Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Revisiting My Futures Tour Preseason Picks

As the Futures Tour enters its home stretch, it's a good time to look back at my attempt to fire up the 100-yen Nishijin Mostly Harmless crystal ball back at the start of the season and see how it stacks up against the current money list.

I haven't done so great with my top 10. Eunjung Yi, Haeji Kang, and Sarah Kemp have played even fewer FT events than I expected and are unlikely to play more, given their success on the LPGA. Emily Bastel has taken another hiatus from competitive golf. My picks for top Korean and Thai players on tour are lurking, but haven't played up to my expectations just yet. And Jean Reynolds, Misun Cho, Whitney Wade, Angela Buzminski, and Christine Song have come out of nowhere, while Samantha Richdale and Dewi Claire Schreefel have far exceeded my expectations. To be fair, I wasn't even sure if Schreefel would be playing on the FT when I made my picks back in the preseason, but still, I need a lot to change--and fast--at the top.

1. Onnarin Sattayabanphot: I really thought she was due for a breakout season, but so far it hasn't happened--and time is running out for the #39-ranked player on tour to make a move.
2. Mina Harigae: She's been coming along faster than I expected, what with those 2 wins and all. Here's hoping she comes back from her week off rested, non-waterlogged, and ready to get win #3. (But why was it Syracuse of all places she had to skip? I so wanted onechan and imoto to meet her!)
3. Alison Walshe: Still time for her to move into the top 5.
4. Haeji Kang: She's fighting for the top 50 on the LPGA, so hasn't played on the FT since mid-May for a total of 4 events in all--and going by the interview she did with Lisa Mickey, she won't be playing more. Guess I picked the wrong player from the Korean-Australian pipeline to kick butt on the FT in '09!
5. Pornanong Phatlum: I expected a lot from this 4-time LAGT winner, but despite getting into only 1 LPGA event thus far in her rookie season, she's only played 9 FT events and ranked #36 on tour. With Nontaya Srisawang at #12, looks like I picked the wrong up-and-coming Thai players to stand out this season.
6. Song Yi Choi: She's shot 2 64s this season on the FT, both in her 1st rounds, but has only broken 70 2 other times, neither during those tournaments. To compound her disappointments this season, she's missed the cut in all 3 LPGA events she's gotten into thus far. But I still think she's poised for a late run from her #18 spot: she leads the tour in scoring on par 3s and is 15th on par 4s, so if she can get her driver going, she shuld be fine.
7. Hannah Jun: Still has a chance to vault into the top 10 from her #19 spot. That 67 she shot at Drumlins on Sunday was encouraging.
8. Eunjung Yi: She's only made 7 of 14 cuts thus far on the LPGA, but 1 of them was a win, so she won't be playing on the FT at all this season.
9. Emily Bastel: Taking another hiatus from competitive golf, she was recently named an assistant coach for Duke's women's golf team.
10. Sarah Kemp: Has only played in 1 FT event this season, thanks to her making 8 of 10 cuts on the LPGA thus far. She's doing well enough to climb to #67 in my latest Best of the LPGA ranking, but she'll still be fighting to get into enough events on the big tour to end up in their top 80 (she's #78 now). I don't see her on this weel's field list for the Kentucky event (or the next one's), so it's a pretty safe bet we won't see her any more on the FT in '09.

My next 10 picks are looking even shakier than my 1st 10. With some of my top 10 picks hanging out in this tier and Sofie Andersson, Lisa Ferrero, and Nontaya Srisawang exceeding my expectations, I'll need to see big moves from virtually all my picks.

11. Hannah Yun: Since turning pro when turned 17 back in April, she's struggled to make cuts and has only 1 top 10 in 11 starts. But she's still #81 on tour and could turn it around any given week. I saw her play a couple of holes in Syracuse and came away impressed with her swing and ball-striking.
12. Liz Janangelo: She's been hanging around the top 20 all season, but despite 2 top 3s in the 1st half of the season, hasn't done anything special in the 2nd half.
13. Kristie Smith: She had a terrible 1st half of the FT season, with 2 WDs, a missed cut, and no top 25s, but has made 4 cuts in a row and gotten 2 top 10s in that stretch. At #34 on the money list, she could easily move into the top 20 if she keeps this up.
14. Sophia Sheridan: She's playing a full FT schedule and been playing pretty solidly. She once had a 6-event top-20 streak and a 3-event top-10 streak going at the same time, but after missing the cut at the U.S. Women's Open (the only LPGA event she's gotten into this season), she's been in a bit of a downward spiral, so the T16 at Syracuse was a good result for her. At #21 on the money list, she culd easily move up.
15. Jessica Shepley: I thought she would be the Canadian to watch on the FT this season, but despite making 10 cuts in a row and counting, she hasn't been doing anything that special yet (she only has 1 top 10 and is #45 on the money list).
16. Pernilla Lindberg: She had a great debut on the FT and at #35 on the money list is on pace to crack the top 20 before season's end. Her bad results at Drumlins are most likely just a rain-induced blip.
17. Taylor Leon: She opened the LPGA season with a top 10, but since then has made only 2 of 10 cuts over there. At #115 on the money list, she won't be getting into many more LPGA events, so I would have expected her to make a charge on the FT home stretch (she's only played in 3 events and gotten 1 top 10 thus far), if only to stay sharp. But she's not entered in the next 2 events....
18. Gerina Mendoza: She needed to make a late charge this season and so far she has been doing just that, with a T12, T2, and T11 her last 3 events. At #29 on the money list now, she may well exceed my expectations by season's end.
19. Briana Vega: In the same boat as Mendoza, but at #66 on the money list is playing almost as badly as Yun.
20. Sara Brown: A case could be made she's playing worse than Yun.

Hmm, my next 10 picks aren't looking so good either. On the bright side, it's because some of them are doing much better than I expected. Unfortunately, though, most are doing worse than I hoped.

21. Kate Golden: This veteran has only played once on the FT and twice on the LPGA this season, her last event coming in early May. Is this the end of her competitive golf career?
22. Nontaya Srisawang: She's 10 for 10 on the FT this season with 2 top 10s and has a chance to make a run for the top 5 on tour. Having missed the cut at the Michelob Ultra in her only LPGA start thus far this year, she won't be getting too many more chances on the big tour in her rookie season, so she'll be focusing on the FT's home stretch.
23. Angela Oh: She WDed from an early-April event and hadn't been seen on the FT until 2 weeks ago. Having missed the cut at the Corona in late April, she won't be getting into too many more LPGA events, so her absence from the FT had been worrisome. Good to see her making both cuts in July and even shooting a 66 in Concord. But unless she's now going by Jae Oh, she's not registered for the next 2 events. Wonder what's up.
24. Garrett Phillips: She's made 11 cuts in a row after missing her 1st 2, with 2 top 10s in the mix. At #30 on the money list, she's close to exceeding my expectations this season.
25. Chris Brady: She only made 4 of 10 cuts in the 1st half of the season and hasn't played on the FT since the end of June.
26. Jane Chin: She's played solidly as a new pro, making the cut in 6 of 7 events she's entered thus far, and got her 1st top 20 in Syracuse. At #83 on the money list, she'll need to finish there or better over her last 4 events to meet my expectations.
27. Jennie Lee: Like Chin, she's made 6 of 7 cuts thus far, but has gotten 4 top 25s, one of them her 1st top 10 (also at Syracuse), so she's #56 on the money list and moving up faster than Chin.
28. Samantha Richdale: She won in Louisiana and has 5 other top 10s; at #5 on the money list, perhaps I should have picked her to be the Head Canadian in Charge on the FT (or Angela Buzminski, for that matter!).
29. Jessica Yadloczky: This amateur caught up with the FT in June when the UF season ended, but has missed the cut in all 4 events she's entered thus far.
30. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Even though she missed the cut in CT (her 2nd of 3 MCs in 5 starts on the FT), she closed with a 69. So the pair of 69s she shot to get a T13 at Syracuse aren't coming out of nowhere. It seems to me her recovery from off-season shoulder surgery is proceeding nicely, if a bit slower than I had hoped.

With many of my top 20 picks hanging out in the 30s, there's not much room fo the players I actually picked in the next 10 spots.

31. Candy Hannemann: She hasn't played on the FT or LPGA since her nice finish in the Brazil preseason exhibition. Wonder what's up.
32. Sarah Lynn Sargent: She's only made 5 of 10 cuts thus far on the FT, but she did finish in a tie for 3rd early in the season and broke 70 twice in CT and once in NH, so maybe she can finish strong. She'll need to if he wants to move up from #52 on the money list.
33. Lisa Ferrero: I didn't expect her to build on her strong 2008 season in 2009, but for most of the season she's been hanging out in the top 20 and only recently dropped to #24.
34. Mo Martin: She's made the cut in all 13 FT starts this season, but hasn't yet broken into the top 20 in a single event. Still, at #47 on the money list, there isn't any reason she shouldn't move up.
35. Kim Welch: She has 4 top 10s and 3 missed cuts in 11 FT starts, with 2 top 5s in her last 3 to move up to #31 on the money list; as she hasn't gotten into a single LPGA event this season, she'll need to continue making a big push if she wants to avoid Q-School.
36. Maria Hernandez: This new pro improved steadily in her 1st 3 FT starts in '09--MC-T44-T11--but had to settle for a T58 at Syracuse. She has a ways to go to get into the top 40 and only 4 more events in which to do it. Let's see if she can.
37. Paola Moreno: #33 on the money list in only 4 starts, thanks to a T3 in early April and a T2 in late July. Despite her mediocre finishes in her other 2 events, she's already shot a 67 and a 65 on tour, so watch out for her when she rejoins the tour in VA.
38. Natalie Sheary: Cheyenne Woods's teammate at Wake Forest got a T31 in her 1st FT start in CT, breaking 70 in 2 of her 3 rounds. But she missed the cut in Concord, thanks to an opening 82. Let's see how many more events she plays.
39. Amanda Blumenherst: Off to a good start in her pro career, with 2 T22s and T8 on the FT, a T32 at the Wegmans, and a T52 at the U.S. Women's Open. It'll be interesting to see if she gets more sponsor exemptions into LPGA events to build on her $13.75K total there so far in '09 (remember that her USWO winnings don't count when it comes to deciding if she's a top-80 equivalent at the end of the season). She's playing the next 2 FT events, so look for her to move up from her #78 spot on the money list.
40. Tiffany Joh: Off to a bad start on the FT, with 3 missed cuts in 5 events and no rounds under par yet. But she's finally broken the $1K barrier in season and career winnings, is already the best golfer-blogger-singer-songwriter-cartoonist-videographer in the world, and, according to Momma Joh, just needs to straighten out her driver to get her game going, so I'm not worried about her prospects in the slightest.

I sense a trend here--golfers not playing on tour as much as I expected, or playing better than I expected, or worse than I expected....

41. Kira Meixner: This Kent State grad has made 3 of 6 cuts while playing as an amateur thus far on the FT, but now that she got bounced from the last spot in the U.S Women's Amateur match-play brackets in a playoff, I wonder if she'll turn pro.
42. Mallory Hetzel: This Georgia grad has made 5 of 7 cuts withut ever breaking into the top 40, but she got her best finish in Syracuse (T45) and was immortalized by onechan in a sketch as she birdied the 9th hole on Saturday (unless, that is, I've lost the drawing), so I know better things are coming her way.
43. Sofie Andersson: At #13 on the money list, she's far exceeded my expectations this season. If she can get her 2nd FT career win, she may just win an LPGA card outright.
44. Caroline Larsson: T4 at Syracuse lifts her to #40 on the money list. It must have given her good luck to have met my mom and onechan in the clubhouse at Drumlins.
45. Nicole Hage: She's only made 6 of 12 cuts this season on the FT and missed her last 3 in a row, but she's finished well enough in those 6 to be #38 on the money list right now.
46. Su A Kim: She's had 2 top 20s in her last 3 events, moving up to #57 on the money list, so there's still time for her to exceed my expectations.
47. Violeta Retamoza: She's made 6 of 13 cuts and sits at #92 on the money list right now. Still time to bounce back.
48. Seo-Jae Lee: Despite only having Category D status on the FT this season, she's gotten into every event. She got her 5th top 10 of the season at Syracuse, a solo 2nd (she lost in a playoff to Jenny Suh), so now is sitting pretty at #10 on the money list. I didn't expect her to be fighting for the top 5, but she sure is.
49. Amie Hartje: I was hoping she would start putting the pieces back together this season on the FT, but she's not even listed as a member of the tour any more.
50. Victoria Kiser: This young amateur has made the cut in all 5 events she's entered, with 1 top 10 and 2 top 20s.

Going by current results, it's looking like I should get out of the prognostication business! But a lot can happen in 4 events, especially with a win or runner-up netting you so much more cash than any other finish. With 7 of my projected top 50 not playing on tour any more or at all and another 3 playing much less often than I expected, I'm banking on the amateurs and new pros playing limited schedules to play their way higher on the money list by the end of the season!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't give up yet. Picking a leaderboard from the "minor leagues" ain't easy. You're dealing with players that are young, relatively inexperienced (at least professionally) or marginally talented.

I see players like Taylor Leon and Gerina Mendoza getting their feet underneath them in the next year or so and moving to the LPGA.

Not so for Brianna Vega.

Tiffany Joh is just getting started and is having a ball travelling around with her mom at the moment. Next year, she'll knuckle down and play some serious golf. She seems like the type of person who needs to have friends around for her to be comfortable - and that's hard to find as a professional. Mom won't be on the road much longer.

Onnarin Sattayabanphot might be in that same boat. Just needs a little seasoning.

What the heck happened to Mo Martin ? I thought she was ready to step up after her season last year.

Kim Welch...who knows ? Lots of physical talent - but it can't be easy guessing which tour she'll be playing on from week to week.