In just a few hours, Hinamatsuri will begin in Japan. What better time than during Girls' Festival to take another look at recent trends in the world of women's professional golf to see who are the hottest (atsui) and coldest (samui) players, and who's doing all right (daijo bu)? Let's get in the mood:
Now a little more up-tempo:
OK, then! The name of this new Mostly Harmless feature comes from a little song I made up for onechan when she was a baby, sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques," about filling the bathtub and getting it the right temperature, but its purpose is to give a little bit better information than jumps in the Rolex Rankings or Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index indicate.
1. Angela Stanford: OK, so she had her worst finish in her last 8 events in Thailand, a T7. But those 3 wins in that stretch still make her the hottest golfer in the world of women's golf in my book. Still, guess who's gaining on her fast?
2. Lorena Ochoa: That's right, the undisputed world #1! With her win last week, she put the world on notice she's ready to outdo her start to the 2008 season, when she won 6 of her 1st 9 events. Even though she couldn't maintain that pace over the entire season, consider this: she hasn't missed a cut since 2005, she hasn't finished outside the top 40 since February 2007, and her worst finish since then was a T31 in the U.S. Women's Open. In fact, in her last 68 starts, she's finished outside the top 20 a grand total of 3 times. So the fact that she's got 2 wins, 6 top 5s, and 8 top 10s in her last 11 starts is only ho-hum territory for her. Still, it's enough to vault her ahead of the player she vaulted ahead of on the way to yesterday's win.
3. Paula Creamer: Yes, she couldn't maintain her 3-shot lead on Ochoa yesterday. But in her last 14 events, she has 2 wins and 10 top 10s. That's hot.
4. Brittany Lang: Although she faded on the weekend in Thailand, she still posted her 7th straight top 10 and her 2nd-best finish (T4) in that run.
5. Cristie Kerr: Her hot streak dates back to last May, for in her last 19 tournaments, she's only finished outside the top 20 twice (her worst being a T34 in China), while garnering 10 top 10s, including a runner-up and a win. She missed a great chance to add to that top 10 total in Thailand with a weak finish yesterday, but still nabbed a T19.
Katherine Hull: In her 14 starts from the Canadian Women's Open to the Women's Australian Open, Hull had 2 wins, 3 runner-ups, 8 top 5s, 11 top 10s, and 13 top 20s (her worst finish? T23!). So why on earth did she finish T40 in her 15th event, her LPGA debut in Thailand? Let's hope that was just a blip.
Jee Young Lee: Her top-10 streak ended at 6 events, but since last June she has 9 top 20s (including her most recent one in Thailand). Unfortunately for her, her best finish in her other 4 events during that stretch is a T22--incredibly, she missed the cut 3 times!
Ya Ni Tseng: Just missed her 3rd straight top 5 in '09, counting her adventure Down Under.
Eun-Hee Ji: Now has a 20th-, 15th-, 10th-, and 5th-place finish over her last 4 starts (although not in that order).
Na Yeon Choi: Extended her top 20 streak to 4 events with her T13 this past week.
Hee Young Park: Known for her ability to go low and high in the same tournament, Park opened her week in Thailand with her 2nd-worst score on the LPGA (and a hospital visit), but then broke 70 3 times in a row for the 1st time in her LPGA career, including the 2 lowest rounds of her LPGA career, a 64 on Friday and a 65 on Sunday. Wow!
1. Brittany Lincicome: Couldn't sink any lower, not having qualified for the early Asian swing.
2. Julieta Granada: Ditto.
3. Se Ri Pak: Her slump continues. Hopefully she'll play well in Singapore.
4. Inbee Park: Not as bad an LPGA debut for her as I feared.
5. Amy Yang: Waiting anxiously to see how she handles the Showdown in Singapore.
Dishonorable Mention: Ashleigh Simon came in dead last in Thailand. Guess that back injury isn't fully healed.
1. Ji-Yai Shin: After an opening 75, broke par the next 3 rounds in Thailand and finished T13. Heading in the right direction as she heads into the Showdown in Singapore.
2. Ai Miyazato: Extended her par or better streak to 11 rounds before fading over the weekend with her worst 2 rounds over her last 18 (a 73 and a 74). But she's among the LPGA's leaders in birdies, putts per green in regulation, and scoring average. I've said it before and I'll say it again: watch out for her this season!
3. Sun Young Yoo. Her closing 68 on Sunday wasn't enough to snag her her 4th top 10 in her last 7 starts, but T11 is a giant step in the right direction.
4. Helen Alfredsson: Continues to show flashes of absolute brilliance since her breakthrough in last year's U.S. Women's Open. From then on, she's had 2 wins, 2 runner-ups, and 2 other top 10s, including her T7 this past week.
5. Natalie Gulbis: A bad weekend dropped her to T26 in Thailand, but she's still showing every indication of being all the way back from last season's back injuries.
Honorable Mention: Rookie Mika Miyazato posted her 1st LPGA top 10 in her 2nd career start on tour. She's only 13 points behind Michelle Wie in the ROY race.
Over and out!
[Update 1 (3/3/09, 11:20 am): Nice to see Lorena's win perking up the ears of Daniel Wexler, the Devil Ball Golf guys, and Ryan Ballengee.]
[Update 2 (7:58 pm): Here's Happy Fan's recap of Hee Young Park's excellent adventure in Thailand.]