Yeah, yeah, Tiger's coming back at the end of February. Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited as the next part-time fan of the PGA Tour. But what about Cheyenne Woods? Well, she's started her second semester in her first year at Wake Forest and recently carded her 2nd straight top 10 finish, helping her team to a strong 2nd-place finish behind the amazing Arizona State team but ahead of both UCLA and USC. In a week where the weather played havoc with just about everyone's scoring, Woods beat Futures Tour-bound Jessica Yadloczky and teammate Natalie Sheary convincingly, finished ahead of Stephanie Kono, Maria Jose Uribe, and Belen Mozo, and stayed within a few shots of Tiffany Joh, Ryann O'Toole, and Taylore Karle. Not bad!
Woods has worked her way up to #68 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index for women's collegiate golf and #60 in the Golfweek/Titleist Women's Amateur Rankings, so she's been rapidly closing on her top amateur and collegiate peers since last July. Her team and its coaching staff have impressed Ryan Herrington, perhaps the top authority (along with Lance Ringler) on the college game, so she's in very good hands. Plus, she's got more great teammates coming to join her next season, so she'll get plenty of competition day in and day out. Here's hoping she continues to improve as quickly over the rest of the semester as she has thus far. She has a ways to go before her stats are LPGA quality.
Before she even thinks about turning pro, of course, she has to see how soon she can qualify for a USGA event. She's never qualified for a Women's Amateur or Public Links, much less the Women's Open. But she has plenty of time. And she's getting closer all the time.
[Update 1 (1:26 pm): Golf Spelled Backwards throws cold water on Woods's chances of becoming an LPGA regular. Her adding a 2nd top 10 and moving up the college rankings since this was written doesn't change the essential rightness of the analysis there. Still, as I noted last July, Woods has improved at every level she's played. And she's got the team and coaching to develop even faster over her (hopefully) 4 years in college. So it's far too soon to predict what kind of player she'll be when she's 22 or 25.]
[Update 2 (2/21/09, 12:12 am): Ryan Ballengee nails the tone to be taken when blogging about Tiger's return.]
[Update 3 (4/8/09, 5:40 pm): Kevin Allen updates the CW meme--apparently she's dropped 40 places in the Golfweek rankings in the 6 weeks since I posted this, so his "thriving" headline may be a tad optimistic. But for a freshman to be near the top 100 is a fine start to a cllegiate golf career.]