Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Best of the LPGA: April 2009 Edition

Wow, is it already time to update my final 2008 Best of the LPGA ranking? It must be: Hound Dog's new Top 70 just came out! OK, so let's mix in this week's Rolex Rankings, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and LPGA Official Money List, stir, bake, cool, and voila! I present Mostly Harmless's latest Best of the LPGA ranking.

Hmmm, last time I wrote, "Identifying the world #1 is still a no-brainer...but this may be the last time I'll be able to write that for a while." Choosing the #1 actually took a tiny bit of thought this time.

1. Lorena Ochoa: #2 money ($430.2K), #1 RR (14.02), #1 GSPI (68.51), #1 HD. It was no April Fool's Day joke when I wrote, "It's official. The era of Ochoa's effortless dominance on the LPGA is over." To wit, Cristie Kerr has been as close as anyone to outplaying her over the past calendar year, Angela Stanford has more recent wins and top 10s than she has gotten, and Ji-Yai Shin is running slightly hotter and colder than she has been since last summer. But it's going to take quite a bit more than that for me to actually rank anyone in her lead chase pack in her league.

Because HD and the GSPI did it, I'm including Annika Sorenstam in my system until she drops out of it. Funny thing is, she's still in the lead chase pack!

2. Ji-Yai Shin: #1 money ($470.9K), #3 RR (7.39), #5 GSPI (69.33), #2 HD. Shin beats Creamer in 3 of the 4 major ranking systems. We have a new #2!
3. Paula Creamer: #9 money ($255.8K), #4 RR (7.17), #2 GSPI (69.25), #3 HD. Creamer beats Tseng in 2 of the 4 major ranking systems. Even though Tseng is hotter in '09, Creamer's ability to win multiple times puts her ahead of last year's ROY, at least for now.
4. Ya Ni Tseng: #6 money ($316.9K), #2 RR (9.11), #6 GSPI (69.58), #4 HD. Tseng beats Kerr in 2 of the 4 major ranking systems. Sure, Kerr is slightly hotter in '09 and more consistent over the past calendar year, but Tseng has put herself in contention much more often.
5. Cristie Kerr: #4 money ($332.1K), #6 RR (6.35), #4 GSPI (69.32), #6 HD. Kerr beats Stanford in 2 of the 4 major ranking systems. Sure, Stanford's been hotter lately and has won a lot more often, but Kerr's been beating her lately and has been much more consistent over the long run. Stanford has been more in the zone since the end of the last season, to be sure, but will she be able to maintain her standing when she comes out of it? Kerr's never quite been in it, but still has only 2 finishes outside the top 20 over the past calendar year.
6. Angela Stanford: #3 money ($374.0K), #7 RR (6.04), #11 GSPI (69.93), #5 HD. Yes, I've named her the hottest female player on the planet after every LPGA event since the start of the season, but that's only good enough for me to give her the nod over Pettersen, who's coming on strong as she seems to be fading a bit. The two-week break couldn't have come at a better time for my new #6.
7. Suzann Pettersen: #13 money ($217.6K), #5 RR (6.49), #3 GSPI (69.29), #7 HD. Beats Webb in 3 of the 4 major ranking systems. With Sorenstam out of the LPGA picture for at least awhile, Pettersen is now officially the Head Euro in Charge on the LPGA. I've always thought she played better when Sorenstam wasn't in the field; if I'm right, she's going to start winning again on the LPGA, and soon.
8. Karrie Webb: #5 money ($329.3K), #8 RR (5.60), #7 GSPI (69.86), #9 HD. On a tear lately and still the Head Aussie in Charge on the LPGA.
9. Annika Sorenstam: n.r. money (she's at least on extended maternity leave and at most retired from the LPGA), n.r. RR (they removed her from their rankings at her request), #9 GSPI (69.39), #8 HD. Going on the assumption that she'd still easily be in the RR top 10 had she not asked for her name to be removed from it, she meets my minimal standards for being grouped in Ochoa's lead chase pack. For now. It'll be very interesting to see how quickly she falls by next ranking--and who passes her.

Isn't it a bit shocking how few players there are who are close to the lead chase pack with at least 2 top 10s and/or 4 top 20s? And how young all of them are? Where are the rest of the LPGA's prime-time players and veteran stars?

10. Na Yeon Choi: #15 money ($175.7K), #20 RR (3.36), #10 GSPI (69.91), #10 HD. I keep expecting her to break through, and I keep having to wait another week. But she's my pick for best player on tour without a win.
11. Eun-Hee Ji: #20 money ($161.1K), #12 RR (3.70), #12 GSPI (69.94), #11 HD. Starting off 2009 in style!
12. Angela Park: #11 money ($236.4K), #15 RR (3.61), #19 GSPI (70.71), #14 HD. Starting off 2009 in style, but just can't buy her 1st win.

But those with a top 10 in only 1 of the 4 systems and/or top 20s in 3 of the 4 are poised to join them.

13. Seon Hwa Lee: #34 money ($67.4K), #10 RR (3.89), #17 GSPI (70.64), #13 HD. Off to a very slow and inconsistent start by her standards. Hopefully will come back from the LPGA's spring break focused and prepared t compete at the LPGA's highest levels.
14. Katherine Hull: #10 money ($241.4K), #11 RR (3.85), #26 GSPI (70.89), #16 HD. Not quite as hot as she was coming off the Australian Swing or had been at the end of '08, but still capable of moving even further up this ranking.
15. Helen Alfredsson: #29 money ($90.1K), #9 RR (5.50), #33 GSPI (71.05), #15 HD. Mostly coasting off her 2 wins in the 2nd half of last season. We'll have to see if she can avoid falling down these rankings.
16. Jeong Jang: n.r. money (still recvering from wrist surgery), #14 RR (3.62), #8 GSPI (69.88), #22 HD. Another player whose inactivity will cause her to fall in my rankings. Like with Sorenstam, it'll be interesting to see how many people can pass her, and how quickly.
17. Pat Hurst: #8 money ($259.0K), #42 RR (2.34), #64 GSPI (71.86), #45 HD. Will she be the Alfredsson of '09? Or the Hurst of '06? Let's see how quickly her rankings catch up with her winnings! And whether she can earn her way onto the Solheim Cup team for maybe the last time in her career....
18. Brittany Lincicome: #7 money ($310.4K), #22 RR (3.20), #133 GSPI (73.55), #70 HD. I'll stop going on and on about how shocking her win at the KNC was. But I'm shocked, I tell you. I'm shocked. And I'd be even more shocked to see her stay at this level in this ranking system.
19. Song-Hee Kim: #18 money ($170.8K), #25 RR (3.04), #13 GSPI (70.10), #12 HD. Movin' on up and will continue to do so as her results more closely approximate her stats. Once she gets used to being in contention on the LPGA, wat out for her!
20. Jee Young Lee: #22 money ($125.2K), #18 RR (3.51), #14 GSPI (70.29), #17 HD. Off to a good start in '09. But like with Choi, I'm waiting for that quantum leap to LPGA greatness. Just been waiting for a longer time with Lee.
21. In-Kyung Kim: #21 money ($148.5K), #19 RR (3.43), #15 GSPI (70.38), #18 HD. Off to a good start in '09, too, but less steady than Kim or Lee's. I picked her to be the top Junior Mint by the end of the season. No time like the present to start movin' on up, Inky! Or rather, the very near future.

Surprisingly, there are only 2 players with top 20s in at least 2 of the 4 systems.

22. Brittany Lang: #17 money ($171.4K), #31 RR (2.69), #24 GSPI (70.81), #20 HD. Off to a good start in '09, even if she couldn't sustain that fantastic top-10 streak.
23. Hee-Won Han: #35 money ($62.7K), #16 RR (3.55), #18 GSPI (70.69), #21 HD. Blah start to '09 for her. But she's still built up enough of a cushion from her solid return from maternity leave last season to be in my top 25, which is more than I can say of many of her peers who have been equally blahhy to kick off '09.

But there are a decent number of players with 1 top 20 and/or at least 3 top 30s:

24. Sun Young Yoo: #19 money ($170.0K), #39 RR (2.37), #22 GSPI (70.79), #23 HD. Last year, I wrote, "I think she's made a quantum leap and will be a top 30 threat for years to come." When I'm right, I'm right. Look for her to keep moving up this list as she gets more comfortable getting into and being in contention.
25. Kristy McPherson: #12 money ($234.5K), #32 RR (2.59), #32 GSPI (70.99), #31 HD. Huge jump from #48 last time. But then, almost winning a major should count for something! What's even more impressive to me is that her other rankings are pretty close to her place on the money list.
26. Lindsey Wright: #14 money ($184.9K), #37 RR (2.48), #43 GSPI (71.27), #27 HD. Back from the injuries that hurt her play in the 2nd half of '08. She could threaten Webb and Hull for top Aussie this season.
27. Hee Young Park: #15 money ($181.0K), #44 RR (2.23), #48 GSPI (71.41), #35 HD. Got hot in Thailand but probably overrated by my ranking system. Longfellow would have loved her--you never know what to expect from her from round to round, or even hole to hole!
28. Inbee Park: #56 money ($36.2K), #26 RR (3.02), #42 GSPI (71.26), #19 HD. She's 1 good tournament away from turning things around. Could her post-major sophomore jinx be coming to a close?
29. Maria Hjorth: n.r. money (on maternity leave), #17 RR (3.54), #29 GSPI (70.93), #41 HD. Even though she hasn't played this season, she hung onto her top 30 status for 1 last time. It'll be interesting to see when and how well she returns to the LPGA.
30. Jane Park: #23 money ($119.5K), #45 RR (2.21), #30 GSPI (70.94), #26 HD. I'll repeat what I said last year: "Still isn't close to realizing her potential, but she's getting closer."
31. Karen Stupples: #49 money ($40.0K), #24 RR (3.07), #27 GSPI (70.91), #29 HD. An emergency appendectomy has been cramping her style, but she should be back competing on tour by late May if all goes well.

A huge number of players have 1 or 2 top 30s and/or at least 3 top 40s:

32. Momoko Ueda: #43 money ($52.3K), #21 RR (3.24), #23 GSPI (70.79), #38 HD. Hanging on by her well-manicured (and fully-recovered) fingernails to her standing as the JLPGA's finest on the LPGA right now.
33. Ai Miyazato: #25 money ($114.0K), #35 RR (2.50), #28 GSPI (0.92), #36 HD. But don't look back, Momo-chan, because Ai-chan is back! (Never mind that blip at the KNC.)
34. Candie Kung: #45 money ($51.0K), #23 RR (3.15), #34 GSPI (71.05), #25 HD. A very blah start to '09 for her. But still a great top 30 candidate.
35. Laura Diaz: #46 money ($46.3K), #27 RR (2.94), #21 GSPI (70.76), #33 HD. Ditto.
36. Christina Kim: #28 money ($93.0K), #38 RR (2.44), #37 GSPI (71.12), #28 HD. Finally showed some signs of life at the KNC.
37. Ji Young Oh: #32 money ($75.1K), #53 RR (1.92), #35 GSPI (71.07), #24 HD. Lost a great chance to move up the rankings when her ball was blown off the 18th green on Friday at the KNC, but she didn't recover well over the weekend. With everyone at this level so closely bunched, she just can't afford too many weeks like that.
38. Juli Inkster: #40 money ($58.8K), #29 RR (2.81), #25 GSPI (70.83), #34 HD. Not an encouraging start to her final Solheim Cup run. Would love to see her earn her way in.
39. Mi Hyun Kim: #38 money ($60.9K), #33 RR (2.57), #36 GSPI (71.11), #30 HD. Still not playing like the Kimmie of old, but at least her knee seems fully recovered.
40. Morgan Pressel: #41 money ($57.2K), #30 RR (2.78), #46 GSPI (71.35), #32 HD. This is about as low as I expect her to fall in this ranking system. Just a feeling.
41. Stacy Prammanasudh: #26 money ($97.9K), #57 RR (2.08), #47 GSPI (71.38), #39 HD. That 1 fantastic round on the Asian Swing is the only thing saving her season so far. Time to get going or she won't be doing much this August.
42. Jimin Kang: #30 money ($85.8K), #66 RR (1.41), #44 GSPI (71.33), #44 HD. Quietly having a solid start to her '09 season.
43. Sophie Gustafson: #39 money ($59.6K), #36 RR (2.50), #57 GSPI (71.68), #37 HD. Still waiting for her comeback.... She's not doing much to take advantage of Hjorth's absence and build up a bigger cushion on her rival.
44. Michelle Wie: #24 money ($117.0K), #80 RR (1.04), n.r. GSPI (71.60 in too few starts to be in their system officially), #49 HD. A mystery wrapped in an enigma steeped in WTF?! Who knows which Wie will show up--or how many times she'll compete on the LPGA, even after she steps away from Stanford for a term or two?
45. Meaghan Francella: #27 money ($94.2K), #81 RR (1.14), #120 GSPI (73.05), n.r. HD. First time she's made it back into this ranking in a long time. Could her great KNC performance herald a more serious comeback from this Senior Standout?

There's a smaller group with at least 1 top 40 and/or at least 3 top 50s:

46. Teresa Lu: #33 money ($67.6K), #59 RR (1.66), #39 GSPI (71.21), #42 HD.
47. Meena Lee: #36 money ($62.6K), #56 RR (1.71), #38 GSPI (71.18), #43 HD.
48. Nicole Castrale: #44 money ($51.1K), #40 RR (2.36), #49 GSPI (71.42), #46 HD.
49. Stacy Lewis: #71 money ($17.9K), #75 RR (1.21), #54 GSPI (71.53), #40 HD.
50. Natalie Gulbis: #37 money ($62.6K), #43 RR (2.24), #62 GSPI (71.75), #50 HD.
51. Se Ri Pak: #31 money ($81.0K), #34 RR (3.51), #75 GSPI (72.11), #56 HD.
52. Michelle Redman: #42 money ($54.5K), #64 RR (1.44), #41 GSPI (71.24), #48 HD.
53. Catriona Matthew: #104 money ($7.9K before beginning her early maternity leave), #54 RR (1.90), #40 GSPI (71.22), #47 HD.

And here are the best of the rest--the only other players with at least 1 top 50:

54. Giulia Sergas: #47 money ($44.7K), #68 RR (1.38), #45 GSPI (71.35), #51 HD.
55. Allison Fouch: #48 money ($41.7K), #77 RR (1.19), #93 GSPI (72.55), n.r. HD.
56. Shanshan Feng: #60 money ($32.8K), #49 RR (2.04), #96 GSPI (72.60), #58 HD.
57. Janice Moodie: #50 money ($39.4K), #97 RR (.92), #65 GSPI (71.89), n.r. HD.

1 comment:

Hound Dog said...

Great list and comments as usual. Also the quote of the week, re Wie:

"A mystery wrapped in an enigma steeped in WTF?"