#119), 0/0/4/13/.814 (35/43)
6. Brittany Lang, $.87M (#179), 0/0/2/9/.673 (35/52)
7. Kyeong Bae, $.59M (#226), 0/0/2/6/.745 (35/47)
8. Meaghan Francella $.49M (#243), 0/1/1/4/.654 (17/26)
9. Sun Young Yoo, $.36M (#275), 0/0/0/2/.729 (35/48)
10. Karin Sjodin, $.31M (#296), 0/0/0/3/.643 (27/42)
11. Hye Jung Choi, $.28M (#311), 0/0/0/2/.654 (17/26)
12. Teresa Lu, $.25M (#331), 0/0/0/2/.625 (25/40)
13. Katie Futcher, $.20M (#351), 0/0/0/3/.600 (24/40)
14. Nina Reis, $.19M (#356), 0/0/0/2/.591 (26/44)
15. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.19M (#361), 0/0/0/1/.513 (20/39)
16. Linda Wessberg, $.17M (#376), 0/0/0/3/.643 (9/14)
17. Minea Blomqvist, $.16M (#381), 0/0/0/0/.563 (18/32)
18. Kim Hall, $.16M (#383), 0/0/0/1/.387 (12/31)
19. Veronica Zorzi, $.09M (#450), 0/0/0/0/.813 (13/16)
20. Na Ri Kim, $.05M (#501), 0/0/0/0/.375 (9/24)


Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 10/29/07) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 10/28/07) 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, 5.78 (#10), 70.60 (#9), 0
2. Jee Young Lee, 5.29 (#13), 70.37 (#7), 2
3. Ai Miyazato, 4.93 (#16), 71.93 (#40), 14
4. Seon Hwa Lee, 4.75 (#18), 70.81 (#20), 3
5. Julieta Granada, 3.19 (#38), 72.54 (#63), 0
6. Meaghan Francella, 2.29 (#50), 72.36 (#57), 0
7. Brittany Lang, 2.24 (#51), 73.15 (#84), 0
8. Linda Wessberg, 1.86 (#67), 72.21 (#46), 5
9. Kyeong Bae, 1.51 (#82), 72.39 (#58), 3
10. Hye Jung Choi, 1.25 (#101), 73.00 (#78), 0
11. Karin Sjodin, 1.07 (#119), 73.38 (#105), 1
12. Teresa Lu, 1.01 (#129), 73.31 (#99), 0
13. Sun Young Yoo, .96 (#135), 72.49 (#61), 0
14. Veronica Zorzi, .92 (#138), 73.82 (#141), 2
15. Minea Blomqvist, .79 (#161), 73.86 (#144), 5
16. Kim Hall, .75 (#168), 74.23 (#179), 0
17. Nina Reis, .58 (#212), 74.06 (#166), 5
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .53 (#226), 74.20 (#174), 0
19. Katie Futcher, .49 (#237), 73.99 (#158), 0
20. Na Ri Kim, .20 (#373), 74.74 (#225), 0

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pond Scum Tuesday

pond scum light and shade.jpg

With a reminder to get the old homestead ready for the winter:

winterizing.jpg

Tuesday Notes

Even though Shigeki Maruyama didn't win yesterday, his second-place finish guaranteed him his 2008 PGA card and vaulted him past Ai Miyazato in season earnings. Congratulations, Shigeki! I still hope Ai-chan regains her lead, though.

In other golf news, LPGA.com has a tournament preview and final field out for the Mizuno Classic, even if they still haven't bothered to link to the official tournament site from the JLPGA. I guess they've been too busy updating their stats or something. The new LPGA money list and Rolex Rankings are out, and by both measures, the LPGA component of the field in Japan is pretty weak, with #4 Mi Hyun Kim, #7 Jeong Jang, #8 Angela Park, and #10 Jee Young Lee the only representatives from the top 10 on the former and #2 Karrie Webb the only one from the latter. So this tournament represents a real opportunity for JLPGA stars like Rolex #17 Shiho Oyama, #19 Sakura Yokomine, #20 Mi-Jeong Jeon, #21 Momoko Ueda, #22 Yuri Fudoh, #32 Na Zhang, #39 Miki Saiki, #43 Miho Koga, #44 Hyun-Ju Shin, #45 Shinobu Moromizato, and #48 Akane Iijima to test their games not only against the slumping (but still #16) Miyazato but also against closely-ranked LPGA and LET standouts like #26 Sophie Gustafson and #31 Maria Hjorth.

Gustafson, by the way, looks like she'll be the last regular qualifier for the ADT Championship, knocking out KLPGA star and LPGA rookie Eun-Hee Ji with a finish this week--provided, that is, that she stays ahead of Catriona Matthew on the second-half money list, not to mention those in the Mizuno Classic field a bit further behind her like Amy Hung, Brittany Lang, Joo Mi Kim, Reilley Rankin, and Alena Sharp. Matthew and Kim are eligible to play in the Tournament of Champions next week, so Gustafson needs a strong finish this week to pad her lead on them in particular. If she can do it, it looks to me like Meaghan Francella and Matthew will round out the 32-player field, unless rookies In-Kyung Kim or Inbee Park and/or defending champion Julieta Granada can pass one or both of them on the season money list with a great finish this week in Japan (and, for Granada, in the TOC as well).

So there is one last regular-season head-to-head battle of the Super Sophs shaping up between Francella and Granada over the next two weeks, with the latter spotting the former almost a $100K lead over the course of the season to date. (I won't be rooting for both of them to make it, however, as that would mean rooting against new mom Matthew.) Once that race is settled, the TOC and ADT will feature another battle among the Super Sophs, this time for the season money lead, as Seon Hwa Lee, Morgan Pressel, and Jee Young Lee are neck-and-neck (even though only Seon Hwa so far has broken the $1M barrier).

It's not that I'm looking past the Mizuno Classic, it's just that I'm dreading the Mostly Harmless jinx will strike Ai-chan on her home turf this weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Graffiti Monday

two new pieces "2007".jpg

Mizuno Classic Official Website Not That Hard to Find

Seriously, the link to the official Mizuno Classic website is right there on the JLPGA schedule. Even if your Japanese is as bad as mine, it's not too hard to find out about the course as well as who from the LPGA and JLPGA are competing in the climax of the Asian Swing. So why does none of this information appear on the LPGA.com tournament site?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mostly Harmless Jinx, Where Is Thy Sting?

The Mostly Harmless jinx has been threatening to ruin my life, but its recent exploits may have exhausted it. Evidence:

Sure, I missed one of the wildest finishes of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand, but my family and I did get to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary (belatedly) with my brother and his family. Let's call it even. Just kidding, mom and dad!

Sure, Ai Miyazato was +16 for the tournament, but she only finished next-to-last, thanks to a closing 33. Can the injury that's plunged her into the worst slump in her life finally be getting better?

Sure, Shigeki Maruyama is in danger of losing his PGA card for 2008, but he has a chance to win this week when he plays out the final two holes tomorrow.

Let's hope I'm right! Probably it's getting ready for a second wind....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blue Thursday

green plants blue mix.jpg

Pettersen Shoots 28 30 on Front 9 at Honda LPGA Thailand

See for yourself! You heard it here first: the Honda LPGA Thailand is Suzann Pettersen's tournament to lose. And all before the live feed from Thailand's Channel 7 TV even starts.

[Update 1 (2:01 am): Stupid LPGA.com. It was only a 30. She only parred 9--no eagle. But she did get to 8 under a few holes later. Shi Hyun Ahn, who got it to -5 early on the back, had a double bogey and a bogey over her final holes that cancelled out her last birdie and dropped her back to -3. And she's still in second.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

They diddled and fiddled while the world burned

they fiddled and diddled while the world burned.jpg
another message from the revolutionary vanguard, who notes that the diaphanous tall building in the middle is being constructed by donald "you're fired" trump. lots of diddlin' & fiddlin' going on.

The Best of the LPGA: October Edition

It's time to give a name to Mostly Harmless's answer to the BCS--our bimonthly attempt to combine the best systems for ranking the top LPGA golfers. They are the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the LPGA Official Money List, and Hound Dog's Top 30. Since they've all been recently updated, and since I won't have time to do this for weeks if I don't do it now, here goes!

As before, one player is light-years ahead of the pack:

1. Lorena Ochoa: The consensus #1. For good reason.

What's new is that only one player is ranked in the top 5 in each system:

2. Suzann Pettersen: #2 money, #4 RR, #4 GSPI, #2 HD

Perhaps even more surprisingly, there's only one player in the top 10 in each system:

3. Paula Creamer: #4 money, #6 RR, #3 GSPI, #3 HD

And there are only a few in the top 10 in 3 of the 4 systems:

4. Mi Hyun Kim: #3 money, #11 RR, #6 GSPI, #4 HD
5. Cristie Kerr: #5 money, #5 RR, #19 GSPI, #8 HD
6. Jee Young Lee: #9 money, #13 RR, #8 GSPI, #9 HD
7. Se Ri Pak: #14 money, #7 RR, #9 GSPI, #10 HD
8. Morgan Pressel: #10 money, #10 RR, #11 GSPI, #5 HD

There are a couple of Hall of Famers among those in the top 10 in 2 of the 4 systems, but I argue they have been passed by a pair of Rookies of the Year and are in danger of getting passed by several others:

9. Seon Hwa Lee: #6 money, #18 RR, #21 GSPI, #6 HD
10. Angela Park: #8 money, #26 RR, #10 GSPI, #11 HD
11. Annika Sorenstam: #32 money, #3 RR, #2 GSPI, #14 HD
12. Karrie Webb: #21 money, #2 RR, #7 GSPI, #21 HD

Next we have golfers in the top 20 in all 4 systems:

13. Jeong Jang: #7 money, #12 RR, #12 GSPI, #12 HD
14. Stacy Prammanasudh: #15 money, #16 RR, #13 GSPI, #7 HD
15. Juli Inkster: #18 money, #8 RR, #17 GSPI, #20 HD

And in the top 20 in 3 of the 4 systems:

16. Nicole Castrale: #12 money, #25 RR, #20 GSPI, #13 HD
17. Brittany Lincicome: #11 money, #14 RR, #24 GSPI, #15 HD

And in the top 20 in 2 of the 4 systems or in the top 30 in all 4:

18. Angela Stanford: #19 money, #30 RR, #18 GSPI, #16 HD
19. Maria Hjorth: #13 money, #31 RR, #32 GSPI, #17 HD
20. Sherri Steinhauer: #23 money, #23 RR, #16 GSPI, #19 HD
21. Ai Miyazato: #16 money, #15 RR, #36 GSPI, #30 HD
22. Natalie Gulbis: #17 money, #29 RR, #30 GSPI, #25 HD

Then there are those ranked in the top 30 in 3 of the 4 systems:

23. Shi Hyun Ahn: #25 money, #35 RR, #22 GSPI, #18 HD
24. Catriona Matthew: #28 money, #28 RR, #14 GSPI, #23 HD
25. Sarah Lee: #20 money, #40 RR, #25 GSPI, #22 HD
26. Sophie Gustafson: #31 money, #27 RR, #27 GSPI, #27 HD
27. Christina Kim: #22 money, #46 RR, #29 GSPI, #26 HD
28. Laura Diaz: #26 money, #41 RR, #28 GSPI, #28 HD

Surprisingly, there is only one player ranked in the top 30 in 2 of the 4 systems:

29. Laura Davies: #24 money, #42 RR, #31 GSPI, #24 HD

Once Hee-Won Han retuns to action from her maternity leave, she should move as quickly back up these rankings as Catriona Matthew has this year--Han would be #14 in the GSPI if she had played in enough events this year, Hound Dog puts her in his top 30, and she's barely out of the Rolex top 30. She'll soon be joined by Eun-Hee Ji--#8 in the GSPI once she gets enough events in to qualify, #24 on the Rolex Rankings, and with a good chance to qualify for the ADT Championship and move even further up the LPGA money list from #49--particularly if my gut feeling is right that she's going to play full-time on the LPGA in 2008. And there are a few others knocking on the door, from rookie In-Kyung Kim to Super Soph Meaghan Francella to sweet-swinging Young Kim to veteran Pat Hurst. But at this late date in the season, the consensus is getting clearer and clearer. I'll be back with an end-of-the-season post in December!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Soft Shoe, with dew, for a Monday evening

dew on the  shoe.jpg

Congratulations 10,000th Visitor!

If you came from CA to Mostly Harmless via the Seoul Sisters golf forum yesterday mid-afternoon, you are our lucky 10,000 visitor. Contact me for your prize....

Programming Note: Honda and IMG Know How to Put Together a Tournament Web Site

Check out the web site for the Honda LPGA Thailand 2007--great information on the course, a recently-updated list of players, just enough other stuff to be interesting without being annoying, and, since it's co-sponsored by a Thai TV station, a link to "TV online." Only time will tell if I'll end up using their live scoring system instead of LPGA.com's--that link isn't active yet. (I think the Solheim Cup was the only time I was unfaithful to LPGA.com--although I would have been this past weekend if I had remembered to check out the Hana-KOLON's live scoring link before the third round.) That is, time will tell only if we have web access in Hershey, PA, although if we do it'll be interesting to see if my dad and/or brother want to check out the tournament with me. We're all golf-mad, just in different ways.

It would be too bad to miss it. The return of Sorenstam, Creamer, Pressel, Miyazato, and defending champion and new mom Hee Won Han to the LPGA--not to mention the presence of 11-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn, one of two amateurs to qualify for the tournament--make up for the absence of Ochoa and Mi Hyun Kim in my book (not to mention the other 9 top Super Sophs. Although the weather may be rather dicey, any golfer will tell you not to trust a 10-day forecast. Monsoon season? What monsoon season? Never heard of it. (Makes you wonder why they don't move the tournament to November if October is the end of the rainy season--oh, yeah, it would mean asking the JLPGA to move the Mizuno Classic a week up. Doubt it!)

The tournament has moved to a 72-hole format and the course has been upgraded since last year. I wish it were starting tomorrow, if only to get the taste of the Mostly Harmless jinx out of my mouth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Revolutionary Sunday: Secret Plans of the Vanguard

secret messages from the revolutionary vanguard.jpg

And this is where those plans are being incubated and hatched:

guardians.jpg

Well, That's a New Way for the Mostly Harmless Jinx to Work

LPGA.com reports that play has been suspended since 9:15 am at the Hana Bank-KOLON Championship due to high winds that have made conditions unplayable on several holes. Not trusting the accuracy or currency of their news, I checked out the official tournament site, and lo and behold, their leaderboard is as blank as the LPGA's. Oh, and do not attempt to locate the golf course on Google maps (South Korea is blank) or Yahoo maps (you can't get to the resolution you need) or get a current weather report from weather.com. Been there, didn't do that. My usual webcast feed was showing a tv drama instead of the tournament. So I headed over to the Seoul Sisters Golf Forum to see if anyone there had any better luck than me. Nada. So here's a Mostly Harmless contest for ya: be the first to figure out what is going on and comment here and I'll write a post on the topic of your choice.

Worst-case scenario for me is the organizers cancel the final round of the event and call the whole thing after 36 holes. So I figure that has a 90% chance of actually happening right now. It would be the Mostly Harmless jinx sending me a little message: do not attempt to confuse the Mostly Harmless jinx. Kind of like the Super Wacky Fun Ball of old-by-now Saturday Night Live fame.

[Update 1 (2:12 am): The truly golf- (and sleep-) deprived can follow the action at the JLPGA event this week by clicking on the "real-time scoring" link in the top right corner of the page. Former champion Paula Creamer is looking smarter than ever for skipping the LPGA event in Korea--right now she's in second, two shots behind Miho Koga, who's looking to join the ranks of JLPGAers who have prevented Creamer from winning this year in Japan thus far.]

[Update 2 (1:14 pm): Hound Dog comments on the cancellation of the third round. From what I can gather, it was a combination of gusting winds and dying greens (thanks to an earlier monsoon and then especially cold weather during the week), which was leading to balls being blown all over them for the few people who actually did get out on the course Sunday. Makes me feel especially bad for Na-Yeon Choi, who, during her implosion on the back Saturday, incurred a penalty when her ball got blown around after she had addressed it and grounded her putter. I believe she was -2 at the time, so this was a big deal. If stuff like that was going to be happening a lot on Sunday and Monday, I can see why they cancelled the tournament--it would come down to who was lucky enough to avoid multiple such penalties. But I always wonder why tournament organizers don't at least wait till the next morning to see what the actual conditions turn out to be like. If the winds are down in the morning, I'll bet the fans who were angry on Sunday will be even angrier on Monday.]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pettersen Opens Door at the Hana Bank-KOLON Championship

If Suzann Pettersen (-3) can hold off Eun-Hee Ji (-2), Jeong Jang (-1), Seon Hwa Lee (-1), and Hyun-Hee Moon (E) Sunday at the Hana Bank-KOLON Championship, she'll really have earned her 4th victory of the year. I've seen enough of the webcast to appreciate just how tough the course (lots of water, lots of holes that are as easy to bogey as they are to birdie, lots of opportunities for big numbers) and conditions (cool with swirling winds and fairways that are still soaked enough that they played lift, clean, and place for the second day in a row today) are. Let's put it this way: when Rookie of the Year Angela Park, who was in the hunt last week at the Samsung, is in last place at +16, when there have only been 3 sub-70 rounds and 12 sub-par rounds thus far, and when so many good rounds have turned ugly over the past two days, you know it's going to be as much a battle of perseverance and willpower as of talent and judgment tomorrow.

Pettersen's 72 today is a great example of how up-and-down a round can be: at -5 for the tournament through the first 7 holes, she looked in total control while almost everyone around her was faltering. But then she bogeyed 8 and 9--which was acually an improvement on her first round, when she went double bogey-bogey on those holes--and opened the door to the field. Even though she responded with 3 birdies and only 1 bogey over the next six holes to again get to -5, she finished +2 on the same final three holes that on Friday she had played in -2. Result: instead of only the 4 other players at par or better having a legitimate shot at chasing her down, the 2 people at +1 are right in the thick of things, the 4 at +2 can get into the mix with a great front 9, and even the 6 at +3 and the 5 at +4 can dream of posting a number early and hoping the leaders come back to them. Would you rather have 4 or 18 people thinking they can beat you?

At the risk of once again invoking the Mostly Harmless jinx, I'll note that back in June I suggested this may yet be the Year of the Pettersen. This comment alone was enough to send Pettersen into a two-month mini-slump. And certainly my rooting for a Lorena Ochoa (75, +3, T12) vs. Ji-Yai Shin (76, +5, T23) shootout is out the window; my hoping that Se Ri Pak (76, +4, T18) or Mi Hyun Kim (77, +7, T28) would get their second wins of the season is out of the question; my cheering for top Super Soph Seon Hwa Lee (-3 through 14 but bogeyed 2 of her last 4 holes) was counterproductive; and my calling for a Meena Lee (77, +2, T8) resurgence and a Na-Yeon Choi (-4 on the day through her first 10 holes but endured a nightmarish bogey-double bogey-bogey-bogey stretch to go from being in contention to joining Meena on the outside looking in) emergence was premature.

With my luck, putting aside all hope except one--that the Korean channel carrying the tournament actually show the last half-hour of play rather than cutting away to the news--won't even be enough for me to avoid disappointment tomorrow. It's been that kind of week.

Programming Note: Hana Bank-KOLON Championship Webcast

I'm watching the Hana-KOLON leaderboard at LPGA.com and the webcast at Ulsan MBC on the "Korea, South" page at wwiTV.com. Perhaps this is actually an ironic situation, given that I can't watch any LPGA on American tv, given our lack of cable....

[Update: It's fun hearing such golfy jargon as "double cross" (when you're trying to fade the ball and actually pull or pull-hook it), "flyer" (when you hit it pure out of the rough and the ball goes farther than usual), and "lift, clean, and place" in English from the Korean announcers. What's not fun is how slow and error-ridden the LPGA.com leaderboard is this week. Can't they hire someone to watch the webcast and factcheck the scores they're getting from whatever other source they use?]

Japanese Kids Rock

Yesterday afternoon, the tsuma found this clip on veoh.com (where she's been heading lately for Japan-related online video) that I just found on TV in Japan and she gave me the play-by-play. Highlights: the first band can't play an encore because, as their manager announces, they only practiced 2 songs. The lead guitarist in the second band gets his pick stuck but then they go all Red Hot Chili Peppers. By the way, I really miss the show this originally aired on. The host is from Kyushu, I think from Fukuoka, and is basically the Johnny Carson of Japan. This segment was expanded from a regular feature they do on talented kids doing weird stuff.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fast Fingers Friday

John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia play Chic Corea's "Spain."

Is This Where Meena Lee Turns Her Season Around?

At the start of this season I picked Meena Lee to have a breakout year. In keeping with the Mostly Harmless Jinx and the trials and tribulations of the 100-Yen Nishijin Crystal Ball, she has thus far proceeded to have the worst season of her short career. But there she sits at the top of the Hana-KOLON leaderboard, along with Suzann Pettersen, at the end of the first round. On a day when only 6 broke par, many squandered hot starts (cf. Kang, Soo-Yun; Ahn, Sun-Ju; Hetherington, Rachel; Lee, Seon Hwa; Ochoa, Lorena; Pak, Se Ri; Lu, Teresa; Hjorth, Maria; Wessberg, Linda; Kim, Christina), others dug themselves into holes (cf. Kerr, Cristie; Kim, Mi Hyun; Ji, Eun-Hee; Choi, Na-Yeon; Shin, Ji-Yai; Ahn, Shi Hyun), and many shot themselves out of contention (cf. Kim, Christina; Choi, Hye Jung; Park, Angela; Lee, Jee Young; Gulbis, Natalie), Meena made like the little engine that could. If she wins this week, she just might squeak her way into the ADT Championship and walk away with the $1M prize. Hey, stranger things have happened (cf. Granada, Julieta)! Sure, at -3 she has to worry about 27 other people with similar aims, but until Pettersen caught fire on the back it looked as if the rest of the field wanted to spot her as many shots as possible heading into the weekend....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Three Ranking Systems Would Lead You to Expect at the Samsung, Part 2

OK, to pick it up from last post, here are the results from the Samsung World Championship, along with what 5 systems--the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and Hound Dog's monthly top 30, and two described below--would lead you to expect.

The first three numbers are from the three major ranking systems, RR as of 10/8/07, GSPI as of 10/8/07, and HD as of 9/10/07. The last two numbers are the player's average ranking among the 3 systems and a points-based formula of my own that combines the RR and the GSPI--assuming "par" to be 72, players get points added to their Rolex average for being "under par" and subtracted for being "over par." Thus, the next-to-last rating gives a sense of how they stack up against their peers, while the last gives a sense of how close to Ochoa they are.

1. Lorena Ochoa 68-67-69-66--270: RR 19.10 [1], GSPI 68.06 [1], HD [1]; #1 [1]/23.04 [1]
2. Mi Hyun Kim 68-70-67-69--274: RR 5.74 [11], GSPI 70.33 [6], HD [5]; #7.33 [5]/7.41 [7]
T3. Jeong Jang 69-68-68-70--275: RR 5.53 [12], GSPI 70.76 [20], HD [13]; #15 [10]/6.77 [9]
T3. Angela Park 67-69-69-70--275: RR 4.12 [25], GSPI 70.36 [8], HD [14]; #15.67 [13]/5.76 [13]
5. Suzann Pettersen 71-69-64-72--276: RR 8.21 [4], GSPI 70.19 [5], HD [3]; #4 [2]/10.02 [2]
T6. Paula Creamer 67-69-71-71--278: RR 6.61 [7], GSPI 69.80 [3], HD [2]; #4 [3]/8.81 [4]
T6. Jee Young Lee 70-70-70-68--278: RR 5.34 [14], GSPI 70.35 [7], HD [9]; #10 [7]/6.99 [8]
8. Stacy Prammanasudh 72-70-70-67--279: RR 5.10 [16], GSPI 70.57 [11], HD [11]; #12.67 [9]/6.53 [11]
9. Angela Stanford 70-66-74-71--281: RR 3.87 [29], GSPI 70.69 [17], HD [15]; #20.33 [15]/5.18 [16]
T10. Se Ri Pak 69-71-70-72--282: RR 6.76 [6], GSPI 70.55 [10], HD [6]; #7.33 [4]/8.21 [5]
T10. Seon Hwa Lee 73-73-66-70--282: RR 4.63 [18], GSPI 70.87 [21], HD [7]; #15.33 [12]/5.76 [12]
T10. Sarah Lee 72-72-69-69--282: RR 3.15 [40], GSPI 70.95 [24], HD [18]; #27.33 [17]/4.20 [18]
13. Morgan Pressel 68-72-72-71--283: RR 6.23 [10], GSPI 70.48 [9], HD [4]; #7.67 [6]/7.75 [6]
14. Cristie Kerr 75-66-70-73--284: RR 8.00 [5], GSPI 70.71 [18], HD [8]; #10.33 [8]/9.29 [3]
15. Maria Hjorth 72-70-71-73--286: RR 3.71 [30], GSPI 71.49 [34], HD [29]; #31 [18]/4.22 [17]
16. Nicole Castrale 73-70-75-72--290: RR 4.26 [24], GSPI 70.63 [12], HD [17]; #17.67 [14]/5.63 [14]
17. Brittany Lincicome 74-70-72-75--291: RR 5.48 [13], GSPI 70.91 [22], HD [10]; #15 [11]/6.57 [10]
18. Ai Miyazato 75-68-76-74--293: RR 5.12 [15], GSPI 71.60 [35], HD [20]; #23.33 [16]/5.52 [15]
19. Michelle Wie 79-79-77-71--306: RR 2.12 [56], GSPI 74.90 [104], HD [NR]; #80 [19]/-.78 [19]
20. Bettina Hauert 76-81-74-76--307: RR 1.10 [118], GSPI 74.76 [227], HD [NR]; #172.5 [20]/-1.66 [20]

So once again, Lorena Ochoa cements her status as the top women's golfer in the world, clinching Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Jeong Jang, Suzann Pettersen, and Angela Park had their chances to hang with Ochoa, but couldn't sustain their good play into the back 9 Sunday, and hence got passed by Mi Hyun Kim, who shot her 4th straight round of 33 or better there.

Kim has to be the biggest surprise of the tournament, coming into it with a back bad enough to get itself an MRI in Korea, no top 10s since the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship, and a disappointing history at the Samsung. That Jang's wrists held up yet another week is a testament to how tough she is and how great she's been playing over the same stretch. The only reason Park wasn't ranked higher heading into the Samsung is that the Rolex Rankings look back over the past two years of play (which includes a year of struggles on the Futures Tour for her); her finally getting a solid weekend in this year, finishing well ahead of Paula Creamer, with whom she was paired the final 3 rounds, is a sign of even better things to come for the Rookie of the Year. Pettersen has to be disappointed that Ochoa beat her so badly, but she certainly showed why she deserves to be the world #2 this week.

On the down side, Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel are the biggest disappointments of the tournament when you go by the rankings, yet anyone who's been following women's golf knows they've both been struggling over the past several months--Pressel since getting outdueled by Se Ri Pak at the Jamie Farr and Kerr since denying Ochoa her first major at the U.S. Women's Open. (That their struggles continued this week make Kim's finish even more impressive.) By this count, too, Brittany Lincicome's poor play should have been a small surprise at best. But if you go by momentum alone, Maria Hjorth has to be the biggest disappointment of the tournament (certainly to me--I picked her to finish 2nd in this week's PakPicker competition over at the Seoul Sisters golf forum!).

OK, so now that we've looked at the finishes from the perspective of the rankings, let's consider which of the ranking systems produced the best predictions. My system is simple--0 for when a system correctly predicts the finish, 1 for being plus or minus 1 spot, 2 for plus or minus 2 spots, and so on. I also include the percentage of each system's predicted top 10s that actually got top 10s this week.

1. GSPI: 53/80%
2. MH (rankings average): 74/80%
3. RR: 77/70%
T4. HD: 85/70%
T4. MH (formula): 85/70%

So the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, which tracks relative finishes over the past calendar year, won handily this week. If you had been predicting finishes by relative position on the LPGA money list, you would have gotten 87/70%, and if by scoring average 57/90%, so while all the ranking systems did better than the former this week, only GSPI did better than the latter (and then, only in the closeness of the picks, not the top 10 rate). In fairness to Hound Dog, it's hard to tell how much better his system would have worked if he had updated his monthly rankings before the Samsung--maybe he'll let us know in comments!

What's surprising to me about these results is not that the GSPI beat the RR--the purpose of the RR is less to predict future finishes than record who's done best over the past two years, particularly in the majors--but that my formula, which uses the GSPI to adjust the RR, did worse than the RR alone.

Now, one test of the ranking systems tells us very little, and given how much time it took me to do this one, I don't plan on doing it every week. Maybe I'll roll it out before the majors and showdown-type events like the HSBC Women's Champions, the Tournament of Champions, the ADT Championship, and of course the Samsung in 2008 (if I can figure out how to adjust it for larger fields). But since the PakPicker involves other people doing the stats for me, I'll try to stick as closely to the GSPI as I can for the rest of the year, keep my mo/gut/past performance adjustments as small as possible, and see how I do. I may even report back some day....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Three Ranking Systems Would Lead You to Expect at the Samsung, Part 1

The three best player ranking systems I know of for the LPGA are the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and Hound Dog's monthly top 30. As part of my continuing effort to compare the ranking systems and develop my own for the Super Sophs, I'm going to offer and update the following list over the next few days--and comment on it below. I want to see what the ranking systems add to the money-list-based (mostly) criteria for entry into the Samsung World Championship in terms of predicting final results.

The first two numbers in it are the player's average ranking and a points-based formula of my own that combines the RR and the GSPI--assuming "par" to be 72, players get points added to their Rolex average for being "under par" and subtracted for being "over par." Thus, the first score gives a sense of how they stack up against their peers, while the second gives a sense of how close to Ochoa they are. The numbers in parentheses are the actual figures from the three ranking systems, RR as of 10/8/07, GSPI as of 10/8/07, and HD as of 9/10/07. The last number is the player's scores each round and total for the tournament.

1. Lorena Ochoa: #1/23.04 (RR 19.10 [1], GSPI 68.06 [1], HD [1]) 68-67-69-66--270 [1]
2. Suzann Pettersen: #4/10.02 (RR 8.21 [4], GSPI 70.19 [5], HD [3]) 71-69-64-72--276 [5]
3. Paula Creamer: #4/8.81 (RR 6.61 [7], GSPI 69.80 [3], HD [2]) 67-69-71-71--278 [T6]
4. Se Ri Pak: #7.33/8.21 (RR 6.76 [6], GSPI 70.55 [10], HD [6]) 69-71-70-72--282 [T10]
5. Mi Hyun Kim: #7.33/7.41 (RR 5.74 [11], GSPI 70.33 [6], HD [5]) 68-70-67-69--274 [2]
6. Morgan Pressel: #7.67/7.75 (RR 6.23 [10], GSPI 70.48 [9], HD [4]) 68-72-72-71--283 [13]
7. Jee Young Lee: #10/6.99 (RR 5.34 [14], GSPI 70.35 [7], HD [9]) 70-70-70-68--278 [T6]
8. Cristie Kerr: #10.33/9.29 (RR 8.00 [5], GSPI 70.71 [18], HD [8]) 75-66-70-73--284 [14]
9. Stacy Prammanasudh: #12.67/6.53 (RR 5.10 [16], GSPI 70.57 [11], HD [11]) 72-70-70-67--279 [8]
10. Jeong Jang: #15/6.77 (RR 5.53 [12], GSPI 70.76 [20], HD [13]) 69-68-68-70--275 [T3]
11. Brittany Lincicome: #15/6.57 (RR 5.48 [13], GSPI 70.91 [22], HD [10]) 74-70-72-75--291 [17]
12. Seon Hwa Lee: #15.33/5.76 (RR 4.63 [18], GSPI 70.87 [21], HD [7]) 73-73-66-70--282 [T10]
13. Angela Park: #15.67/5.76 (RR 4.12 [25], GSPI 70.36 [8], HD [14]) 67-69-69-70--275 [T3]
14. Nicole Castrale: #17.67/5.63 (RR 4.26 [24], GSPI 70.63 [12], HD [17]) 73-70-75-72--290 [16]
15. Angela Stanford: #20.33/5.18 (RR 3.87 [29], GSPI 70.69 [17], HD [15]) 70-66-74-71--281 [9]
16. Ai Miyazato: #23.33/5.52 (RR 5.12 [15], GSPI 71.60 [35], HD [20]) 75-68-76-74--293 [18]
17. Sarah Lee: #27.33/4.20 (RR 3.15 [40], GSPI 70.95 [24], HD [18]) 72-72-69-69--282 [T10]
18. Maria Hjorth: #31/4.22 (RR 3.71 [30], GSPI 71.49 [34], HD [29]) 72-70-71-73--286 [15]
19. Michelle Wie: #80/-.78 (RR 2.12 [56], GSPI 74.90 [104], HD [NR]) 79-79-77-71--306 [19]
20. Bettina Hauert: #172.5/-1.66 (RR 1.10 [118], GSPI 74.76 [227], HD [NR]) 76-81-74-76--307 [20]

10/13 am: A few observations heading into the weekend.... It should be no surprise to anyone that Angela Park is strong out of the gates this week; the only thing the Rookie of the Year has yet to learn is how to finish a tournament as strongly as she starts one. This week would, of course, be a great one for that lesson to sink in. Nor should the fantastic play of Angela Stanford surprise--after all, she's had to make an amazing charge over the spring and summer to qualify for the Solheim Cup team, so she has a lot of good momentum and good memories built up as she's clawed her way to being one of the top 5 American women's golfers of the summer. Jeong Jang's great play thus far is a pleasant surprise; as she's been fighting what seems to be a fairly serious wrist injury for months, you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but she keeps racking up great finishes. A bigger surprise is Mi Hyun Kim's excellent play--she's also been fighting injuries for most of the season, so maybe she's used to it by now, but her back has been killing her lately. The two biggest surprises to me, though, are Maria Hjorth's and Seon Hwa Lee's slow starts. Hjorth has been playing about as well as anyone in the world since her 4th place finish at the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship in July (I was going to add, "well, anyone not named Lorena Ochoa, that is," but then I remembered she just beat her, too, snapping Ochoa's 3-tournament winning streak, to get her first LPGA win since the late 1990s), and I expect her still to contend over the weekend. Seon Hwa Lee just took the #1 spot from Morgan Pressel, who's been slumping, in the Mostly Harmless Super Soph Top 20. My only explanation is the Mostly Harmless jinx, which has been dogging Ai Miyazato lately. It's a very pleasant surprise that she was able to shoot her first sub-70 (not to mention sub-75!) round in what feels like forever.

The pairings for moving day are very interesting. Obviously Hauert and Wie are struggling and playing only for pride at this point. Seon Hwa Lee should win the battle of the S Lee's handily. Castrale and Lincicome both had great starts to the season and have been struggling ever since, with some signs of progress of late. Prammanasudh has been playing great lately and Miyazato terrible, so the fact that they're playing together on Saturday is a bit startling--here's hoping Ai-chan continues to surprise. The Kerr-Hjorth pairing is fantastic, as both have the capacity to go very low and put themselves back in contention. The Pak-Pressel pairing replays their July showdown at the Jamie Farr. Pettersen and Jee Young Lee have similar games and it would not surprise me at all to see Lee end up winning not only this "match" but the entire tournament, as well. The Jang-Kim pairing is the Purple Heart match-up--hopefully the desert heat will help them stay in the hunt. The last two twosomes have a chance to separate themselves from the pack--we'll see if playing with Creamer for the second day in a row helps Park learn how to go low on a Saturday and if Stanford can continue her fantastic play while being paired with Ochoa.

I won't be able to watch anything tomorrow, but with my folks coming up we may be able to commandeer their hotel room for the final round. That's a joke--my dad is a bigger LPGA fan than me!

10/13 pm: Well, Pettersen made a move and went super-low on moving day. A hot back 9 enabled her to make up 6 shots on Ochoa (31 to 37) and tie her at -12. Given how many low numbers the back has given up this week, the Sunday finish should be some great tv. Not least because the walking wounded--Jeong Jang and Mi Hyun Kim--join rookie sensation Angela Park 1 out of the lead. At 3 off the lead, Paula Creamer would have been right in the thick of things if she could have birdied any holes on the back today. With 6 players three shots ahead of their closest competitors and playing great golf, anyone not in the final 3 twosomes Sunday will have to shoot a career-low round to have a hope of catching or passing them. Me, I'll just be happy if Ai-chan breaks 75. Seriously, I can't wait to watch this finish with the girls in my parents' hotel room! Could it be even better than the Sherri Steinhauer-Christina Kim shootout at the State Farm Classic a month and a half ago? Speaking of Seoul Sisters and Super Sophs, hopefully Hye Jung Choi's win on the KLPGA this week--thanks to her birdie and Eun-Hee Ji's double bogey on the final hole of the tournament--will inspire Jang and Kim to keep fighting and Pak and Jee Young Lee to go for broke!

10/14 pm: How 'bout that Ochoa? [To be continued....]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Au Wievoir? PWiemature!

All right, thanks to Geoff Shackelford and Mulligan Stu, I've been keeping up with the "Wie Washed Up" meme making its rounds in the golfy mediasphere. A wonderful and much-appreciated 18th birthday present, I'm sure, but then again, she didn't have to accept the sponsor's invitation to play in the Samsung World Championship this week. At least the local news is framing the event in ways that go beyond Wie's woes.

Me, I'm worried more about how far south Ai Miyazato's, Mi Hyun Kim's, and Morgan Pressel's games have gone and whether Jee Young Lee's, Sarah Lee's, and Jeong Jang's injuries have healed enough for them to perform at anything close to their full capacity. I'm curious to see if Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, or Maria Hjorth can hang with Ochoa. And I'm hoping the Samsung organizers learn from their mistakes and figure out how to differentiate their event from the ADT Championship and the new HSBC Women's Champions world stroke-play event (to complement their world match-play event) in Singapore that's starting next year. My suggestion would be to drop all single-event or career-based or ratings-based invites--to the year's major winners, to any Hall of Famers or sponsor's exemptions--and make entry into the tournament purely performance-based over the entire year. Invite the top 3 money winners on the KLPGA, JLPGA, and LET and the top 11 from the LPGA. Take the performance-based nature of the ADT and the worldliness of the HSBC match- and stroke-play events and you make the Samsung stand out, that is.

At least the organizers got something right: pairing Wie and Rookie of the Year Angela Park was the absolute right thing to do. Too bad they didn't pair any of the Super Sophs. A Seon Hwa Lee-Morgan Pressel showdown among the top 2 Super Sophs, or a Seon Hwa Lee-Ai Miyazato rematch from the finals of the HSBC or a Seon Hwa Lee-Jee Young Lee battle for top Korean Super Soph status would have been equally compelling. And if they were going to pair Ochoa and Pettersen, why not Korean legends Pak and Kim or top Americans Creamer and Kerr, or, even better, do some Solheim Cup rematches like Castrale and Hauert, Creamer and Hjorth? A lack of imagination for the Thursday pairings goes nicely with a lack of judgment in their lead-up to the tournament, but at some point you'd hope the tournament organizers would build on their successes.

So, yes, my overall point is that women's golf is bigger than Wie. It would be nice if anyone who wasn't already a fan noticed, but I'm not holding my breath, even for the people paid to write about women's golf. What I will say about Wie is that it's too soon to tell how her career will pan out. Every professional is going to have a slump in his or her career--just ask Julieta Granada, Brittany Lang, Meena Lee, or Karrie Webb about this year, or Grace Park and Se Ri Pak about several previous years--what matters is how you get through it and deal with the adversity. Maybe learning how to handle the pressures that come with public and humiliating failure can better prepare you to deal with the pressures that come with success. So I wouldn't put too much weight on Wie's performance this week. When I think about how much my students change over the course of their college careers, I have to laugh at the idea of writing off any 18-year-old.

[Update: Mulligan Stu has updated his post to clarify his position on Wie's career (for those unfamiliar with his writing, it's an excellent precis and representative of the fairness and thoughtfulness of his writing). For those who care about my opinion of Shackelford's LPGA/Wie blogging, you can read my comments at MS's Waggle Room. And I'm not just saying that--or this--b/c I write the occasional diary over there.]

Monday, October 8, 2007

No More Bamboo for You

So if you've been following Hound Dog's blogging or LPGA.com's updating, you'll have seen that Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen, despite a rough middle and a rough start to their final rounds, respectively, ended up in a playoff at -11 in the Longs Drugs Challenge--and #2 on the money list and in wins this year prevailed, inching closer to half the #1's achievements in 2007. Because the LPGA is a bit slower at updating their stats than the PGA--which informs us that Shigeki Maruyama's dropping just out of the top 10 at the Valero Texas Open only moved him up 10 spots on the money list, to #135--we won't know officially which of the women on the edge have earned their card for 2008. But it sure looks to me like Katie Futcher is going to Q-School and that Lorie Kane leapfrogged Minea Blomqvist to send a second Super Soph packing, as well. That leaves 14 fully exempt Super Sophs for 2008. It'll be interesting to see if the other Super Euros in Blomqvist's shoes--Nina Reis and Veronica Zorzi--will join her at Q-School. And whether Virada Nirapathpongporn and Na Ri Kim--whom it looks to me won't even have non-exempt status for next year--can perform under Q-School pressure.

Going into the Samsung World Championship, then, it's looking like Ochoa, Pettersen, Paula Creamer, and Maria Hjorth have to be the favorites, followed by Jeong Jang, Seon Hwa Lee, Se Ri Pak, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Nicole Castrale. It's entirely possible Angela Park, Jee Young Lee, Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, and Bettina Hauert will play well and earn a few top 10s from this bunch, but highly unlikely that Mi Hyun Kim, Ai Miyazato, Morgan Pressel, Sarah Lee, or Michelle Wie will (I hope they prove me wrong and everyone plays great!). With Ji-Yai Shin winning her record-breaking 7th tournament on the KLPGA this season, I'd love to see Samsung dropping all sponsor's invitations for the future and guaranteeing a spot to the top player from the JLPGA and KLPGA money lists, respectively. Otherwise they're going to see their event be quickly overshadowed by both the ADT Championship and the new HSBC stroke-play event in Singapore.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gnarly, dude: role model for little girls



Her name is Chicchi.



Here she is being a secret agent - honestly, what more could you want from a Magical Girl? (It takes awhile to get started.)



Here she is playing with some young ladies known as Hot Style:



You get the idea. Just search for "chicchi" on the TwoYubes.

Animist Sunday: Tree Spirit (Kami)

tree spirit.jpg

Postmodern Sunday: Bakki and Sloucho

Sloucho is still far too busy to start posting here, but he just wrote what would have been a great one over at his paying gig at Fantasy Football Today on postmodern sport. Clearly he's angling for the postmodernism beat here at Mostly Harmless.

Or maybe the tsuma is. Thanks to her, I was able to introduce you earlier to Kimutaku and the Disney version of the "para para" dance that was popular in Japan around the turn into this millennium. Here are a few more versions (non-Disney) based around this character he created for the Smap x Smap variety show he and his bandmates have made the most popular in Japan. So without further ado, I present to you Bakki ...

...at an elementary school:



...in the park:



...at a construction site:



...at a disco bar:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Little Bartolatry

bart at 6am.jpg

And by "Bamboo," I Meant...

Not for your scores to soar like the heroes and villains of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. More like your spirits, or something like that.

Minea Blomqvist got it--her 31 on the back vaulted her into the top 40 heading into the weekend of the Longs Drugs Challenge and gives her a great shot to keep her card for 2008. Paula Creamer got it--she was +5 with 5 holes to go, but birdied three of them to get into the top 50. And Maria Hjorth certainly got it--despite taking a quadruple bogey late in her first round, she bounced back into the top 15 with a 69 on Friday. Even Morgan Pressel's two bogeys down the home stretch to drop her to +5 minimized the damage enough that she squeaked past her second consecutive cut line.

But two of my favorites just didn't get it. Mi Hyun Kim got the doubles early on and WDed. And Ai Miyazato was done in by an early double and two late ones. She started off with birdies on 2 of her first 3 holes, but then a double and two bogeys put her at +7 with the tougher front 9 left to play. After gutting out a bunch of pars and a birdie, she was right at the cut line with 3 holes to play when disaster struck. The dreaded double double.

At least they get to rest for the Samsung World Championship. Unlike Annika Sorenstam, who just declined the sponsor's invitation to join the 20-player elite field. There are various ways of interpreting Sorenstam's decision--doing the right thing (by taking a stand against last-second entrance criteria changes), showing up Michelle Wie (who WDed from Annika's tournament under strange, and to many suspicious, circumstances earlier this year and who has come under loads of criticism for accepting the sponsor's invitation that was given out in the spring), setting an example for Wie--but my read is that she just doesn't feel that her body and her game are up to beating Lorena Ochoa. She wants to take her on on her own schedule, not Samsung's.

And given that Ochoa is sitting pretty at the Longs Drugs--1 shot behind leaders Lorie Kane and Karrie Webb and 1 shot ahead of Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, and Suzann Pettersen, not to mention the 22 other players within 5 shots of her on a course where anything can happen--maybe Sorenstam is right to defer such a challenge until the 2008 season.

At least she has that option. Virada Nirapathpongporn needed a great round on Friday just to make the cut and couldn't produce one. Katie Futcher lucked in on the cut line but needs to move in the opposite direction on the weekend if she wants to avoid joining her fellow Super Soph at the final stage of Q-School. We'll see if Shigeki Maruyama can do the same in Texas. He's fallen back to 6th place and although he has a little more time to claw his way back into the top 125 on the PGA money list and secure his card for 2008, playing more like he did on the front than the back Friday over the weekend would do him a world of good.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Yes, Bamboo

You can learn a lot from bamboo, especially if you're playing at the Longs Drugs Challenge this week (unlike Moira Dunn). How to let a slump blow right through you and spring back upright, better than ever. How to bounce back from a bad round and play well enough today to make the cut and keep your card.* How to bend without breaking.

*Speaking of playing for your card, Shigeki Maruyama had one of his best rounds of the season yesterday and is tied for 2nd at the Valero Texas Open. Here's hoping this is the start of his return to form rather than another opportunity for the Mostly Harmless jinx to strike.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Less Than Three Weeks Until the Asian Swing

I know, I know, I shouldn't look past the Long Drugs and the Samsung the next two weeks, but I'm really really really looking forward to the fourth Mostly Harmless Event which focuses on the Asian swing of the LPGA. With KLPGA and JLPGA players competing well on the European swing and with players like Ji-Yai Shin, Eun-Hee Ji, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Momoko Ueda, Sakura Yokomine, and now Shinobu Moromizato racking up big wins this year on their respective tours, it'll be fascinating to see how the slumping Ai Miyazato and top LPGA Korean stars like Se Ri Pak, Mi Hyun Kim, Seon Hwa Lee, Jee Young Lee, Jeong Jang, and new mom Hee-Won Han measure up against their compatriots (not to mention diasporic Koreans like Angela Park and Christina Kim). The next month and a half will feature the top 50 (or fewer) LPGAers going head-to-head in high stakes and high status events, so here's hoping that the PGA-obsessed golf bloggers will pay attention and help draw attention to the best tour in the world. And that more young Japanese stars make like Ai-chan and try to make it big on the LPGA.