Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Best of the LPGA: October 2008 Edition

Here's a pre-Mizuno Classic update of my last Best of the LPGA ranking. As always, my system combines the most recent results from the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the LPGA Official Money List, and Hound Dog's Top 30.

Once again, the world #1 is a no-brainer:

1. Lorena Ochoa: #1 money ($2.74M), #1 RR (17.70), #1 GSPI (67.85), #1 HD. Still the only player on the LPGA for whom a top 10 is only a so-so finish, she finally broke through for win #7 in '08. I think she'll get 1 more before the season is out.

The lead chase pack is now both closing on Ochoa and growing:

2. Paula Creamer: #2 money ($1.79M), #5 RR (8.61), #2 GSPI (68.95), #2 HD. Meet the new #2! Although she's right behind Annika in many key stats, she's well ahead in top 10s and top 10 rate, but even more important, she's got 1 more win than Sorenstam--and it's a biggie, against the elite field at the Samsung. But watch out, Paula. The chase pack is getting crowded.
3. Annika Sorenstam: #4 money ($1.64M), #3 RR (9.65), #6 GSPI (69.42), #3 HD. Her come-from-behind win in the new LET China event last week suggests she still has some gas left in the tank for the LPGA's home stretch. But how much? She's not in the Mizuno Classic field, so she'll get a little rest before Lorena's invitational and the ADT Championship. Will it be enough?
4. Ya Ni Tseng: #3 money ($1.73M), #2 RR (9.86), #7 GSPI (69.52), #4 HD. Ya Ni's playing in the last 3 events of the season, so has the best chance to leapfrog to #2. She's a hair behind Paula and Annika in all the key stats except birdie rate, where she's the only player besides Lorena to be averaging over 4 per round. With 5 silvers and 2 bronzes this season, I wouldn't be surprised if she put herself in contention in all 3 events.
5. Suzann Pettersen: #6 money ($1.15M), #4 RR (8.65), #5 GSPI (69.21), #7 HD. I have to admit that she has impressed me this season. To break the million-dollar barrier for the 2nd year in a row with 5 fewer wins than the previous season is quite an accomplishment. Until she blew up in Korea, she had an 8-tournament top 20 streak going that included a silver, a bronze, and 3 other top 10s. I can't fault her for skipping Japan, but it is going to make it difficult for her to make up further ground on thse ahead of her in her last 2 events.
6. Cristie Kerr: #9 money ($1.08M), #6 RR (6.35), #3 GSPI (69.17), #5 HD. She got her 5th straight million-dollar season with her win at the Safeway Classic and 7 top 10s from the European Swing to the Asian, so I can't blame her for skipping Korea and Japan.

The next pair has fallen a bit further behind the lead chase pack:

7. Na Yeon Choi: #10 money ($1.07M), #28 RR (3.53), #8 GSPI (69.69), #6 HD. She missed some great opportunities to make up ground on Tseng in the best Rookie of the Year race of the decade. But like Tseng she's playing in all 3 final events on the LPGA, so she could conceivably make up that 273-point deficit. Whatever the result, for 2 rookies to cross the million-dollar rubicon is simply amazing. Hats off to Tseng and Choi!
8. Seon Hwa Lee: #7 money ($1.15M), #10 RR (4.70), #18 GSPI (70.59), #9 HD. You can never call a 2-win season disappointing, but as I'm still waiting for that Mostly Harmless reverse jinx to kick in, I'll continue complaining about Lee's late underachievements and add to my list her decision to skip the Mizuno Classic. Hopefully the rest will do the '06 ROY and top Junior Mint some good. I'd love to see her get 1 more win this season!

But the rest of the chase pack has fallen even further behind and can be found in the top 10 in only 2 of the 4 systems (and/or in the top 20 in all):

9. Helen Alfredsson: #5 money ($1.41M), #7 RR (6.22), #59 GSPI (71.68), #20 HD. She continues to shock me with her ability to manufacture great play out of almost nowhere and close the deal when in contention. I can't believe she has as many wins as Seon Hwa Lee in 2008. She has my vote for Comeback Player of the Year (if I had one, that is).
10. Inbee Park: #8 money ($1.12M), #20 RR (4.13), #34 GSPI (71.07), #10 HD. Finally showing some signs of life of late, she's been suffering from that ol' sophomore jinx at the worst possible time for it. Fortunately there are no cuts on the Asian Swing. Career-wise, I rank her #3 in her rookie class, #6 among the Super Sophs and Junior Mints, and at least #8 in her generation (the classes of 2008-2008), but for the season she's #1, #2, and #4, so there's still hope for her in her last 3 events of 2008.
11. Karrie Webb: #20 money ($751.5K), #9 RR (5.08), #10 GSPI (69.96), #16 HD. I don't understand her decision to play in Japan but skip the rest of the Asian Swing, particularly when she's running out of time to salvage her season. I guess she wanted to minimize her international travel or enjoy the Hawaii-to-Tokyo flight--whatever her reasoning, at least she's playing the last 3 events of the season.
12. Jeong Jang: #11 money ($1.02M), #15 RR (4.46), #9 GSPI (69.91), #12 HD. Let's see, last time I wrote, "Expect her to have surgery in the off-season. But also look for her to break the million-dollar mark this season. That's how tough she is." Latter prediction: check. Former? We'll see. Here's hoping that whatever she chooses to do about her injured wrist, her recovery is smoother than Mi Hyun Kim's has been from knee surgery.
13. Angela Stanford: #14 money ($917.0K), #11 RR (4.66), #17 GSPI (70.57), #13 HD. Last time I guessed that "she's got a 50-50 chance of turning it around in the final third of the year." Guess what? She's got a chance to break the million-dollar barrier this season! No wonder she's jumped 20 spots since last ranking!
14. Eun-Hee Ji: #15 money ($882.9K), #17 RR (4.27), #14 GSPI (70.47), #11 HD. Last time I praised her end-of-year prospects by noting that "She reminds me of Seon Hwa Lee." Unfortunately, she's imitated Lee in underachievement down the stretch, capped off by a bitterly disappointing Asian Swing and a DQ in Korea for accepting a ride on a cart at the wrong place and time. Although I hate to see her skip the Mizuno, maybe it's the right call. Still, she needs 2 great finishes or her 2nd win of the season to break the million-dollar barrier. Can she do it?
15. Hee-Won Han: #18 money ($798.6K), #19 RR (4.19), #12 GSPI (70.26), #15 HD. Got a nice T3 in Korea, but has struggled otherwise recently. Probably a good idea for this new mom to skip Japan and focus on her last 2 events of a great comeback season.

Surprisingly, there's only 1 player with top 20s in 3 of the 4 systems.

16. Song-Hee Kim: #13 money ($963.2K), #36 RR (2.99), #13 GSPI (70.46), #14 HD. Squandered her momentum heading into the Asian Swing, so it's probably a good thing she's skipping the Mizuno.

There's a handful of golfers with 2 top 20s:

17. Karen Stupples: #22 money ($700.5K), #23 RR (3.73), #11 GSPI (70.09), #18 HD. Another new mom making a great comeback, she's also taking time off this week to prepare for the 2 final events of the season.
18. Angela Park: #16 money ($849.1K), #21 RR (3.99), #29 GSPI (70.92), #19 HD. Yikes, her sophomore slump from the spring is back with a vengeance. The way she's played on the Asian-Pacific Swing, it's no wonder she's cutting it short by skipping the Mizuno. Still, she's definitely in the last 2 events of the season, so anything can happen.
19. Laura Diaz: #19 money ($791.9K), #22 RR (3.96), #15 GSPI (70.51), #26 HD. With a 2-tournament top 3 streak going and well-rested from skipping Korea and Japan, she's on pace to pass the other moms ahead of her next ranking.
20. Candie Kung: #17 money ($836.6K), #27 RR (3.56), #20 GSPI (70.63), #28 HD. With a silver in Alabama and a gold in Korea, she definitely recharged her batteries during the LPGA's summer break. I like her decision to strike while the iron is hot and play all 3 final events. Right now she's one of my favorites to win the ADT!

And of course there are a lot with 1 top 20:

21. Katherine Hull: #12 money ($991.7K), #32 RR (3.30), #37 GSPI (71.23), #22 HD. Color me impressed. Not only does she have a fantastic chance to break the million-dollar barrier, but I would also list her among the favorites to win the ADT.
22. In-Kyung Kim: #21 money ($722.6K), #25 RR (3.65), #30 GSPI (70.92), #17 HD. Last time I encouraged one of my favorite players with the following: "She still has a chance to turn this year around. It's go time for the former #2 in her class." Well, she's got 8 straight top 20s, a win at the Longs Drugs, and an entry into the last 3 events of the season, so I'd say she responded well to my exhortations.
23. Maria Hjorth: #30 money ($569.2K), #13 RR (4.52), #21 GSPI (70.63), #25 HD. She's riding a 5-tournament top 30 streak, which is really consistent for her, but given the 4 events she's skipped in that stretch (including the entire Asian Swing), don't expect too much from her in her last 2.
24. Morgan Pressel: #23 money ($700.0K), #16 RR (4.35), #39 GSPI (71.24), #37 HD (as of September). Her surprise win in Kapalua salvaged what would otherwise have been a rebuilding year. Should be playing in all 3 final events, so still could turn a good season into a very good one.
25. Jee Young Lee: #24 money ($683.5K), #18 RR (4.20), #22 GSPI (70.67), #24 HD. Got a little top 10 streak going--can she keep it up in Japan? And beyond? She's super-due for that pesky 1st LPGA win as a LPGA member....
26. Juli Inkster: #38 money ($441.5K), #24 RR (3.68), #19 GSPI (70.59), #29 HD. Lorena's invitational will be her swan song for 2008, unless she can win it.
27. Mi Hyun Kim: #41 money ($428.7K), #26 RR (3.59), #16 GSPI (70.55), #30 HD. Thanks to a slow recovery from knee surgery last winter, her December wedding will be the highlight of her year. The Mizuno Classic will be her last event of the season unless she has a fantastic finish in it or Lorena decides to invite her to play next week in Mexico.
28. Momoko Ueda: #46 money ($406.0K), #14 RR (4.51), #25 GSPI (70.83), #36 HD (in September). The Mizuno will be her last LPGA event of what has to count as a rather disappointing rookie season on that tour--it looks like she'll finish only 4th in the ROY race. Still, with 2 JLPGA wins and the chance to get more in their last 4 events, she could end the year there as the #1-ranked player in my system, despite her limited schedule. Hound Dog has her at #8 right now; I'm updating my JLPGA rankings next week.

Right behind them is a trio with 3 top 30s:

29. Christina Kim: #25 money ($649.7K), #38 RR (2.84), #23 GSPI (70.73), #23 HD. With 2 T7s in a row, she's heading into the Mizuno Classic with a lot of momentum and motivation--a spot in the ADT Championship is at stake. I expect to see her in the last 3 events of the season, which would make it 7 in a row for her.
30. Ji Young Oh: #28 money ($633.0K), #56 RR (1.95), #27 GSPI (70.84), #21 HD. With a respectable Asian Swing to date and a chance for an upgrade this week in Japan, I'm starting to wonder if this Super Soph is for real. A good finish in the Mizuno virtually guarantees her a spot in the ADT!
31. Jane Park: #29 money ($623.3K), #46 RR (2.49), #28 GSPI (70.92), #27 H.D. I really thought this Super Soph was poised for a great stretch run. But if she doesn't get into Lorena's invitational, her season is done.

Another trio have 1 top 30:

32. Sophie Gustafson: #26 money ($639.0K), #33 RR (3.19), #48 GSPI (71.48), n.r. HD (#29 in September). Inexplicably sitting out the Mizuno after her T3 in Korea vaulted her into the ADT qualification race. She'll need a good finish in Lorena's invitational to join her Class of '98 rival Hjorth at the ADT and maintain her slim lead in career winnings.
33. Sun Young Yoo: #27 money ($635.0K), #63 RR (1.80), #40 GSPI (71.25), n.r. HD (#24 in September). I have no idea why this Junior Mint is sitting out the Mizuno when she's on the bubble in both the 2nd-half (#12) and wild card (#2) races to qualify for the ADT. Why rely on the kindness of fellow competitors when a million-dollar 1st prize is at stake in 2 weeks??
34. Se Ri Pak: #50 money ($366.1K), #30 RR (3.36), #94 GSPI (72.52), #51 HD (in September). Unless she gets a courtesy invite to Lorena's invitational, this Hall of Famer has only the Lexis and Kyoraku Cups to look forward to in '08.

And here are the best of the rest:

35. Stacy Prammanasudh: #35 money ($470.6K), #35 RR (3.01), #43 GSPI (71.37), n.r. HD (#25 in September). Neither the Southern Swing nor the Asian-Pacific Swing was kind to her. Unless she gets into Lorena's invitational, her 2008 is over. [Update (11/6/08, 8:45 am): She's first alternate.]
36. Nicole Castrale: #32 money ($516.3K), #31 RR (3.33), #45 GSPI (71.40), #35 HD (in September). Her top 10 in China may well be enough to vault her into the ADT Championship. Meena Lee can drop her to the last 2nd-half slot with a good finish at the Mizuno, but everyone else behind her will need a great finish there and/or at Lorena's invitational to knock her out.
37. Catriona Matthew: #40 money ($430.3K), #34 RR (3.12), #35 GSPI (71.11), #40 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno to keep her season alive.
38. Brittany Lang: #31 money ($542.5K), #49 RR (2.21), #33 GSPI (71.05), #46 H.D (in September). With 4 straight top 10s on the Asian-Pacific Swing, I have no clue why she's skipping the Mizuno, particularly when it could well have been her last chance to qualify for the ADT. Has she already received an invitation to Lorena's event? If not, her season is over.
39. Meena Lee: #33 money ($497.0K), #61 RR (1.82), #38 GSPI (71.24), #43 HD (in September). Needs a good finish at the Mizuno to make it difficult for anyone playing in Lorena's invitational to pass her in the 2nd-half money list. [Update (11/6/08, 8:48 am): She's listed in Lorena's invitational's field, so is still in the running to stay inside the bubble for the ADT.]
40. Lindsey Wright: #42 money ($415.1K), #48 RR (2.26), #31 GSPI (71.01), #34 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
41. Teresa Lu: #34 money ($495.1K), #59 RR (1.87), #36 GSPI (71.16), #39 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno. [Update (11/6/08, 8:48 am): She's listed in Lorena's invitational's field, so is still in the running to qualify for the ADT.]
42. Hee Young Park: #36 money ($470.5K), #55 RR (1.95), #41 GSPI (71.26), #47 H.D. (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
43. Ai Miyazato: #45 money ($406.6K), #40 RR (2.78), #46 GSPI (71.44), #50 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
44. Minea Blomqvist: #43 money ($411.5K), #64 RR (1.78), #63 GSPI (71.72), #41 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
45. Giulia Sergas: #44 money ($407.7K), #69 RR (1.68), #47 GSPI (71.48), #48 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
46. Kristy McPherson: #47 money ($403.0K), #72 RR (1.55), #60 GSPI (71.71), #44 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
47. Leta Lindley: #39 money ($439.2K), #77 RR (1.44), #73 GSPI (71.97), #42 HD (in September). Her 2008 is over. And a pretty darn good season it was.
48. Jimin Kang: #51 money ($357.9K), #81 RR (1.42), #50 GSPI (71.54), #45 HD (in September). Needs a miracle at the Mizuno.
49. Natalie Gulbis: #56 money ($266.2K), #37 RR (2.86), #64 GSPI (71.75), #58 HD (in September). Unless she can win Lorena's invitational, it will be her last event of '08. [Update (11/6/08, 8:45 am): Waitasec--looks like she turned down the invitation.]


Anonymous said...

Teresa's on the LPGA list of players for Lorena's event, but not listed on the website for the event... so I am wondering if she is indeed in?

The Constructivist said...

I haven't looked at Lorena's event's web site, but the last I checked they hadn't released their full field. I'll look into it!