Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On Stacy Lewis (and Michelle Wie), the Women's British Open, and the LPGA

Rick Tosches over at the Yahoo! Golf Blog tried to rip the LPGA for "disappearing" Stacy Lewis following the U.S. Women's Open. But he kept tripping over his punch lines.

I agree with his basic premise: Stacy Lewis is for real and the LPGA rule that declares non-member winnings at the U.S. Women's Open non-existent is stupid. But he gets so many details wrong along the way that he undermines his own case. (Special prize to the reader who gets the total right.)

It's just ridiculous to imply that the LPGA is trying to keep Lewis out, when there are so many ways for her to get her card for 2009.

First, she could win one of the remaining tournaments she gets into through a sponsors' exemption. She didn't do it at the NW Arkansas event, but why not the Farr this week or the Hawaii event in the fall? There are 3 more exemptions she could still get in addition to those, as she qualified for the Open. So that's up to 7 chances for her to win her way onto the tour--and more if she tries Monday qualifying at other events [Update: if, that is, non-members are allowed to try].

Next, if she plays well enough in the non-Open LPGA full-field events she gets into to match or surpass the 80th player on the money list, she gets her card for 2009.

If the LPGA route doesn't work out, she could also seek exemptions into Futures Tour events. Even if she can't catch 3-time winner Vicky Hurst, it shouldn't be too hard for her to get into the top 5 on the money list there (in a minimum of 6 events) and get her card that way. (She should play the FT as much as she can, anyway, for the experience alone).

If none of these routes work out, she could do the Q-School thing, where any number of great LPGA stars have started out. Ai Miyazato won 14 times in Japan, but she still had to go to Q-School. If Ji-Yai Shin can't win an LPGA event or win enough in the few she plays this season, she, too will have to go to Q-School, despite being in the top 10 in both the Rolex Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. If Lewis is as good as we all think she is, Q-School will be no problem for her.

But there may be one other way for her (and Michelle Wie, for that matter), to get an LPGA membership. The Farr is the U.S. qualifier for the Women's British Open. The Ladies' Golf Union, which runs the WBO, says it's up to the LPGA to decide how to run their qualifier. Right now, the LPGA states that after Friday's round is complete, "the top five LPGA Tour members not already qualified will advance to play in the season's fourth major championship." Let's say Lewis and Wie do as well as or better than the 5 LPGA members--imagine the furor if yet another stupid LPGA rule kept them from playing in an Open Championship (and major) that they had played their way into. If the LGU doesn't bail the LPGA out by at least exempting Lewis and Wie into the Final Qualifier on July 28th, one way out for the LPGA would be to accept petitions for special membership from Lewis and Wie. Only problem there is that 2 current LPGA members who otherwise would be going to England would be bounced. Solution? The LPGA negotiates with the LGU to get the 6th- and 7th-place finishers at least into the Final Qualifier. [Update: Only problem for Stacy is she missed the registration deadline for the WBO, so the LGU would really have to bend the rules for her, unless they do that regularly for LPGA members at the Farr who haven't already qualified.]

Of course, this last option is moot if Lewis and Wie don't play well Thursday and Friday. But wouldn't it be interesting if they did?

[Update (6:49 pm): For background on Lewis, the Seoul Sisters thread on her is a good place to start.]


PW said...

Nice summary, some comments/questions:

1. I could be wrong about this, but my my impression is that LPGA Monday qualifiers are only for non-exempt LPGA members which doesn't include either Stacy or Michelle.

2. I had the same thought as you about the LGU granting an exemption (or a pass on the PQ round) if Michelle met the top 5 number. In fact, Michelle was asked in the pre-Farr interview if she was playing as a way to get to the WBO. It seemed like both the questioner and Michelle knew it was possible. Perhaps she has an agreement from the LGU in advance. If Michelle misses the cut, she would have time to make her PQ tee off time on Monday. I don't think even Michelle is crazy enough to try to make it to the PQ if she plays the weekend at Farr (though you never know). IMO they should call the Farr the "LPGA member qualifier" for the WBO, rather than the U.S.-based qualifier.

3. I doubt they would do the same thing for Stacy since she hasn't even registered for the WBO.

Anyway, as you say there are several ways for either of them to get LPGA cards next year and they both need it. Q-school would be a pain for Michelle because it would mean missing a lot of school, but such is life.

I haven't followed Stacy until recently. So far, I'm not sure why you think she's so good. She did well at the WO, but mostly through an incredible putting round. She reminds me a lot of Pressel (though a better putter). I guess time will tell....

The Constructivist said...

Good point about the Monday qualifiers, pw. Why would the LPGA open them up to any pro who isn't a member?

The LGU should have Lewis on their radar, as she went 5-0 in the Curtis Cup at St. Andrews this year. But as she hasn't registered, probably nothing she can do this week will help her.

As for why I think Lewis has what it takes to break the NCAA jinx on the LPGA, she was the #1 amateur until she turned pro last month, ranked ahead of some very good players:

1. Stacy Lewis 260
2. Amanda Blumenherst 215
3. Meghan Bolger 190
4. Mallory Blackwelder 170
5. Alison Walshe 150
6. Mina Harigae 145
7. Jennie Lee 135
8. Maria Uribe 120
9. Tiffany Joh 110
10. Jennifer Song 105

Also, I think her short game is way ahead of her most of her peers', mostly because it was the only golf-related thing she could do while she was recovering from back surgery. I also give her mental toughness and maturity/perspective credit.

She's paired with some rookies who came to the LPGA via the NCAA and I'd be very surprised if they beat her. We'll see!