With Momoko Ueda's win this past week on the JLPGA and Ai Miyazato joining her, Ji-Yai Shin, and Shiho Oyama on tour this week, who will pose the toughest competition to them from among the best of the tour's regulars? As usual, this functionally illiterate expert will combine the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the current JLPGA money list, and 2008 JLPGA money list to rank the JLPGA's finest.
Yokomine remains #1 this ranking, but she's got even less elbow room than last one.
1. Sakura Yokomine: #1 2009 money (￥78.92M), #15 GSPI (70.47) , #25 RR (3.34) , #3 2008 money (￥103.19M). After 8 straight top 10s to kick off the 2009 JLPGA season, she's been a little less consistent in her last 9 events, but I think she'll take her 2nd and 3rd wins of the season in that stretch over more near-misses. Still, her 3 straight finishes outside the top 10--and her 1st outside the top 20 of the season in that run--are some cause for concern for the player with the lowest scoring average (70.40), highest birdie rate (3.84 per round), and lowest putts per green in regulation rate (1.742) on tour.
2. Shinobu Moromizato: #2 2009 money (￥76.95M), #45 GSPI (71.66) , #48 RR (2.33) , #12 2008 money (￥64.37M). She's already won 3 times this season and has 4 in the last calendar year. Of her 6 finishes outside the top 20 this season, only 1 has come in her last 8 starts. Now she's got 2 top 10s in a row on tour despite bad 1st rounds in both events. Time to put 3 good rounds together again.
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon: #3 2009 money (￥63.98M), #37 GSPI (71.42) , #43 RR (2.47) , #6 2008 money (￥90.85M). She's had 2 dominating wins this season and is 2nd to Yokomine in birdie rate (3.65) and PPGIR (1.764), so it's no surprise she's 3rd in scoring average (70.89). Her only finishes outside the top 20 this season have come right after each of her wins, but except for 1 WD, she's been consistently excellent all year, with only 1 other finish outside the top 10 and 5 top 5s in 15 starts. Just think how well she'd be doing if she'd been able to close out wins late last season and early this one!
4. Ji-Hee Lee: #6 2009 money (￥43.50M), #19 GSPI (70.67) , #30 RR (2.98) , #2 2008 money (￥119.65M). She has a 12-event top 20 streak going this season (and 15 going back to the end of last season), which is very impressive until you consider she had a 22-event run come to an end last season at the Mizuno Classic. Last season, she had 9 top 3s and 15 top 5s to go with her 2 wins; this season, she only has 3 and 5. Whereas she held off Ai Miyazato last year to win a major, this past week she just lost to Momoko Ueda in a playoff. That's why she's slipped from her #1 spot at the end of last season to here now. But with 2 runner-ups in a row, she's playing great and ready to move back up this list.
5. Yuko Mitsuka: #5 2009 money (￥60.09M), #24 GSPI (70.96) , #41 RR (2.49) , #7 2008 money (￥83.56M). She hasn't gotten her 2nd win of the year yet after winning the season opener, but it's not for lack of opportunities. She's had 6 other top 5s this season already and 11 top 10s in her 17 events.
Still waiting for the other elite JLPGA players to jump-start their seasons. But as you can see, it takes a lot for the up-and-coming stars on tour to catch them.
6. Chie Arimura: #4 2009 money (￥62.63M), #104 GSPI (72.82) , #60 RR (1.88) , #23 2008 money (￥47.35M). She's riding a 6-event top 20 streak, has 3 runner-ups to go with her two wins (the latest one this past week could easily have been her 3rd win of the season if the playoff had gone differently), and has 10 top 10s in 18 starts. So there's no doubt she's one of the hottest players on tour. Her scoring average is almost a stroke and a half lower than her previous career best, which makes me wonder if she's really made a quantum leap or if she's due to cool off soon.
7. Miho Koga: #8 2009 money (￥32.40M), #47 GSPI (71.75) , #49 RR (2.26) , #1 2008 money (￥120.85M). She's been a little more consistent and a little less explosive this season than last--instead of last year's 4 wins, this year she has 4 top 5s; 7 top 10s in 15 starts isn't up to her standards from last season. But she's shown signs lately of being ready to break through. No better time than this week!
8. Yuri Fudoh: #16 2009 money (￥21.38M), #21 GSPI (70.91) , #27 RR (3.20) , #5 2008 money (￥91.86M). She's got 6 top 10s in only 9 starts this season, but only 1 of them (a runner-up) better than 5th. You can never count out the 1st and only billion-yen winner on the JLPGA, but she's at risk of dropping out of the tour's elite for the 1st time this decade.
9. Eun-A Lim: #9 2009 money (￥29.70M), #75 GSPI (72.36) , #59 RR (1.89) , #9 2008 money (￥73.41M). After a runner-up finish and a win mid-way through the season, it seemed like she was taking off, but then she only got 1 top 20 in her next 5 starts--and even missed the cut for the 3rd time this season during that run. So her 2 consecutive top 10s are just what the doctor ordered. Let's see if she can keep it up this week.
10. Erina Hara: #10 2009 money (￥28.86M), #74 GSPI (72.33) , #74 RR (1.38) , #10 2008 money (￥65.87M). It's been feast or famine for her this season. On the one hand, she has 5 top 5s; on the other, she's missed 6 cuts and had 4 other finishes outside the top 20. Which Hara will show up this week is thus quite the loaded question.
11. Akiko Fukushima: #14 2009 money (￥23.84M), #56 GSPI (72.07) , #58 RR (1.90) , #4 2008 money (￥96.50M). With a missed cut and 3 straight finishes outside the top 20 ending her 6-event top 20 run (in which she had 3 top 5s), the #2 player on the JLPGA career money list is looking decidedly vulnerable. But she's the kind of golfer who seems to be able to turn it on any time, so don't count her out just yet.
12. Ayako Uehara: #12 2008 money (￥27.69M), #100 GSPI (72.73) , #76 RR (1.30) , #14 2008 money (￥63.31M). After a runner-up and a win the 1st 2 weeks of the season, this seemed like it was going to be her breakout year. But then she mixed 2 missed cuts and 2 finishes outside the top 20 in with 3 top 10s to raise serious questions about where she was headed. Well, she responded by finishing outside the top 20 4 straight times--and then going from bad to worse with consecutive missed cuts her last 2 events. At 1.840 PPGIR, her putting is clearly to blame. Can she turn it around this week?
The next set of players includes those who have a good chance of making a move into the top 10, provided they can play closer to their peaks than troughs this month and next.
13. Yuko Saitoh: #7 2009 money (￥38.40M), #109 GSPI (72.89) , #86 RR (1.07) , #34 2008 money (￥25.87M). She opened the season with a 5-event top 20 run, but has taken the roller coaster since then, with a gold, silver, and bronze mixed in with 2 missed cuts and 4 other finishes outside the top 20. Let's see how she handles her return to the JLPGA after failing to break 80 at Royal Lytham.
14. Midori Yoneyama: #17 2009 money (￥20.64M), #101 GSPI (72.74) , #91 RR (1.02) , #25 2008 money (￥45.29M). She's got 2 runner-up finishes, 3 top 10s, and 5 top 20s in an otherwise undistinguished season. 3 of her 4 missed cuts have come in her last 9 events; her last 4 events she's gone WD-T2-T6-MC. I have no idea what she'll do in her 19th event of the season this week.
15. Rikako Morita: #18 2009 money (￥20.17M), #212 GSPI (74.20) [high-30s], #104 RR (.89) . This rookie was one of the coldest players on tour to start the season, having missed the cut in 7 of her 1st 9 events and finished no higher than T43 in that stretch. But in her last 9 events she's finished outside the top 20 only once and has 3 top 3s in that run. She's given herself a chance to win a few times this season; can she close the deal soon or will she cool off?
16. Li-Ying Ye: #19 2009 money (￥20.06M), #137 GSPI (73.22) , #110 RR (.82) . This rookie missed the cut in 3 of her 1st 5 events, but notched 5 top 10s, including a runner-up, already this season. However, she hasn't finished inside the top 20 in her last 3 events and missed another cut in that run, so she could go either way the rest of the season.
17. Rui Kitada: #15 2009 money (￥23.15M), #91 GSPI (72.63) , #92 RR (1.00) , #28 2008 money (￥36.34M). She started this season cold, with an early top 3 in the midst of a 10-event run where she didn't finish inside the top 20, including a WD and 2 MCs. But then she sandwiched another finish outside the top 20 between 2 top 5s and seemed to be headed in the right direction. However, she's yo-yo-ed since then, with a pair of top 10s surrounded by 3 more finishes outside the top 20. 1.841 PPGIR isn't helping her campaign this season.
18. Bo-Bae Song: #28 2009 money (￥15.04M), #40 GSPI (71.47) , #73 RR (1.44) , #13 2008 money (￥63.47M). She still hasn't added to her top 10 total since her hat trick to start the season, but except for an early missed cut and 2 recent WDs, she also hasn't finished outside the top 20 in her 14 starts. Her 71.71 scoring average is ranked 9th on tour, so look for her to move up these rankings further.
19. Hyun-Ju Shin: #34 2009 money (￥12.27M), #98 GSPI (72.73) , #72 RR (1.44) , #11 2008 money (￥64.63M). After starting the season with a 4-event top 20 run, she's been very inconsistent, with 4 additional top 20s offset by 6 missed cuts (most of them coming recently). Looks like she may not yet be over her injuries that cut last season short.
The last set of players includes those who have cooled off quite a bit from their hot starts this season and those who have heated up from cold ones.
20. Tamie Durdin: #13 2009 money (￥25.28M), #142 GSPI (73.31) , #97 RR (.97) , #55 2008 money (￥14.65M). Yes, she's gotten her 1st career JLPGA win this season, but has notched only 3 other top 10s and 7 top 20s in her 16 starts, and they've been offset by 5 missed cuts.
21. Ji-Woo Lee: #21 2009 money (￥19.97M), #78 GSPI (72.40) , #95 RR (.98) , #22 2008 money (￥47.63M). She got a couple of top 5s early, but has only 1 other top 10 in her next 13 starts. Combined with 2 missed cuts and 7 finishes outside the top 20 (most coming in her last 6 starts), she really needs to get it going again soon.
22. Hiromi Mogi: #27 2009 money (￥16.23M), #113 GSPI (72.91) , #94 RR (1.02) , #18 2008 money (￥52.62M). She's only got 3 top 10s this season, but at least she has a 3-event top-20 streak going right now, bringing her total to 7 in 16 starts.
23. Ah-Reum Hwang: #11 2009 money (￥28.29M), #125 GSPI (73.10) , #81 RR (1.25) , #44 2008 money (￥18.28M). She started this season with a bang, finishing T2 her 2nd event and following it with her 1st career JLPGA victory. Then she cooled off, with 1 top 10 and only 5 top 20s in her next 8 events. But since then she's slowed down to a glacial pace, with 4 missed cuts in her last 7 events and her best finish in that stretch being a T17.
24. Miki Saiki: #29 2009 money (￥14.83M), #122 GSPI (73.08) , #85 RR (1.08) , #20 2008 money (￥50.84M). For awhile, mid-way through the season, she seemed to be returning to the form that made her a top-10 player her rookie year in 2007, with 4 top 10s in 5 starts. But her last 2 events she's finished MC-T50, so this week will be crucial for her.
25. Nikki Campbell: #22 2009 money (￥18.79M), #104 GSPI (72.76) , #111 RR (.82) , #33 2008 money (￥27.04M). After missing her 3rd cut of the season, she's finished T7-T4-T12, so now has 5 top 10s and 8 top 20s in her 16 starts.
26. Saiki Fujita: #24 2009 money (￥17.21M), #105 GSPI (72.82) , #109 RR (.89) , #29 2008 money (￥31.72M). Her recent top-20 streak ended at 5 events and she got all 3 of her top 10s this season in that run, so here's hoping her last 2 finishes outside the top 20 aren't a return to her early-season (lack of) form.
27. Akane Iijima: #31 2009 money (￥13.91M), #94 GSPI (72.64) , #100 RR (.94) , #19 2008 money (￥51.40M). Her 4 early-season top 10s have been offset by 4 missed cuts and a WD; she's only gotten 1 additional top 20 in her 18 starts.
28. Mie Nakata: #32 2009 money (￥13.43M), #103 GSPI (72.80) , #129 RR (.70) , #31 2008 money (￥28.33M). She peaked with a 3rd-place finish early in the season but since then has endured 11 straight events without a top 20 (including a MC and WD).
29. Maiko Wakabayashi: #26 2009 money (￥16.63M), #108 GSPI (72.88) , #93 RR (.99) , #21 2008 money (￥50.06M). Since her 3-event top 10 streak mid-way through the season, she's finished T35-MC-MC-T16-MC. She's still making a solid amount of birdies (averaging 3.09 per round, 10th on tour), but she's been making too many mistakes thus far this season.
30. Yukari Baba: #20 2009 money (￥19.98M), #140 GSPI (73.30) , #101 RR (.94) , #26 2008 money (￥44.14M). She has 4 top 10s this season against only 1 missed cut, but she hasn't finished inside the top 20 in her last 4 events or inside the top 10 in her last 8.
31. Na-Ri Lee: #23 2009 money (￥17.94M), #175 GSPI (73.67) , #143 RR (.59) , #82 2008 money (￥6.10M). Since missing her 3rd cut of her 1st full season on tour, she's finished T7-3rd-T18-T2, so she's on quite a roll all of a sudden, although she does have 9 top 20s in 18 starts.
32. So-Hee Kim: #30 2009 money (￥14.77M), #166 GSPI (73.57) , #135 RR (.67) , #35 2008 money (￥25.89M). She's finished inside the top 20 in 6 of her last 8 events and her last 2 has gone T6-T5, but she's also missed 2 cuts in that stretch (for 3 in all) and has 3 other finishes outside the top 20 in 17 starts.
By the end of September, Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, and Shiho Oyama will likely have played the minimum of 5 JLPGA events to be included in the next ranking. It'll be interesting to see how high they can go.