Monday, June 29, 2009

Dear Media: Women's Golf Cheat Sheet

Pssst. You there, golfy media. Want a few tips for understanding the world of women's professional golf? Here they are. You can make your editors and audiences think you've done a lot of homework just by knowing the following fun facts.


Let's start with the most competitive and wealthiest women's tour in the world. You're going to have to stop writing stories that replace "Tiger Woods" with "Lorena Ochoa" (as in "Tiger Woods Lorena Ochoa is the most incredibly dominant golfer in the history of the planet" or "the era of Tiger Woods's Lorena Ochoa's incredible dominance may well be over") and instead dust off the stories from the late 1990s and early 2000s on the LPGA, when the "Big 4" of Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, and Juli Inkster were winning like nobody's business. Because get this, see? There's now a Big 6 on the LPGA: Lorena Ochoa, Ji-Yai Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, and Suzann Pettersen. Guess which one of them was the 1st to get 2 wins this season. How about the 1st to make a million dollars? Time to focus on the rivalries among the LPGA's elite--and keep watch to see if anyone else can break into the new cartel on tour.


There's a fantastic face-off going on this season between 2 3-time winners, Sakura Yokomine and Shinobu Moromizato, both of whom have won as much or more money as everyone in the LPGA's Big 6 (depending on exchange rate calculations) except the current leader of the pack. But within striking distance of them on the money list are Yuko Mitsuka, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Chie Arimura, and Ji-Hee Lee, and lurking are Miho Koga, Akiko Fukushima, and Yuri Fudoh.


The rivalry between Hee Kyung Seo, who started the season hot, and So Yeon Ryu, who's come on strong with 3 wins in her last 4 starts, is what you need to know. But watch out for Ha Neul Kim, He Yong Choi, and Sun Ju Ahn to try to cut into their dance when the 2nd half of the season resumes.

Futures Tour

The rivalry between Mina Harigae and Jean Reynolds is the one to watch right now, as each has 2 wins and they're racing to see who can get the 1st battlefield promotion in FT history (not to mention finish at the top of the money list), but Misun Cho is hot on their heels and the tour's newest pros, most notably Pernilla Lindberg and Amanda Blumenherst, may still end up being a factor over the 2nd half of the season.


I think you can make a case that the LET is the weakest of the major women's tours now. But check out their money list to see if Gwladys Nocera continues her hot play there and whether Melissa Reid can continue to challenge her over time. Note that Tania Elosegui is an LPGA rookie with very low status on tour, yet she's #4 on this season's LET money list, and try to figure out what that means.

With the U.S. Women's Open on the horizon, not to mention the Evian Masters, Women's British Open, and Solheim Cup, it's time to pan out for awhile and try to take in the big picture. Good luck!

[Update 1 (9:54 am): The SI guys need a special tutorial of their own. It's all well and good that Van Sickle was into Shin early and that Shipnuck thinks the LPGA is the most interesting tour, but they sure bring the stupid otherwise. Cheyenne Woods should avoid the Michelle Wie path b/c LPGA pros are a bunch of catty, jealous bitches? How about b/c she doesn't have 1/10 of Michelle's game and needs to develop as a player first before she can even think about making cuts on any professional tour? Wie missed the top 10 at the Wegmans? That's news to me. She got a very unexpected top 10 on a course that doesn't suit her game at all. Lincicome among the LPGA's elite? The Solheim Cup is a joke b/c it excludes most of the world's best women players? What a news flash! And now that the Lexus Cup is dead, there's even more impetus to reconfigure the Solheim. Wie as a great captain's pick for the Solheim Cup? Don't count out her earning her way onto the team just yet, boys. Everyone ahead of her on the list that's not already a lock for the team is either playing badly (Kim, Diaz), injured (Park), wildly inconsistent (Pressel, Lincicome, Hurst), or capable of playing great but a question mark to outplay Wie over the summer (Ward, Inkster). Heck, Stacy Lewis could make the team if she wins a major.]

[Update 2 (9:15 pm): The national media can take some lessons from the Buffalo News and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle during Wegmans week. If you read their entire coverage (as Jay Flemma failed to do), they did profiles on a range of players and not just the usual suspects. Would still be nice if they had done more before the tournament started on likely contenders like Ji-Yai Shin, In-Kyung Kim, and Ai Miyazato....]


The Florida Masochist said...

Are we sure its a big six? Or the six are? The person left out I'm thinking of is In Kyung Kim.

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, I wasn't sure about that, actually. Angela Stanford, In-Kyung Kim, and Ji Young Oh all have claims to be considered among the best, if recent multiple wins are your criterion. That's why I made sure to mention them (well, not Oh, who I still don't believe in) as where the most likely challenges to Shin's summer supremacy are likely to come from, along with such steady performers as Song-Hee Kim and Ai Miyazato, in my Sunday post.

The Florida Masochist said...

There's only been maybe 3 or 4 players who played better than Inky since last October. Shin, Ochoa, Stanford, and Kerr.

10 months doesn't make a world champion yet, look at Pettersen. She hasn't won in almost 2 years and while she's played very good there been times you wonder about her interest in golf.

The Constructivist said...

I'm not sold onInky yet. She looked like she was going to be a dominator post Kyoraku Cup in '07, and had what was to me a disappointing '08. There's something weird about her rookie class, where someone will get hot for half a season, then go cold (cf. Angela Park, Inbee Park). I'm hoping Inky's found her inner Seon Hwa Lee, but I'm not sold yet.

There's a difference between getting hot and being among the world's best. Even though Pettersen hasn't won on the LPGA since the 2nd half of 2007, she's contended regularly. I think Stanford might soon attain that level, if she can stay healthy. I think players like Inky, Na Yeon Choi, Seon Hwa Lee, Ai Miyazato, and maybe a few others are this close to fighting for the top spot. But not yet.

I'll try to clarify this in my new Best of the LPGA post (coming whenever Hound Dog decides to do his next ranking)....