Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Best of the LPGA: February Edition

With the Showdown in Singapore right around the corner, it's time to roll out Mostly Harmless's first attempt in 2008 to combine the best systems for ranking the top LPGA golfers. By using the most recent results from 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. A lot has changed since December, so hold onto your hats!

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

1. Lorena Ochoa: Across-the-board #1--by far--in 3 of the 4 systems (and would be near the top of the 2008 money list, no doubt, if she hadn't decided to sit out Hawaii). It will be interesting to see how she reacts to the pitter patter of feet (not yet a rumble) from those closest behind her.

Once again, only one player is ranked in the top 5 in each system. But this time it's an American.

2. Paula Creamer: #2 money ($212.4K), #5 RR (7.14), #3 GSPI (69.54), #3 HD. Her 5th career win at the Fields establishes her as Ochoa's top competitor--for now.

The top two European players are in the top 5 in 3 of the 4 ranking systems:

3. Annika Sorenstam: #1 money ($232.1K), #2 RR (8.24), #4 GSPI (69.55), #12 HD. Well, that was quick. Once Hound Dog updates his rankings to reflect her win at the SBS and second consecutive top 5 at the Fields, she'll be neck-and-neck with Creamer.
4. Suzann Pettersen: #19 money ($28.8K), #3 RR (7.71), #2 GSPI (69.42), #2 HD. Looking to avoid her Hawaiian first-round blues in Singapore.

There are now only two in the top 10 in 3 of the 4 systems:

5. Cristie Kerr: #14 money ($39.6K), #6 RR (6.12), #7 GSPI (70.50), #8 HD. Despite one bad round per tournament in Hawaii, passed Kim on the career money list. Can she beat her to the $8M mark?
6. Mi Hyun Kim: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #10 RR (4.80), #5 GSPI (70.18), #4 HD. Due to off-season knee surgery, she may get off to a slow start in 2008. Or she might win in Singapore. She's that tough.

And there's an impressive trio in the top 10 in 2 of the 4 systems:

7. Jeong Jang: #3 money ($132.2K), #8 RR (5.00), #12 GSPI (70.73), #11 HD. Athough Paula Creamer blocked her from the winner's circle at the Fields, she has already established herself as one of Ochoa's leading challengers.
8. Momoko Ueda: #9 money ($51.4K), #12 RR (4.53), #6 GSPI (70.21), n.r. HD. She benefits from the GSPI not including KLPGA events in its system, but one bad hole (her last at the Fields) was the only thing between her and two straight top 10s in Hawaii, so she's handling the switch from the JLPGA to the LPGA very well, I'd say!
9. Angela Park: #9 money ($51.4K), #26 RR (3.47), #16 GSPI (70.79), #9 HD. If the 2007 Rookie of the Year figures out how to win on the LPGA in 2008, watch out! She could start by avoiding that one big round in an otherwise strong tournament, as she was unable to do in Hawaii....

With early-season volatility, there are a lot of golfers with a top 10 in one system; I'm ranking them by how well they do in the rest of them and excluding some whose only excellent stat is the brand-new money list.

10. Karrie Webb: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #4 RR (7.62), #15 GSPI (70.79), #23 HD. With her win in Australia, she has to be one of the favorites in Singapore. But two wins there in 2007 didn't lead to a good LPGA season by her standards, so she remains a question mark for the season as a whole.
11. Seon Hwa Lee: #27 money ($22.3K), #20 RR (3.66), #11 GSPI (70.71), #6 HD. Given her international team-play dominance at the end of the 2007 season, she's off to a very disappointing start to 2008, results-wise, but her stats suggest there's no cause for alarm. Should pass Julieta Granada in career earnings this week in Singapore.
12. Morgan Pressel: #28 money ($19.4K), #11 RR (4.53), #20 GSPI (70.93), #5 HD. Despite a slow start to the season, her stats are looking just fine; with her low final round at the Fields, I see her on the upswing for Singapore and beyond.
13. Angela Stanford: #13 money ($45.5K), #32 RR (3.22), #10 GSPI (70.70), #16 HD. Movin' on up!
14. Stacy Prammanasudh: #40 money ($12.8K), #15 RR (4.13), #19 GSPI (70.89), #7 HD. Underwhelmed in Hawaii, but still among the top Americans.
15. Jee Young Lee: #69 money ($5K), #14 RR (4.21), #13 GSPI (70.74), #10 HD. Got off to a terrible start in Hawaii, particularly in light of how high she raised expectations with her dominating performances in the Kyoraku and Lexus Cups at the end of the 2007 season.
16. Laura Diaz: #5 money ($83.0K), #37 RR (2.88), #27 GSPI (71.17), #29 HD. Movin' on up!
17. Juli Inkster: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #9 RR (4.91), #14 GSPI (70.78), #20 HD. A complete question mark for 2008! Which way will she move?
18. Sarah Lee: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #40 RR (2.61), #7 GSPI (70.64), #24 HD. Another question mark for 2008! Can she build on her momentum from a surprisingly strong 2007?

Next we have a handful of golfers in the top 20 in 2 of the 4 systems:

19. Se Ri Pak: n.r. money (MC at Fields), #13 RR (4.50), #26 GSPI (71.11), #13 HD. 68-77 at the Fields may just be rust, but this Hall of Famer needs a quick turn-around in 2008 if she wants to be counted again among the game's top players.
20. Sherri Steinhauer: #45 money ($12.1K), #28 RR (3.40), #18 GSPI (70.87), #19 HD. Underwhelmed in Hawaii, but still a tough cookie!
21. Brittany Lincicome: #80 money ($3.3K), #16 RR (3.90), #30 GSPI (71.34), #17 HD. Relatively high GSPI ranking also indicates she's been sliding over the past year, despite her win in 2007, and her start in Hawaii does nothing to dispel this suspicion.

And there are many players with one top 20 and (except for Miyazato) otherwise strong stats:

22. Hee-Won Han: #11 money ($50.2K), #35 RR (2.98), n.r. GSPI (shy 3 events), #28 HD. This new mom will move up with a bullet once she gets enough events under her belt to qualify for the GSPI.
23. Maria Hjorth: #30 money ($17.7K), #27 RR (3.45), #23 GSPI (71.08), #15 HD. Off to a solid start in Hawaii, but needs more than that to continue moving up the rankings.
24. Nicole Castrale: #33 money ($16.2K), #29 RR (3.30), #22 GSPI (71.03), #14 HD. Can this young American show that her win and solid Solheim Cup performance in 2007 were no flukes?
25. Catriona Matthew: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #24 RR (3.54), #17 GSPI (70.85), #26 HD. Can this new mom pick up where she left off last season?
26. Natalie Gulbis: #82 money ($3.2K), #23 RR (3.62), #36 GSPI (71.69), #18 HD. Looks like she's picking up from her disastrous Dubai rather than her otherwise fine play in the last months of the 2007 season so far in 2008.
27. Ai Miyazato: n.r. money (2 MC in Hawaii), #17 RR (3.72), #67 GSPI (72.68), n.r. HD. Right now the glacial pace of change on the RR is the only thing keeping her in these rankings. And I'm saying this of my favorite golfer on any tour!

Since it's early in the season, I'll include players who are consistently in the top 20s and 30s in the ranking systems...

28. Christina Kim: #21 money ($26.0K), #47 RR (2.27), #25 GSPI (71.10), #27 HD. Off to a decent start, which shows just how hard it is to stay, much less move up, in the top 30 on the LPGA.
29. Sophie Gustafson: #91 money ($2.5K), #31 RR (3.24), #24 GSPI (71.09), #25 HD. Disappointing Hawaii for this tough competitor.
30. Shi Hyun Ahn: n.r. money (starts in Singapore), #34 RR (2.98), #21 GSPI (71.03), #22 HD. Another question mark--how will she respond to the pressure of playing among the world's very best in Singapore?
31. Laura Davies: n.r. money (not starting in Singapore), #38 RR (2.83), #29 GSPI (71.22), #21 HD. Got an early season win early in Australia, so if she can maintain her momentum from it she may well qualify for the Hall of Fame this year. If not, it could be the beginning of the end of her career.

...and note that Pat Hurst, Eun-Hee Ji (once she gets enough events under her belt to be ranked in the GSPI), In-Kyung Kim, Young Kim, Candie Kung, Brittany Lang, Meena Lee, Karen Stupples, and Lindsey Wright are some of the top early-season threats to break into this ranking. We'll see in April!


The Constructivist said...

Waggle Roomed this.

The Constructivist said...

Just found out from Daniel Wexler's latest week in review that Karen Stupples is a new mom, too! Hopefully she'll be joining Matthew and Han in this ranking in April!

The Constructivist said...

Just found out from Mulligan Stu that SBNation put this little ol' piece as one of their top golf stories on the main site. Coolness!

The Constructivist said...

Correction: it's a featured post on their main page! How about that!