Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: Masters Edition

Yeah, yeah, it's a week unlike any other and all that. It was good to see the boys' club that is the mainstream golfy media take some notice of Brittany Lincicome's absolutely clutch win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. I still think the LPGA should move their 1st major after the PGA's, though. Now that they're on a 2-week hiatus, let's take a closer look at their 2009 Performance Chart and stats pages to help us figure out who really are the hottest golfers in the world of women's golf (atsui), who among the players you'd expect to be doing better are the coldest (samui), and who are on the verge of breaking through (daijo bu).


1. Angela Stanford: Yes, her 9-event top 10 streak ended in Phoenix and she fell just outside the top 10 at the KNC, but with 3 wins and no finish worse than 15th in her last 11 events, she's still the hottest player in the world of women's golf in my book.

2. Cristie Kerr: Her driver kept her from getting her 2nd win in a major last week. But shed no tears for Kerr. Her hot streak dates back to last May, for in her last 23 tournaments, she's only finished outside the top 20 twice (her worst being a T34 in China), while garnering 13 top 10s (including 3 in a row), with a win and 2 runner-ups in that stretch.

3. Lorena Ochoa: Judging from her fiery reactions to quite un-Ochoa-like play at the KNC, it seems that she's well aware that the era of her seemingly effortless dominance on the LPGA is over. But let's put that in perspective: she's only gone 2 tournaments without being in contention in '09. Problem is, they're her last 2 events, both of which she won convincingly in '08. The other problem is that this fits the pattern since her last win that season at the Navistar. She contended in the 2 events after that but then could only manage 3 top 20s to finish off the season. So she's definitely been running hot and cold by her standards since the end of last September.

4. Ji-Yai Shin: Here's why I can't put her higher on the hot list, despite her 4 wins in her last 11 LPGA starts. First, she has more bad finishes for a player of her caliber than those ahead of her. Nothing wrong with a T21 at the KNC, but clearly it means she's not on the run that Stanford and Kerr are on. Second, she's run even hotter and colder so far in '09 than Ochoa. Except for winning and finishing 2nd, she hasn't finished inside the top 10 all year, and she's actually fallen outside the top 20 twice. No problem--Happy Fan, who's followed her career more closely than anyone, says she tends to heat up in the summer.

5. Karrie Webb: Her final-round 69 at Mission Hills extended her 5-event top-20 run and 3-event top 10 streak, during which she's snagged a win and a runner-up.

Honorable Mention:

Suzann Pettersen: With 4 top 20s in a row, 3 top 10s, and 2 top 5s, she's got a bunch of great streaks going. Can a win be far away?

Ya Ni Tseng: Underwhelmed at the KNC, but with an 8-event LPGA top-20 streak and no finish worse than 17th in 2009 on any tour (even with food poisoning down under!), she should come back from the LPGA's spring break rested, refreshed, and ready for win #2.

Paula Creamer: Snuck into the top 20 at the KNC thanks to a final-round 69, but except for her 2 top 3 finishes on the Asian Swing, she hasn't cracked the top 10 in '09.

Jee Young Lee: The wind blew away her chances at Mission Hills, but a final-round 68 got her her 5th top 20 in 6 starts in '09 and 10th in her last 11. 7 of 'em were top 10s and 3 were top 5s, so I'd say she's trending toward a win, too.

Katherine Hull: Snuck into the top 10 at the KNC to end that 2-event stumble of hers, but couldn't capitalize on her opening 69 at Mission Hills. Not playing nearly as well or as consistently on the LPGA lately as she did in Australia earlier this season, not to mention the end of last season on tour.

Sun Young Yoo. Riding a 5-event top-20 streak, which could easily have been a top-10 streak. Her final-round 66 at the KNC shows she can go low. Next step is to get into contention.

Angela Park: With 2 top 3s in her 1st 3 official starts on the LPGA in '09 and 4 top 10s in her last 6, she has to be bitterly disappointed by her play at Mission Hills, where she never went under par and finished T49. Hopefully just a blip.

Eun-Hee Ji: The KNC snapped a 7-event top-20 run of hers. Look for her to start a new one when the LPGA returns to action.

Song-Hee Kim: Broke her 2-event top-10 run last week at the KNC, but blame the Friday winds for that. She's still a threat to win any given week.


1. Julieta Granada: Hasn't made a cut all season and finished DFL among those who missed it at Mission Hills. Sounds like the LET is beckoning to her....

2. Shiho Oyama: Thankfully, she didn't qualify for the KNC. Looking for her to bounce back from a slow start this season, just like she did last season on the JLPGA.

3. Louise Friberg: With her 4th misseed cut in 6 official starts on the LPGA in '09, she shoots to the top of the "sophomore jinx" club.

4. Minea Blomqvist: Missed her 2nd cut in a row at Rancho Mirage, now making it 5 out of 6 '09 events she's finished 50th or worse. 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: She's missed 2 cuts in a row and hasn't cracked the top 20 all season. Still not as horrific a start as in her rookie season last year, but not what I had expected or hoped for out of her to start '09.

Dishonorable Mention: I sense the end of Inbee Park's long slump coming very soon, as she's missed only 1 cut in 5 '09 starts.

Daijo Bu

1. Brittany Lang: Except for a gale-aided 80, she did well at Mission Hills, bouncing back for a top 20.

2. Kristy McPherson: How about that week she had at the KNC? She went from "quietly assembling a solid start to her season, with 2 top 20s in a row and no finish worse than 31st" 2 weeks ago to having her 1st major victory stolen from her last week! I said it before and I'll say it again: "she keeps this up, and she won't be #8 in her rookie class much longer"!

3. Lindsey Wright: Her top 5 at the KNC could easily have been a win, plus she's put together 3 top 20s in a row and hasn't finished outside the top 30 in her last 5 starts. She's going to be challenging Webb and Hull for top Australian on tour honors pretty soon.

4. Brittany Lincicome: Last Wednesday, I wrote: "Has now made 2 cuts in a row and stayed at par or better over her last 3 rounds. Could this be the start of a comeback?" Well, she answered that question with a definitive "YES!!" What in incredible--and incredibly unexpected--win at the KNC last week!

5. Na Yeon Choi: Struggled at Mission Hills, but still on the cusp of breaking through to LPGA greatness.

Honorable Mention: Jane Park's 68 Saturday on a tough Mission Hills set-up shows what kind of talent she has. Still waiting for her to harness it, though. I still believe in Ai Miyazato, even though the KNC was her worst finish in recent memory. Probably just a blip, for she's garnered 5 top 10s on the LPGA, ALPG/LET, and JLPGA in a run dating back to last November. Similarly, I still believe Se Ri Pak is back and ready to return to the winner's circle on the LPGA. And Pat Hurst is still her hot-and-cold golfing self, but with a win and a top 10 in her last 3 starts, she definitely deserves a shout-out here--she keeps this up, and she could surpass her million-dollar '06 season!

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