Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 LPGA Preview: Top 30 Predictions

Hound Dog has listed his predictions for 2008's top 30 on the LPGA over at his blog in hopes of starting a meme. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, he's invited everyone to join in and rank each of their top 30 picks by her odds of ending up as the Player of the Year. If anyone wants to participate but doesn't have a blog to post their predictions on, just email your list to me at the[underscore]constructivist18[at]yahoo[dot]com and I'll post it here for you.

Here's my list, showing how I think the vets, the mid-career cohort, and the young guns I ranked last month, previewed last week, and overviewed last weekend will match up against each other:

1. Lorena Ochoa
2. Paula Creamer
3. Seon Hwa Lee
4. Jee Young Lee
5. Annika Sorenstam
6. Morgan Pressel
7. Jeong Jang
8. Hee-Won Han
9. Se Ri Pak
10. Mi Hyun Kim
11. Angela Park
12. Stacy Prammanasudh
13. Cristie Kerr
14. Natalie Gulbis
15. Suzann Pettersen
16. Ai Miyazato
17. In-Kyung Kim
18. Momoko Ueda
19. Eun-Hee Ji
20. Jane Park
21. Karrie Webb
22. Brittany Lincicome
23. Christina Kim
24. Shi Hyun Ahn
25. Angela Stanford
26. Juli Inkster
27. Meena Lee
28. Laura Davies
29. Sophie Gustafson
30. Inbee Park

[Update 2/11/08: Mulligan Stu joins in!]

[Update 2/15/08: The Florida Masochist joins in!]


Hound Dog said...

Interesting that both you and Bill Roberts pick Pettersen to fall out of the Top 10. I know her back was a problem at Lexus, but Suzann was so good last year...I couldn't bring myself to do the same.

I hope you're right about Han and Miyazato. You have them ranked about where they were early last year, so that's entirely realistic.

I was really torn about Lincicome. I put her at #12 because I couldn't decide whether she was going to contend for POY or fall into the 20s (like you predict).

The Constructivist said...

On Pettersen, yeah I was pretty harsh to drop her that low--probably the farthest I went out on a limb in the entire top 30. I admit the potential for injuries played into my thinking, but it was more that her underwhelming performances at both the Solheim and Lexus Cups made me wonder if maybe Annika gets inside her head. For the former, she missed her chance to make a statement that she was the head Euro in charge; for the latter, she again didn't play well in front of Annika. Now I'm probably wrong that there'll be ten golfers between her and Annika at the end, but once I started dropping her down a slot it was hard to stop. (My next most controversial pick was dropping Webb so low, but the same thing happened.)

Han, on the other hand, I'm totally convinced of. In fact, I would have put her #6 if she weren't going to dealing with a baby on the road.

Miyazato may just be me being a fan--but I realized that everyone I put behind her either is new to/on the tour or has a history of inconsistency.

I was torn on Lincicome, too. Somehow I trust Prammanasudh's consistency and grit more; even Gulbis showed a lot more toughness than Brittany over the course of the season. I just think she's too young and too nice to put herself in the top 20 this year. But hey, I believe in her more than Castrale....

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at some of these rankings.

Annika at 5 seems low. Everything I've heard sounds like she is healthy and motivated. I think it will be interesting to see how Ochoa holds up under pressure this year.

Natalie Gulbis in the top 20 ? One hot week (no pun intended) last year hasn't exactly started her on a roll.

Pettersen definitely seems low - but back problems can really be hard to get rid of - look at Grace Park...her stats...well ok...let's just look for a minute, too. (mmmmmmm)

I'm not all that impressed with Miyazato, but she has wins under her belt - just not the rock star following she had back home. If she doesn't win this year - she could head back home and live on endorsements.

Brittany Lincicome below Jane Park and Momoko Ueda ???

The Constructivist said...

Annika at 5 reflects my thinking that she'll get multiple wins, but so will the 3 between her and Ochoa.

Gulbis actually had a good last part of the season once her back got better. If it wasn't for her debacle at Dubai, I would have ranked her higher.

I've already addressed Miyazato and Lincicome, so that leaves Ueda and Jane Park. The latter I'm jumping on the Mulligan Stu bandwagon--and building on my growing sense that the class of '07 could actually hae more Super Sophs by the end of the season than the class of '06 had. Ueda's my pick for top rookie and most years in the last 15 the top rookie is close to the top 10 if not close to the top. Putting her at 18 reflects how much stronger the competition is each year on the LPGA. I think you'll like where Hound Dog put her better than where I did.

spyder said...

Somehow I trust Prammanasudh's consistency and grit more; even Gulbis showed a lot more toughness than Brittany over the course of the season.

And herein lies the quality of your selections. Watching some of these women mentally collapse at various points on course throughout last year, i agree with your choices and reasons. I do think that if Annika is truly healthy, her mental toughness overshadows that of most of her opponents, save Ochoa and perhaps, but unlikely, Creamer. The Lees have yet to really leap across the chasm of greatness and like Pressel they are all too young. Odd though you put Seon Hwa ahead of Jee Young, perchance a comment???

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, putting the fighting Lees so high is definitely a risk. But if you look at the Kyoraku and Lexus Cups, nobody could touch them. Se Ri Pak praised them (indirectly) and I'm just following her lead.

Seon Hwa is #3 because she's averaging a win a year, something few on the LPGA can claim, in the two toughest seasons for anyone on tour (until their last). She's paid her dues on the Futures Tour and has a fine all-around game. But what sets her apart is her mental toughness. You'll see what I mean this year.

Jee Young has the distance of a healthy Sorenstam, Ochoa, and Pettersen, hits a lot of greens, and can putt the lights out. What's not to like? Predicting her breakout year as 2008 is a bit risky, but think what 2007 would have been like if she hadn't missed that 1-footer in the playoff with Pettersen, or if a few things had gone the other way deep into the HSBC match play. The only things she lacks is experience being regularly in contention. That's going to change this year.

But as I mentioned in comments on Hound Dog's list, I'm definitely biased toward the classes of 2006 and 2007. Still, I definitely think there's a major changing of the guard coming as veterans fade, more mid-career people step up, and more young guns match their confidence, focus, and talent.

Look, I was wrong last year when I predicted that the top 15 would be in each other's faces all year. As it turned out, Ochoa, Pettersen, Creamer, and Kim pulled away a lot or a bit from everyone else. This year, by putting Pettersen at 15, I'm suggesting that every single one of the top 15--not just the top 10 that I mentioned in an earler comment--will get a win. That doesn't leave too many possibilities for high multiple wins, especially if we have 5 people getting them like I expect. We could easily see a distribution in the top 5 like

Ochoa 6
Creamer 3
SH Lee 2
JY Lee 2
Sorenstam 2

with the Fighting Lees outpointing Sorenstam in $ and other significant stats.

Only time will tell!

spyder said...

I am of the mind that Jee Young has the greater potential in the long run, and this may be the year she figures out how to control it and keep it focused. But as you say, this 2008 season could open up greater opportunities for women deeper into your top 30. The return of Sorenstam (if truly healthy for the whole season) will increase the pressure on the younger players to play all four (or three) days consistently and well. That has to be good for the LPGA.

The Constructivist said...

It's always fun to see the much-heralded youngsters run into the buzzsaw of competition on the LPGA--not that you root against anyone, but it certainly shows the quality of play on tour. By the same token, it's fun to see the vets pushed by the newbies, although a little sad when they can't push back as hard as they used to. The great thing about 2008 is, really, that anything can happen! On the LPGA, that is. Maybe Adam Scott and Justin Rose and Anthony Kim will elevate their games and contend more consistently, even when Tiger is in the field. A guy can hope--and hope that Wier, Leonard, and Toms will join Mickelson, Els, and Singh in really pushing Tiger....