Monday, April 27, 2009

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: Asian-Pacific Edition

It's going to be even tougher to make my hot list, cold list, and just-fine list after this week, as we've finally got enough tournaments played on the JLPGA and LPGA to combine what I've been keeping separate. And pretty soon, we'll have the LET and KLPGA to throw in the mix, too. But for now, here's a still-truncated look at the world of women's golf!

Atsui

1. Lorena Ochoa: Strangely enough, most bloggers I'm following are at a loss for words after her down-to-the-wire showdown win over Suzann Pettersen in Mexico. Ryan Ballengee joins the chorus bemoaning the lack of tv coverage; Armchair Golfer is so impressed he can't wait for the Michelob Ultra to start (hint: it's not next week); Shane Bacon tries to revive last season's Tiger vs. Lorena meme but ends up taking the swine flu worries angle; Jay Busbee takes the broken-foot caddie route; Geoff Shackelford shows how two photos are worth more than 2K words. Here's a hint, y'all: it's not that she leads the LPGA in victories, winnings, and scoring average. These are the 2 stats that matter. Even with her recent struggles, Ochoa has won 3 of her last 12 LPGA events. And yet, the same score that got her an 11-stroke win last season got her a 1-shot victory this one--and 10 golfers finished within 11 shots of her this time around. There's no doubt she's the best--and hottest--female professional golfer on the planet. But she'll need her A-game to stay there.

2. Angela Stanford: She skipped Tres Marias, so even though she has 3 wins and no finish worse than 15th in her last 11 events, she's no longer the hottest player in the world of women's golf in my book.

3. Ji-Yai Shin: A top-10 and a runner-up finish the last 2 weeks on the JLPGA suggest to me that her game is starting to come around.

4. Cristie Kerr: Ho-hum, another top 5 for her. Her hot streak dates back to last May, for in her last 24 tournaments, she's only finished outside the top 20 twice (her worst being a T34 in China), while garnering 14 top 10s (including 4 in a row), with a win and 2 runner-ups in that stretch. But when's she going to get another win?

5. Sakura Yokomine: She's got a 20-event JLPGA top-20 streak going, with 2 wins, 9 top 5s, and 16 top 10s in that run. The last 3 weeks, she's finished 1-2-3.

Honorable Mention

Suzann Pettersen: I'll update the numbers and ask it again: with 5 top 20s in a row, 4 top 10s, and 3 top 5s, she's got a bunch of great streaks going--can a win be far away?

Ji-Hee Lee: She's only finished in the top 10 in 10 of her last 12 JLPGA events, including 2 wins, a runner-up, and 7 top 5s. Even though her 5-event top-10 streak came to an end last week (T14), the single blemish in that run, a T31, is her only finish outside the top 20 since her missed cut in the opening event of 2008. That's the longest run of great play in the world of women's golf.

Ya Ni Tseng: Fell off the pace on the weekend in Tres Marias, but still tied Kerr for 5th at -16. With a 9-event LPGA top-20 streak and no finish worse than 17th in 2009 on any tour, I'm expecting win #2 any given week.

Karrie Webb: Kept her 6-event top-20 run going, but her top-10 streak ended at 3. Still, any week you go double digits under par is a good week. She's certainly among the world's hottest, what with her win and runner-up already this year.

Yuko Mitsuka: Last season ended well for her on the JLPGA, with 3 straight top-5 finishes and 5 straight top 20s. She already has a win and 2 other top-5 finishes this season, plus she's coming off a T7 last week.

Samui

1. Shiho Oyama: No bounce-back on the JLPGA, just another missed cut....

2. Julieta Granada: She broke her oh-fer streak when she made her 1st cut of the season at Tres Marias, but couldn't come close to making it 3 runner-ups in her last 3 times playing there. Still, when your best finish of the year is a T53....

3. Louise Friberg: With her 5th missed cut in 7 official starts on the LPGA in '09, this rookie winner stays at the top of the "sophomore jinx" club.

4. Minea Blomqvist: Finished 50th or worse in 5 out of 6 '09 events. Sure, she's a streaky player and could bounce back big any time, but this long a bad run is unlike her.

5. Shanshan Feng: Still hasn't cracked the top 20 all season, but at least she broke her 2-event MC streak with a T32 in Mexico.

Daijo Bu

1. Na Yeon Choi: Great week at Tres Marias is the right kind of antidote to her recent struggles.

2. Brittany Lang: Yet another strong tournament for her last week--T7 and -15 is pretty awesome, no matter how you slice it.

3. Paula Creamer: Struggling with a mystery intestinal illness, she's playing on guts alone and it's starting to show.

4. Jee Young Lee: Missed only her 2nd top 20 in her last 12 events last week, but has 7 top 10s and 3 top 5s in that stretch, so I'm not too worried.

5. Katherine Hull: Too many bad holes taking away her momentum lately. But could put herself in contention any given week.

Honorable Mention

Ai Miyazato: Bounced back from her only really bad finish in a long time (at the KNC) with a near-miss for a win on the JLPGA and a near-miss for the top 10 on the LPGA in her last 2 events.

[Update 1 (4/28/09, 12:16 am): If I were to do a hot and cold list for the media...no, wait, when it comes to the golfy media, there's no hot list. The SI guys are unreadable and Jason Sobel's so-so at best. They've all made it pretty clear that they won't pay attention to the LPGA until Wie gets her 1st win. Then they criticize the tour for having no "buzz." Um, guys? Your attitude is a big part of the reason for what you're criticizing. Hello!]

[Update 2 (12:42 am): Add Alan Shipnuck to the so-so list. He's right that Lorena's back and that this win had to be particularly satisfying to her. But he's also right that the chase pack is closing on her. If the golfy media were to follow that story starting in May, the LPGA might actually build up buzzy momentum heading into the summer.]

[Update 3 (12:45 am): The AP has spelling problems--it's Brooker and Cristie, y'all!--but at least they get the top story heading forward just right:

Ochoa, who won last year's tournament by 11 shots, didn't have such an easy time on Sunday despite finishing the tournament with the exact same score.

"In a golf tournament, where one [stroke] is enough to win, there is no difference. This is a complicated year, there are many players who want to win, you can see that every week," Ochoa added. "This year, it will be very hard to win by 10. That is why I keep practicing, trying to improve--to remain on top of them."


Bingo! It's a sad day when I point to the AP as a leader in golf writing.]

[Update 4 (4/29/09, 6:10 am): Lorne Rubenstein makes a good case why Canadians, at least, should be paying attention to women's golf!]

3 comments:

courtgolf said...

Is it the new math or me ? 3 wins in 11 starts is NOT as good as 3 wins in 12 starts ? Ochoa is still the best woman golfer out there - but she still has to catch Angela Stanford for the hottest woman golfer...by the numbers.

If one win makes you the hottest - then Jerry Kelly is the hottest male golfer on the planet...or is it Thongchai Jaidee ?

baffler231 said...

No...It's Kenny Perry.

The Constructivist said...

Lorena's latest win is more recent than Angela's. Angela hasn't gone as low as Lorena did last week. You sit, you get passed. Angela has every chance to pass Lorena next time they go head-to-head....