Having ranked the LPGA rookie classes that make up the Young Guns Generation--the Senior Standouts (Class of 2006), the Junior Mints (2007, and the Super Sophs (2008)--I now turn to the 1st class in the LPGA's newest generation, which I've dubbed New Blood. How did their 1st seasons on the LPGA stack up?
Simply the Best
1. Ji-Yai Shin. Come on! Who else would be #1 in her class but the player who just missed out on a feat nobody's accomplished on the LPGA since Nancy Lopez--winning Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy, and the money-list title in the same year? 2 out of 4 definitely ain't bad for the 1st Korean money-list leader in LPGA history! Oh, and she only ranked #5 for the 2nd-straight year on the JLPGA, too.
2. Anna Nordqvist. At the start of the season, I had thought she'd take the Amy Yang route to world domination, but instead, with her 2 wins on the LPGA, she had an ROY-quality season--just on the LET. (Even though Shin probably could have had membership on it in '09 via her '08 Women's British Open win, her winnings in Australia at the start of the season and during the European swing remain unofficial.) Given how accurate she is off the tee, she should be hitting way more greens in regulation. Just imagine how good she'll be when she improves her approach shots.
3. Michelle Wie. Another player who surprised me in 2009. I didn't expect her to play more than a dozen events in her rookie season and I certainly didn't expect her to get her 1st win during it, but she did both--and almost broke the $1M barrier in the process. There aren't that many players in LPGA history to have averaged over 4 birdies a round over the entire season. Just imagine how many she'll be making when she straightens out her driver.
4. Vicky Hurst. The tour's leader in driving distance in 2009 had a tougher transition from dominating the Futures Tour in 2008 than I anticipated, but put up some very solid stats. Key for her in 2010 will be improving her approach shots and giving herself more birdie opportunities.
5. M.J. Hur. Another player who surprised me in 2009, this time by doing on the LPGA what she had trouble doing on the Futures Tour in 2008: closing the deal on a Sunday. Sure, she had a little help from Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman at the Safeway, but a win is a win. Still, when you look at the rest of her stats, I can't justify ranking her any higher than this. The key thing she has to do in the off-season is work on her ballstriking. Fantastic putting allowed her to exceed expectations in her rookie season, but she needs to hit way more fairways and greens to do as well in her sophomore campaign.
6. Stacy Lewis. It was a pretty blah season for the 2008 Q-School medalist. She putted terribly and didn't hit the ball all that great, either. 2010 will definitely be better!
Quantum Leap Candidates
7. Mika Miyazato. Got 3 top 10s in her 1st 11 starts, but seemed to tire as the season went on: she didn't finish higher than T58 in her last 6 starts from early September to mid-November and missed 3 cuts in that stretch.
8. Shiho Oyama. Played through tendonitis in both elbows for the 1st half of 2009 and when another injury cropped up mid-season, she pulled the plug. But she still made Category 1 in membership status for 2010 by staying in the top 80 on the money list. If she comes back healthy, watch out for her next season. In 2006, she broke Yuri Fudoh's chokehold on the top of the JLPGA money list from 2000-2005, setting a tour record in winnings that wasn't broken until this season by Sakura Yokomine. There's a reason she's won 11 times on the JLPGA.
9. Haeji Kang. I thought she'd be rockin' the Futures Tour in 2009, but she made a successful mid-season leap to the LPGA instead. We'll see what she's capable of doing on a full schedule in 2010. She'll need to improve on her approach shots if she wants to move up this ranking.
10. Chella Choi. Made it into Category 11 (#113 on the priority status list) for 2010 via her #86 finish on the 2009 money list. She needs to take better advantage of her driving accuracy by hitting more greens and giving herself more birdie chances in 2010.
On the Bottom, Looking Up
11. Mindy Kim. Made it into Category 11 (#125 on the priority status list) for 2010 via her #92 finish on the 2009 money list.
12. Tania Elosegui. She only got into 3 LPGA events in 2009, but she won full status in 2010 at Q-School (#134 on the priority status list). Given that she finished #5 on the LET money list in only 16 events (winning once), my guess is that she'll be the 1st in this group to make that quantum leap.
13. Samantha Richdale. She played well enough on the Futures Tour enough in 2009 to make the top 5 on their money list, moving up to #100 on the 2010 priority status list in the process. So we'll see what she's really capable of on the LPGA next season.
14. Song Yi Choi. Ditto for her--she's #101 on the 2010 priority status list.
15. Pornanong Phatlum. At #331 on the 2010 priority status list via her finish at LPGA Q-School, she'll be spending most of her time next season on the Futures Tour.
16. Jessica Shepley. Ditto for her--she's #328 on the 2010 priority status list.
17. Kim Welch. Ditto for her--she's #335 on the 2010 priority status list. Will most likely get into more LET events than LPGA events next season, even with partial LET status via their Q-School.
18. Jeehae Lee. We'll definitely be seeing more of her on the LET than the LPGA in 2010 after she won full status in their Q-School while getting very partial status on the LPGA (#329 on their priority status list) via their Q-School.
On the Outside, Looking In
19. Nontaya Srisawang.
20. Angela Oh.
21. Sunny Oh.
For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the final 2009 ranking.
2009 LPGA Money List (rank), stroke average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, and how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category (except for birdies, which LPGA.com ranks by total and not by average). I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I don't include putts per green in regulation here. Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future and are worth comparing to Hound Dog's final 2009 total driving and total putting stats.
1. Ji-Yai Shin, $1.81M (#1), 70.26 (#2), 3.97 (#3), 71.4% (#15)
2. Michelle Wie, $918.7K (#14), 70.57 (#9), 4.15 (#13), 70.2% (#21)
3. Anna Nordqvist, $871.8K (#15), 70.78 (#12), 3.48 (#41), 69.5% (#30)
4. M.J. Hur, $445.0K (#31), 72.40 (#55), 3.19 (#53), 61.9% (#113)
5. Vicky Hurst, $305.8K (#44), 71.76 (#30), 3.41 (#36), 69.6% (#26)
6. Stacy Lewis, $298.4K (#47), 72.21 (#46), 3.01 (#44), 68.7% (#38)
7. Mika Miyazato, $284.8K (#49), 72.70 (#75), 2.79 (#58), 65.6% (#76)
8. Haeji Kang, $148.0K (#67), 72.37 (#53), 3.08 (#87), 62.4% (#108)
9. Shiho Oyama, $122.5K (#76), 73.41 (#108), 2.91 (#104), 70.5% (#20)
10. Chella Choi, $100.8K (#86), 72.33 (#69), 2.87 (#83), 67.4% (#53)
11. Mindy Kim, $90.7K (#92), 72.41 (#57), 3.29 (#99), 65.2% (#84)
12. Pornanong Phatlum, $16.1K (#139), 72.38 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
13. Tania Elosegui, $12.9K (#143), 74.50 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
14. Jeehae Lee, $8.2K (#149), 74.68 (#140), 2.24 (#134), 64.0% (#93)
15. Samantha Richdale, $3.7K (#157), 74.44 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
16. Kim Welch, $2.2K (#160), 74.10 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
17. Jessica Shepley, $0K (n.r.), 73.33 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
18. Nontaya Srisawang, $0K (n.r.), 73.50 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
19. Song Yi Choi, $0K (n.r.), 75.08 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
20. Angela Oh, $0K (n.r.), 76.50 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
21. Sunny Oh, $0K (n.r.), 77.25 (n.r.), ? (?), ? (?)
Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events entered/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/withdrawals/disqualifications/missed cuts/finished events (rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Super Sophs haven't been at this all too long, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt both years. What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now--although Thomas Atkins has posted an inflation-adjusted LPGA Career Top 50 as of the end of the 2008 season and a Top 50 ranking over at Hound Dog's place (and recently updated it to a Greatest 100 LPGA Players ranking). In any case, I include these other ways of seeing how the Super Sophs finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. So here's how they stand midway through the 2009 season. Many thanks to the LPGA for updating their 2009 Performance Chart after every event! [Note: *=non-member win; **=3 non-member wins]
1. Ji-Yai Shin, $1.81M (#109), 25/1*/6**/7/12/19/1/0/1/23 (.920)
2. Michelle Wie, $918.7K (#195), 19/0/1/5/8/10/1/0/1/17 (.895)
3. Anna Nordqvist, $871.4K (#205), 17/1/2/2/5/10/0/0/0/17 (1.000)
4. M.J. Hur, $445.0K (#283), 22/0/1/1/2/6/1/0/9/12 (.545)
5. Mika Miyazato, $336.5K (#318), 22/0/0/0/3/4/0/0/6/16 (.727)
6. Vicky Hurst, $305.8K (#330), 21/0/0/0/3/7/0/0/4/17 (.810)
7. Stacy Lewis, $298.4K (#335), 23/0/0/0/2/4/0/0/7/16 (.696)
8. Haeji Kang, $148.0K (#428), 16/0/0/0/1/1/0/0/6/10 (.625)
9. Shiho Oyama, $122.5K (#444), 16/0/0/0/1/1/0/0/9/7 (.438)
9. Chella Choi, $100.8K (#473), 17/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/6/11 (.647)
10. Mindy Kim, $90.7K (#486), 16/0/0/0/0/5/1/0/9/6 (.375)
11. Pornanong Phatlum, $16.1K (#624), 5/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/1/4 (.800)
12. Tania Elosegui, $12.9K (#645), 3/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/2/1 (.333)
13. Jeehae Lee, $8.2K (#672), 17/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/15/2 (.118)
14. Samantha Richdale, $3.7K (#703), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/1 (.250)
15. Kim Welch, $2.2K (#720), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/1 (.250)
16. Song Yi Choi, $0K (n.r.), 6/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/6/0 (.000)
17. Jessica Shepley, $0K (n.r.), 3/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/0 (.000)
18. Nontaya Srisawang, $0K (n.r.), 3/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/0 (.000)
19. Sunny Oh, $0K (n.r.), 2/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/2/0 (.000)
20. Angela Oh, $0K (n.r.), 1/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/1/0 (.000)
Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 12/28/09) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 12/26/09) and rank; International and Non-Member LPGA Wins (as of the end of the 2009 season): This is a way of seeing how those Super Sophs who sometimes or regularly or often compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).
1. Ji-Yai Shin, 9.04 (#2), 69.43 (#6); 24
2. Anna Nordqvist, 7.00 (#7), 69.93 (#12); 0
3. Michelle Wie, 6.28 (#10), 69.64 (#9); 0
4. M.J. Hur, 2.52 (#45), 72.50 (#89); 0
5. Stacy Lewis, 2.26 (#47), 71.90 (#53); 0
6. Mika Miyazato, 1.85 (#60), 72.28 (#79); 0
7. Vicky Hurst, 1.78 (#62), 71.31 (#40); 0
8. Shiho Oyama, 1.31 (#82), 73.74 (#173); 11
9. Tania Elosegui, .88 (#122), 72.06 (#63); 1
10. Haeji Kang, .66 (#151), 72.64 (#101); 0
11. Chella Choi, .65 (#154), 72.55 (#94); 0
12. Mindy Kim, .58 (#178), 73.46 (#151); 0
13. Pornanong Phatlum, .32 (#234), 73.88 (#189); 0
14. Samantha Richdale, .19 (#308), 73.25 (#141); 0
15. Song Yi Choi, .14 (#345), 74.17 (#208); 0
16. Nontaya Srisawang, .07 (#434), 73.96 (#195); 0
17. Jeehae Lee, .06 (#458), 74.73 (#248); 0
18. Kim Welch, .04 (#490), 74.85 (#257); 0
19. Jessica Shepley, .02 (#590), 74.72 (247); 0
20. Sunny Oh, .01 (#617), 75.39 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
21. Angela Oh, n.r., 73.79 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
Next up: I rank the Best of the LPGA in 2009!