Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let's Hear It for the Boys!

Nice to see Ryo Ishikawa, Tadd Fujikawa, and Danny Lee all go under par on the first day of their respective tournaments! Well done, lads! But it's already time to put on the rally caps for Ryo and Tadd over on the JGTO--round 2 is not being as kind to either just yet....

[Update 1 (5/1/09, 7:42 am): Ouch! It's up to Danny now to put up the first and only good # of round 2...Tadd missed the cut and Ryo fell back to the middle of the pack after both blew up in Japan. And not in a good way.]

[Update 2 (5/2/09, 10:54 am): Ryo stayed in the middle of the pack on moving day, but Danny has a great chance for a great finish this weekend at Quail Hollow.]

[Update 3 (5/4/09, 4:39 am): Ryo ended up with a top 30, Danny with a top 40. Nothing to write home about, but every round's a learning experience....]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is Momoko Ueda Tougher Than Juli Inkster?

Earlier this month we found out from Ron Sirak that Juli Inkster was in labor for an entire year, but thanks to the wonders of teh intertubes, we now know that Momoko Ueda is playing in the Crystal Geyser Ladies JLPGA event a mere week after having her wisdom teeth removed. Why is it my Momo-chan news always makes you go, "itai!"?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: Asian-Pacific Edition

It's going to be even tougher to make my hot list, cold list, and just-fine list after this week, as we've finally got enough tournaments played on the JLPGA and LPGA to combine what I've been keeping separate. And pretty soon, we'll have the LET and KLPGA to throw in the mix, too. But for now, here's a still-truncated look at the world of women's golf!


1. Lorena Ochoa: Strangely enough, most bloggers I'm following are at a loss for words after her down-to-the-wire showdown win over Suzann Pettersen in Mexico. Ryan Ballengee joins the chorus bemoaning the lack of tv coverage; Armchair Golfer is so impressed he can't wait for the Michelob Ultra to start (hint: it's not next week); Shane Bacon tries to revive last season's Tiger vs. Lorena meme but ends up taking the swine flu worries angle; Jay Busbee takes the broken-foot caddie route; Geoff Shackelford shows how two photos are worth more than 2K words. Here's a hint, y'all: it's not that she leads the LPGA in victories, winnings, and scoring average. These are the 2 stats that matter. Even with her recent struggles, Ochoa has won 3 of her last 12 LPGA events. And yet, the same score that got her an 11-stroke win last season got her a 1-shot victory this one--and 10 golfers finished within 11 shots of her this time around. There's no doubt she's the best--and hottest--female professional golfer on the planet. But she'll need her A-game to stay there.

2. Angela Stanford: She skipped Tres Marias, so even though she has 3 wins and no finish worse than 15th in her last 11 events, she's no longer the hottest player in the world of women's golf in my book.

3. Ji-Yai Shin: A top-10 and a runner-up finish the last 2 weeks on the JLPGA suggest to me that her game is starting to come around.

4. Cristie Kerr: Ho-hum, another top 5 for her. Her hot streak dates back to last May, for in her last 24 tournaments, she's only finished outside the top 20 twice (her worst being a T34 in China), while garnering 14 top 10s (including 4 in a row), with a win and 2 runner-ups in that stretch. But when's she going to get another win?

5. Sakura Yokomine: She's got a 20-event JLPGA top-20 streak going, with 2 wins, 9 top 5s, and 16 top 10s in that run. The last 3 weeks, she's finished 1-2-3.

Honorable Mention

Suzann Pettersen: I'll update the numbers and ask it again: with 5 top 20s in a row, 4 top 10s, and 3 top 5s, she's got a bunch of great streaks going--can a win be far away?

Ji-Hee Lee: She's only finished in the top 10 in 10 of her last 12 JLPGA events, including 2 wins, a runner-up, and 7 top 5s. Even though her 5-event top-10 streak came to an end last week (T14), the single blemish in that run, a T31, is her only finish outside the top 20 since her missed cut in the opening event of 2008. That's the longest run of great play in the world of women's golf.

Ya Ni Tseng: Fell off the pace on the weekend in Tres Marias, but still tied Kerr for 5th at -16. With a 9-event LPGA top-20 streak and no finish worse than 17th in 2009 on any tour, I'm expecting win #2 any given week.

Karrie Webb: Kept her 6-event top-20 run going, but her top-10 streak ended at 3. Still, any week you go double digits under par is a good week. She's certainly among the world's hottest, what with her win and runner-up already this year.

Yuko Mitsuka: Last season ended well for her on the JLPGA, with 3 straight top-5 finishes and 5 straight top 20s. She already has a win and 2 other top-5 finishes this season, plus she's coming off a T7 last week.


1. Shiho Oyama: No bounce-back on the JLPGA, just another missed cut....

2. Julieta Granada: She broke her oh-fer streak when she made her 1st cut of the season at Tres Marias, but couldn't come close to making it 3 runner-ups in her last 3 times playing there. Still, when your best finish of the year is a T53....

3. Louise Friberg: With her 5th missed cut in 7 official starts on the LPGA in '09, this rookie winner stays at the top of the "sophomore jinx" club.

4. Minea Blomqvist: Finished 50th or worse in 5 out of 6 '09 events. Sure, she's a streaky player and could bounce back big any time, but this long a bad run is unlike her.

5. Shanshan Feng: Still hasn't cracked the top 20 all season, but at least she broke her 2-event MC streak with a T32 in Mexico.

Daijo Bu

1. Na Yeon Choi: Great week at Tres Marias is the right kind of antidote to her recent struggles.

2. Brittany Lang: Yet another strong tournament for her last week--T7 and -15 is pretty awesome, no matter how you slice it.

3. Paula Creamer: Struggling with a mystery intestinal illness, she's playing on guts alone and it's starting to show.

4. Jee Young Lee: Missed only her 2nd top 20 in her last 12 events last week, but has 7 top 10s and 3 top 5s in that stretch, so I'm not too worried.

5. Katherine Hull: Too many bad holes taking away her momentum lately. But could put herself in contention any given week.

Honorable Mention

Ai Miyazato: Bounced back from her only really bad finish in a long time (at the KNC) with a near-miss for a win on the JLPGA and a near-miss for the top 10 on the LPGA in her last 2 events.

[Update 1 (4/28/09, 12:16 am): If I were to do a hot and cold list for the, wait, when it comes to the golfy media, there's no hot list. The SI guys are unreadable and Jason Sobel's so-so at best. They've all made it pretty clear that they won't pay attention to the LPGA until Wie gets her 1st win. Then they criticize the tour for having no "buzz." Um, guys? Your attitude is a big part of the reason for what you're criticizing. Hello!]

[Update 2 (12:42 am): Add Alan Shipnuck to the so-so list. He's right that Lorena's back and that this win had to be particularly satisfying to her. But he's also right that the chase pack is closing on her. If the golfy media were to follow that story starting in May, the LPGA might actually build up buzzy momentum heading into the summer.]

[Update 3 (12:45 am): The AP has spelling problems--it's Brooker and Cristie, y'all!--but at least they get the top story heading forward just right:

Ochoa, who won last year's tournament by 11 shots, didn't have such an easy time on Sunday despite finishing the tournament with the exact same score.

"In a golf tournament, where one [stroke] is enough to win, there is no difference. This is a complicated year, there are many players who want to win, you can see that every week," Ochoa added. "This year, it will be very hard to win by 10. That is why I keep practicing, trying to improve--to remain on top of them."

Bingo! It's a sad day when I point to the AP as a leader in golf writing.]

[Update 4 (4/29/09, 6:10 am): Lorne Rubenstein makes a good case why Canadians, at least, should be paying attention to women's golf!]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Corona Championship Sunday: Ochoa Beats Pettersen Over Last 6 Holes

It all came down to the last 6 holes today in the Corona Championship. With her birdie on the 12th hole, Suzann Pettersen had finally caught Lorena Ochoa at -23. But catching Ochoa and beating her are two entirely different things. The world #1 made back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to take a 2-shot lead heading into the final hole, making Pettersen's walkoff birdie moot. Congrats to La Reina!

Many other players went low--9 were -15 or lower and 16 were -10 or lower--but none could join Ochoa and Pettersen lower than -20. I'll have more details after my delayed connection to Buffalo here at the Philadelphia airport gets me back to western NY!

[Update 1 (4/27/09, 11:01 am): Hound Dog's got more, as do and Jason Sobel.]

Corona Championship Saturday: Pettersen Pulls Within 1 of Ochoa

Once again, Hound Dog has schooled the AP: if you want to know how Lorena Ochoa maintained her 1-shot lead on Suzann Pettersen on moving day at the Corona Championship, the only thing missing from his account is the fact that Pettersen missed a short birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie her.

What you can only get here, though, are the following fun facts:

  • Pettersen is currently riding a 50-hole bogey-free run and on pace to surpass Na Yeon Choi's 52-hole streak that Hound Dog pointed out came to an end on her last 2 holes yesterday. Irene Cho went 40 holes without a bogey, by the way, while Ya Ni Tseng went 39 holes and Ochoa 37. No one else has come close to Pettersen and Choi, although Cristie Kerr could pass the trio behind them if she has another bogey-free round tomorrow. These are the players I'm watching to see if they can chase down Pettersen, at least.
  • Morgan Pressel made an eagle yesterday--how rare is that?
  • Karrie Webb made 4 bogeys in her 1st 8 holes, but bounced back with 5 birdies in her last 11.
  • Don't look now, but Anna Nordqvist passed Michelle Wie and Vicky Hurst and Stacy Lewis are gaining on her. And Lewis closed with 2 bogeys after having pulled even with Wie. The rookies may be waking up!
  • How 'bout that 30 on the back from Charlotte Mayorkas! It included an eagle and a hole-in-one!

Darn it, beat me to some of this. Anyway, I'll be travelling almost all day tomorrow, checking to see if the Mexican authorities shut down the tournament because of the swine flu. Cross your fingers, everyone. We get a global pandemic on top of the economic crisis and who know what's the result?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Saturday: Hurry Up and Wait

You can't quite call what I do with Japanese "reading" just yet, so let's say I'm gathering that the 2nd round of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic has been suspended until 7:00 am Sunday morning. With the leaders just having made the turn, Tamie Durdin has made up a 3-shot deficit on 1st-round leader Chie Arimura, while Ami Shiozaki sits 1 stroke behind them at -4. Bogeys by Durdin and Arimura and a double by Shiozaki--all on the par-4 7th hole--have brought them back to the field. Julie Lu and Shinobu Moromizato are 2 back, Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Yai Shin, and Kuniko Maeda are 3 back, and Asako Fujimoto and Tomoko Kusakabe are 4 back.

Of all the rounds that have been completed, only Akane Iijima's 71 and Ah-Reum Hwang's 72 avoided moving backward, often in a big way, today. In fact, the only players in the field who are currently under par on their rounds are Durdin (-1 through 9) and Moromizato (-1 through 12) and only 5 players are at E on the day, including Ji-Yai Shin and Erina Hara. The cut line will likely fall somewhere between +6 and +9, depending on the scoring conditions when play resumes. Look for an update tonight!

Update 1 (4/26/09, 2:18 am): Well, that was an optimistic estimate of when I'd be free. But how things have changed now that the 2nd round is complete:

1st/-7 Tamie Durdin (68-69)
2nd/-4 Ji-Yai Shin (70-70)
T3/-2 Shinobu Moromizato (70-72), Kuniko Maeda (70-72), Sakura Yokomine (68-74), Ami Shiozaki (67-75)
7th/-1 Yuko Mitsuka (71-72)
T8/E Akane Iijima (73-71), Akiko Fukushima (71-73)
T10/+1 Ah-Reum Hwang (73-72), Miho Koga (71-74), Asako Fujimoto (71-74), Chie Arimura (65-80)

If Yokomine hadn't doubled the 18th, she'd be tied with Shin in 2nd! And what happened to Arimura? Oh, she bogeyed 3 straight holes down the stretch and doubled the last....

T14/+2 Bo-Bae Song (73-73), Sakurako Mori (71-75), Ji-Hee Lee (70-76), Julie Lu (69-77)
T22/+3 Erina Hara (76-71), Hiromi Mogi (72-75), Saiki Fujita (71-76)
T27/+4 Ji-Woo Lee (75-73), Miki Saiki (74-74), Yukari Baba (74-74)
T32/+5 Maiko Wakabayashi (75-74), Nikki Campbell (75-74), Midori Yoneyama (73-76), Esther Lee (73-76)
T40/+6 Mie Nakata (72-78)

The cut line came at +7 and it got a lot of good golfers.

T51/+8 Ritsuko Ryu (78-74), Eun-A Lim (77-75), Ai-Yu Tu (77-75), Hiroko Yamaguchi (73-79), Na Zhang (72-80)
T62/+9 Kumiko Kaneda (75-78), Namika Omata (73-80)
T74/+11 Rikako Morita (77-78), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-80), Ayako Uehara (74-81), Yuko Saitoh (74-81)
T88/+13 Li-Ying Ye (75-82)
T97/+16 Woo-Soon Ko (82-78)
WD Yun-Jye Wei (75-WD), Rui Kitada (76-WD)

Wow, what a tough day!]

[Update 2 (9:08 am): They called it! Last night I noticed they had started playing, but this morning I saw the announcement that Durdin is the winner! Another 36-hole champion on the JLPGA this year--already!]

[Update 3 (6:41 pm): Stuck in the Philadelphia airport, waiting for my flight to Buffalo, so it's a great time to update the JLPGA money list!

1. Yuko Mitsuka ¥25.57M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥25.53M
3. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥21.63M
4. Ayako Uehara ¥19.25M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥18.55M
6. Erina Hara ¥18.29M
7. Tamie Durdin ¥15.05M
8. Ji-Woo Lee ¥11.57M
9. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥11.05M
10. Ji-Yai Shin ¥8.48M
11. Julie Lu ¥8.17M
12. Bo-Bae Song ¥8.05M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥7.80M
14. Midori Yoneyama ¥7.26M
15. Kuniko Maeda ¥7.07M
16. Kaori Aoyama ¥6.61M
17. Miho Koga ¥6.34
18. Rui Kitada ¥5.74M
19. Hiromi Mogi ¥5.69M
20. Yukari Baba ¥5.48M
21. Yuri Fudoh ¥4.85M
22. Yuko Saitoh ¥4.79M
23. Nikki Campbell ¥4.78M
24. Yayoi Arasaki ¥4.38M
25. Mie Nakata ¥4.33M
26. Tomoko Kusakabe ¥4.32M
27. Chie Arimura ¥4.27M
28. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥4.10M

That walkoff double bogey on Saturday cost Yokomine the money-list lead!]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Corona Championship Friday: Going Low

Lorena Ochoa shot her 2nd straight 65 in the Corona Championship today, making her 1st eagle of the tournament to go with her 14 birdies. Suzann Pettersen's 64 made her the only player in the field to actually gain ground on Ochoa, but she's managed to make "only" 12 birdies and has a bogey to offset her eagle, so she's 3 shots back with 36 holes to go. Others getting to double digits under par include Ya Ni Tseng, who's made 13 birdies in her last 31 holes of bogey-free golf, Na Yeon Choi, who joins her at -11 thanks to 9 birdies and an eagle, and Kristy McPherson, who's fired a pair of 68s.

As Hound Dog points out, everyone else in the field is going to need a combination of extraordinary play on their part and help from Ochoa to have a chance to overtake her. It's all fine and dandy that a host of players moved up the leaderboard with sweet 67s, but it's one thing for Karrie Webb and Irene Cho to catch Michelle Wie and Sarah Lee at -9, for Morgan Pressel to catch Eunjung Yi at -8, or for Paula Creamer to catch Ai Miyazato and Jill McGill at -7, and it's another thing to do the same to Ochoa.

If it can be done, though, maybe Tres Marias is the place to do it. If anyone could put together Pettersen's 7-birdie barrage on the back with, say, Alena Sharp's hole-in-one-aided 31 on the front, I doubt even Ochoa would be able to keep her from making up some significant ground tomorrow. When someone playing as well as Katherine Hull can make a double and a triple in her 1st 36 holes, what are the odds that Ochoa can keep her bogey-free run going all weekend? Although it might be just as pertinent to ask whether she has a legitimate shot to break -30 this week...!

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Friday: Arimura's Albatross Lifts Her to the Top of the Leaderboard

Chie Arimura is a 21-year-old in her 4th season on the JLPGA who made the top 15 on the money list in 2007 and got her 1st win in 2008, but has gotten off to a slow start this season, never finishing below par in 5 previous events heading into the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. So I'm sure she appreciates the 2 she made on the par-5 5th hole today, not to mention her 5 birdies that accompanied it. Her 65 lifted her into the lead, but she can't rest on her laurels. Sakura Yokomine, who's finished 1-2 the last 2 weeks on the JLPGA, had a chance to break 30 on the back if she could just birdie the par-4 18th. Instead, she bogeyed it and had to settle for a 68. And there are plenty of other strong golfers within striking distance of Arimura:

1st/-7 Chie Arimura (65)
2nd/-5 Ami Shiozaki (67)
T3/-4 Sakura Yokomine, Tamie Durdin, Makoto Takemura (68)
T6/-3 Julie Lu, Yuriko Ohtsuka, Tomoko Kusakabe (69)
T9/-2 Ji-Hee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, Shinobu Moromizato, Kuniko Maeda, Yoshie Suzuki (70)

T14/-1 Miho Koga, Yuko Mitsuka, Ayako Uehara, Akiko Fukushima, Saiki Fujita, Sakurako Mori, Asako Fujimoto (71)
T25/E Na Zhang, Mie Nakata, Hiromi Mogi (72)
T36/+1 Ah-Reum Hwang, Bo-Bae Song, Akane Iijima, Midori Yoneyama, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Esther Lee, Namika Omata (73)
T50/+2 Miki Saiki, Yuko Saitoh, Yukari Baba (74)
T67/+3 Hyun-Ju Shin, Ji-Woo Lee, Nikki Campbell, Yun-Jye Wei, Maiko Wakabayashi, Kumiko Kaneda, Li-Ying Ye (75)
T79/+4 Erina Hara, Rui Kitada (76)
T86/+5 Ai-Yu Tu, Eun-A Lim, Rikako Morita (77)
T96/+6 Ritsuko Ryu (78)
106th/+10 Woo-Soon Ko

Can Arimura make like Ah-Reum Hwang earlier this season and run away from the field? Or will some of the JLPGA's hottest players make like Yokomine and try to overtake the 1st-round leader?

Corona Championship Thursday: Instant Buzz

Blogging from Minneapolis this weekend and pumped up about the 1st round of the Corona Championship, where Lorena Ochoa's 65 only gave her a 1-shot lead over Na Yeon Choi and Michelle Wie and a 2-shot lead over Sarah Lee, Sandra Gal, Anna Nordqvist, and Eunjung Yi. If a lot of those names aren't familiar to you, you're not alone. Shane Bacon, for instance, doesn't bother mentioning anyone but Ochoa and Wie. Hound Dog, of course, gives his usual comprehensive overview, but fails to contextualize the top of the leaderboard.

Consider this: except for Lee and Ochoa, everyone else there is a rookie or sophomore on tour. Wie needs no introduction, but Choi is the best player on the LPGA without a win, Nordqvist could move up the LPGA priority list in a big way with a good finish this week and in the process do much to make up for a disappointing Q-School last season, and Gal and Yi are due to break through. So, yeah, the level of competition on the LPGA has never been better.

That said, if Ochoa drops another mid-60s round on the field tomorrow, my claim that the era of her effortless dominance on tour is over may be a bit premature. We'll see how many of the 21 players who broke 70 yesterday on the par-73 Tres Marias course can do it the 3 or 4 times they'll need to do it this week to keep pace with a hot Ochoa. But with 33 players within 5 shots of the lead, this is far from over, particularly when you look at some of the scorecards. Katherine Hull fired a 68 despite making a bogey and a double bogey in her final 7 holes. Ai Miyazato birdied her 1st 4 holes and added another one on her 6th hole of the day, but ended up at -4, tied with Anna Grzebien, who made 5 birdies in a row between the 6th and 10th holes, and Karin Sjodin, who made 5 birdies in a row to close out her 2nd 9, the front. Cristie Kerr was -5 and bogey-free heading into her final hole, the par-5 18th, but walked away with a double bogey. She'll get no sympathy from Mollie Fankhauser, though--she was -7 heading into 18 and suffered a walkoff snowman! Meanwhile, In-Kyung Kim saved her stumble for her penultimate hole--her double on 17 dropped her back to -3.

Well, today's a new day. But when 52 players failed to break 75 yesterday, you know the course isn't playing that easy, even if it is a bit softer than in previous years. If the above players have gotten their bad holes of the week out of the way, watch out for them. If not, Ochoa, Choi, Wie, and Nordqvist will have a great chance to separate themselves from even the lead chase pack over the next couple of days. We'll see....

[Update 1 (4/25/09, 10:15 pm): Jay Busbee asks why we can't get the Corona on the telly when the leaderboard is so great. Why not ask ESPN or Golf Channel instead of blaming Bivens for something not under her control?]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recommended Reading: Sirak and Ballengee on Globalization

Ron Sirak and Ryan Ballengee show how interrelated business, sports, and politics are these days in their rundowns of options the major professional golf tours have for coming out of globalization's latest and greatest economic tsunami stronger than ever. I'm particularly glad to see Sirak combining his utopian One World Tour idea with more practical suggestions for coordination of schedules and co-sponsorship of events that I've been floating for a long time. Admittedly, there are huge obstacles to any of this--no matter how great your plans for highlighting the quality of competition in the world of women's golf, will your existing sponsors go along with them and will you be able to draw new sponsors to make it possible?--but I'm hoping this upcoming LPGA summit will unveil a strategy that goes beyond the players of the LPGA being even nicer and more accessible to their fans than they already are. It's nice to see already featuring more human-interest type stories on players who aren't already international stars, but there's so much more to be done.

[Update 1 (4:33 am): Certainly the LPGA should be able to outdo Golf365's rundown of top players and young guns of Korean descent on tour, especially when Matt Cooper leaves Christina Kim off his first list and Amy Yang and Jane Park off his second. But he makes up for it with a great photo gallery. Thanks to Happy Fan for the links.]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Corona Championship Preview/Predictions/Pairings

What a difference a year makes! This time last year, Lorena Ochoa beat down a brave charge by Inbee Park and ended up winning by double digits over Song-Hee Kim as she broke 70 4 times in a row at the Corona Championship, prompting the golfy media to begin wondering about an Ochoa Slam, not to mention the quality of competition on the LPGA. In retrospect, those were the good old days, when Ochoa's great play allowed even the laziest of golf journalists to pretend they were paying attention to the top women's tour in the world. Now, they're not even trying, even as the fantastic competition I was going on and on about this time last year is there for everyone to see.

Just take a look at the strength of this year's field. Michelle Wie is coming back from Korea and Ai Miyazato from Japan to join the rest of the Best of the LPGA (except Ji-Yai Shin, who's staying in Japan at least another week, as well as Angela Stanford, Eun-Hee Ji, Angela Park, Helen Alfredsson, Hee-Won Han, Sun Young Yoo, Lindsey Wright, and Hee Young Park, who have no such excuse). Hound Dog points out how much stronger the field is this season than last, noting that Maria Hjorth is making her return to the LPGA this week after giving birth earlier in the year.

Looking over the tournament history and 2007, 2006, and 2005 results, it's clear the winner's going to have to go low early and often. Here are my picks to do just that:

1. Ochoa
2. Kim Song-Hee
3. Tseng
4. Kerr
5. Webb
6. Pettersen
7. Lee Jee Young
8. Kim In-Kyung
9. Miyazato Ai
10. Lang
11. Creamer
12. Choi Na Yeon

Alts: McPherson, Hull, Pat Hurst

There are a lot of other young players I'm rooting for this week, besides Ai-chan and Inky. I'd love to see Senior Standouts Seon Hwa Lee and Morgan Pressel, along with Junior Mints Jane Park and Inbee Park and Super Sophs Shanshan Feng and Amy Yang, start playing better again. I'd love to see Futures Tour regulars Haeji Kang, Song-Yi Choi, and Angela Oh perform well in the big leagues.

But most of all, I'm curious to see how quickly the elite golfers playing Tres Marias for the 1st time figure out how to go low there. Looking at the pairings, they'll have to learn fast! Probably the most packed prime-time quadrant in terms of momentum and tournament experience goes off the back in the early afternoon:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Alena Sharp
Karin Sjodin
Sarah Lee

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Morgan Pressel
Song-Hee Kim
Meaghan Francella

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Karrie Webb
Taylor Leon
Na On Min

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Michelle Wie
Ai Miyazato
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Kristy McPherson
Brittany Lincicome
Katherine Hull

Pressel, McPherson, Min, Kim, and Francella have put in great finishes here, while Miyazato, Lincicome, Lee, and Sjodin have put in some good ones. But Tres Marias is brand-new territory for Webb, Wie, and Lewis, and Hull hasn't played well in 3 previous tries. Good mix of more and less experience in the late-morning front-side quadrant, as well:

Start Time: 8:36 AM
Marcy Hart
Laura Diaz
Seon Hwa Lee

Start Time: 8:47 AM
Inbee Park
Sandra Gal
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 8:58 AM
Juli Inkster
Louise Friberg
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 9:09 AM
Pat Hurst
Na Yeon Choi
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 9:20 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Cristie Kerr
Shanshan Feng

Newbies Tseng, Kerr, Lee, and Friberg will be trying to keep pace with Pat Hurst, Na Yeon Choi, Prammanasudh, and Pettersen, who have the best record at Tres Marias in this bunch. Going off the 10th at the same time is a very different mix of golfers:

Start Time: 8:36 AM
Anja Monke
Heather Young
Irene Cho

Start Time: 8:47 AM
Jee Young Lee
Jane Park
Katie Futcher

Start Time: 8:58 AM
Louise Stahle
Jimin Kang
Hye Jung Choi

Start Time: 9:09 AM
Allison Fouch
Ji Young Oh
Kris Tamulis

Start Time: 9:20 AM
Lorena Ochoa
Paula Creamer
Silvia Cavalleri

That last pairing is one to watch--both Ochoa and Cavalleri have won the Corona, and Creamer has 1 top 3 here. Rounding out the last of the prime-time quadrants off the 1st tee are some lesser-known and veteran players, many of whom have a pretty decent history here:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Johanna Mundy
Brandie Burton
Young Kim

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Janice Moodie
Teresa Lu
Vicky Hurst

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Michele Redman
Lorie Kane
Il Mi Chung

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Maria Hjorth
In-Kyung Kim
Moira Dunn

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Meena Lee
Nicole Castrale
Wendy Ward

Ward has 2 top 5s dating back to the 1st 2 Corona Championships, Lu has a top 10, and Dunn and Young Kim each have a top 20, while IK Kim and Vicky Hurst are playing Tres Marias for the 1st time.

If you're looking for a real dark horse, though, go with Julieta Granada (7:41 am off #1), who has 2 runner-ups here. Kyeong Bae (1:38 pm off #10) has also gone low at Tres Marias before. Something about this course seems to go well with the Senior Standouts. Hope history repeats itself for them--and that Jee Young Lee's momentum makes a new start for her here this week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

The Corning Classic will be no more after this year (cf. Hound Dog, Ryan Ballengee, Brent Kelley, Golf Girl, and Rosie Jones's reaction for more). So why is Golf Channel doing a better job promoting the Futures Tour than the LPGA? At first I was thinking, "Tom Abbott is a really good golf reporter," but then I realized his story was basically a promo for the new Big Break. It's all about the ratings, baby!

On the bright side, guess who's committed to play in the last Corning Classic? Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Christina Kim, Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis, defending champion Leta Lindley, Jee Young Lee, Eun-Hee Ji, Momoko Ueda, Amy Yang...and Jeong Jang! Yup, looks like she's starting her comeback from wrist surgery in New York state. Here's hoping the rest of the LPGA's best decide to send off the Corning in style.

[Update 1 (4/22/09, 1:00 am): IceCat at Seoul pointed me toward the Michelob Ultra field list, and lo and behold Jang's comeback starts in VA! Crushing another speculation of mine, Ji-Yai Shin, Momoko Ueda, and Shiho Oyama are also listed in this field--no Salonpas Cup for them. But Ai Miyazato's name is not listed in either field right now....]

[Update 2 (1:11 am): Strangely, Ueda's not playing this week on the JLPGA (Shin and Oyama are), but she is on next week's Crystal Geyser Ladies field list. I wonder if she's keeping her options open and trying to qualify for the Salonpas Cup somehow?]

[Update 3 (2:42 am): Ron Sirak has a good story on the state of Creamer's health as she continues to globetrot this spring.]

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: Back to the JLPGA Edition

It's sequel time in this weekly Mostly Harmless feature on the hottest, coldest, and all-rightest players in the world of women's golf. We'll see how many of these JLPGA stars make next week's post-Corona Championship list!


Who are the hottest among the finest? Read on....

1. Ji-Hee Lee: No longer "looking for her 1st win" of '09, like I mentioned last week. Making 4 birdies in your last 5 holes on a Sunday will do that for you!

2. Sakura Yokomine: She was the victim of Lee's charge, but is still on a 19-event top-20 streak, with 2 wins, 8 top 5s, and 15 top 10s in that run.

3. Yuko Mitsuka: Last season ended well for her, with 3 straight top-5 finishes and 5 straight top 20s. She already has a win and 2 other top-5 finishes this season.

4. Erina Hara: She closed out last season with 4 straight top 20s, but no top 10s. This season, she already has 3 top-3 finishes in 5 starts.

5. Ji-Yai Shin: Despite her uncharacteristic final-round 77 last week, she got her 1st JLPGA top 10 in her last 3 starts there.

Honorable Mention

Bo-Bae Song: Having sat out last week's event, she's still riding a 4-event streak in which she hasn't finished worse than 7th. And she's not even putting well in '09 yet!

Eun-A Lim: She, too, sat out last week's event. But with 4 top 5s in her last 6 events of '08 and a T16 and a T9 this season, her lone missed cut is only her 3rd finish outside the top 20 in her last 14 starts.

Miho Koga: Just after I praised her consistency this season, she goes and finishes outside the top 20 for the 1st time! But she still has 2 wins in her last 6 starts, dating back to last season.

Mi-Jeong Jeon: WDed last week after failing to break 80 in bad weather conditions. Still feeling the effects of her 2nd thrown-away victory chance since the last event of 2008. But how many players in the world can say they had 2 such chances in their last 5 events?


This is the list you don't want to be on and especially near the top of--it consists of those golfers who have been playing the furthest below expectations so far in 2009.

1. Akiko Fukushima: Feast or famine last week--mostly famine. She needs to show more than flashes of brilliance to get off the cold list!

2. Shiho Oyama: Brought her frigid play from the LPGA over to Kumamoto, missing the cut in her 1st JLPGA appearance of '09.

3. Miki Saiki: DFL among those who made the cut last week isn't the way to break out of her post-LPGA Q-School funk.

4. Mayu Hattori: Made the cut last week, but still hasn't finished a tournament under par this season and has disappointed since getting her 1st career win and finishing 15th on the money list last season.

5. Yuki Ichinose: Another JLPGA young gun who's underperforming this season, she didn't break 80 last week for her 1st MC of '09.

Daijo Bu

Here's where I keep track of players threatening to break into the hot list.

1. Yuri Fudoh: Bounced back from her MC the previous week with her 2nd top 10 of the season last week--and right off the cold list.

2. Yuko Saitoh: Now riding a 5-event top-20 streak in '09, a nice bounceback from some seriously bad play in the 2nd half of '08.

3. Ji-Woo Lee: Couldn't keep her 2-event top-5 streak going last week, but at least she has a 3-event top-20 run to build onfor next week.

4. Momoko Ueda: Struggled before the home crowd in Kumamoto last week, but still managed a top 10.

5. Ai Miyazato: A threat to win every time she goes back to Japan. Wonder when the next time will be?

Honorable Mention

Ayako Uehara: Two disappointing results in a row drop her off the hot list and all the way down here.

Kumiko Kaneda: Made her 1st professional made cut her 1st professional top 10, thanks to a Sunday charge that took her off my cold list.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Fiddling

What would Sparkychan and Gojochan think?

Louisiana Pelican Sunday: Richdale Wins in 36

Lisa Mickey has the news: Canada's own Samantha Richdale fired a 66 Sunday afternoon at the aptly-named The Wetlands to motor past Christine Song, Danah Ford, and Haeji Kang in the 2nd and final round of the Louisiana Pelican Classic. It was a day of frustration for 1st-round leader Liz Janangelo, who followed up her 65 with a 77 to drop to 9th place, but almost everyone else I'm following on the Futures Tour this season did better in the soft and soggy conditions Sunday. Except, that is, my projected #1, who missed the cut badly and languishes well down the money list. Oh well, there's always next week--and the week after--both in Texas!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Life Card Ladies Sunday: Ji-Hee Lee Roars Past Yokomine Down the Stretch

Korean golfers have been playing great on the JLPGA for a long time, but of late they've been finding the winner's circle harder to find than usual. Ji-Yai Shin hasn't contended since winning the Mizuno Classic, Ji-Hee Lee has found herself in contention several times since she beat Ai Miyazato in the JLPGA's next-to-last major of 2008 but hasn't been able to close the deal, Mi-Jeong Jeon handed wins to Sakura Yokomine last week and Miho Koga last season with late collapses, Hyun-Ju Shin has been playing steadily but not spectacularly since her return from injuries, and Bo-Bae Song has found her game again after losing it in a big way but has really contended only once. But Ji-Hee Lee may just have ended this trend with her amazing comeback in the Life Card Ladies to beat Sakura Yokomine by 1 shot. A walkoff birdie for the wire-to-wire win capped a run of 4 birdies over Lee's final 5 holes that brought her back from way back in the pack.

Most of the day, it looked like the day belonged to Yokomine, who had been cruising despite a 2nd-hole bogey that had dropped her 2 shots behind Lee; she would hold steady at -2 for the rest of the way. And for a long time, that seemed like it would be just fine, as her fellow leaders were struggling mightily. Ji-Yai Shin started the day tied with Yokomine, only 1 behind Lee, but bogeyed 4 holes between the 5th and 10th to drop to +1. Momoko Ueda started the day 4 behind Lee, but also found herself at +1 as she entered the back 9. But as Ueda made her 3rd, 4th, and 5th bogeys of the day on the 12th, 14th, and 15th holes, and Shin made her 5th on the 15th, as well, it became clear they weren't going to threaten Yokomine's lead. Nor, when Lee made her 5th consecutive bogey on the 11th hole to drop to +1, did it seem like she would be a threat, either. And when Erina Hara bogeyed the 8th to fall 4 off the pace and Yuko Mitsuka bogeyed the 10th to fall 2 back, it seemed that not only was Yokomine on track to rack up from her 2nd straight win, but also that she might well end up the only player in the field to stay under par through 54 holes. Sure, Kaori Aoyama had played bogey-free golf over her 1st 11 holes, making 3 birdies in that stretch to battle back to E, but her bogey on the 12th seemed to end her momentum. And Yuri Fudoh fought back to +1 with her birdie on the 10th, but hadn't distinguished herself from everyone else 1 or 2 strokes over par and well back of Yokomine.

Lee's improbable run began precisely where she almost threw the tournament away on Saturday. She had moved backward in a big way on the 12th through 14th, making a pair of bogeys and a double bogey to fall from -6 to -2 at that point in the tournament. But it was a par save on the 396-yard 12th that got her off the bogey train today. She followed it up with a solid par on the 13th, a long par 3, and a birdie on the 14th, a long par 4. Birdies on the short par 4 15th and short par 3 16th pulled her even with Yokomine at -2. By then, Mitsuka was only 1 back after her own birdie on the 14th, while Hara birdied the 14th and 16th to get back to E, but her own walkoff birdie was too little, too late, for anything but a tie for 3rd with Mitsuka at -1, who parred out over her last 4 holes. Lee and Yokomine, meanwhile, traded pars on the long par 4 17th. But, just like on the previous 15 holes, Yokomine couldn't birdie the 456-yard par 5 18th, while Lee made up for her earlier bogeys on the par-5 9th and 11th with a birdie that brought her her 13th career JLPGA victory.

Here's how they ended up:

1st/-3 Ji-Hee Lee (68-72-73)
2nd/-2 Sakura Yokomine (73-68-73)
T3/-1 Erina Hara (76-69-70), Yuko Mitsuka (73-70-72)
5th/E Kaori Aoyama (76-71-69), Yuri Fudoh (73-72-71)
T7/+2 Kurumi Dohi (73-74-71), Ji-Yai Shin (72-69-77)
T9/+3 Kumiko Kaneda (76-76-67), Mie Nakata (73-74-72), Li-Ying Ye (80-65-74), Momoko Ueda (74-70-75)

Great top 10s for Ye and Kaneda, in addition to Aoyama and Dohi. Kaneda made her 1st professional made cut her 1st professional top 10, on the strength of 7 Sunday birdies.

T13/+5 Chie Arimura (73-76-72), Yuko Saitoh (75-71-73)
T19/+6 Ji-Woo Lee (73-73-76)
T22/+7 Maiko Wakabayashi (73-77-73), Rui Kitada (77-72-74), Midori Yoneyama (76-73-74), Yukari Baba (71-78-74), Hiroko Yamaguchi (73-72-78)
T29/+8 Miho Koga (75-71-76), Kaori Higo (72-76-76)
T32/+9 Tamie Durdin (77-74-74)
T35/+10 Ayako Uehara (77-74-75), Mayu Hattori (75-75-76), Julie Lu (68-82-76)
T39/+11 Shinobu Moromizato (73-79-75), Akiko Fukushima (80-69-78)
T44/+12 Akane Iijima (76-74-78)
T48/+15 Sakurako Mori (76-76-79), Miki Saiki (73-77-81)

The money list race is already heating up this season:

1. Yuko Mitsuka ¥23.47M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥22.20M
3. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥20.48M
4. Ayako Uehara ¥19.25M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥17.70M
6. Erina Hara ¥17.70M
7. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥11.05M
8. Ji-Woo Lee ¥11.04M
9. Julie Lu ¥7.32M
10. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.20M
11. Midori Yoneyama ¥6.82M
12. Kaori Aoyama ¥6.61M
13. Rui Kitada ¥5.74M
14. Miho Koga ¥5.19M
15. Hiromi Mogi ¥5.10M
16. Yukari Baba ¥4.95M
17. Yuri Fudoh ¥4.85M
18. Yuko Saitoh ¥4.79M
19. Shinobu Moromizato ¥4.47M
20. Nikki Campbell ¥4.34M
21. Tamie Durdin ¥4.25M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥4.10M

Next up is the Fujisankei Ladies Classic, where Ji-Yai Shin will once again try to return to the JLPGA winner's circle.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life Card Ladies Saturday: Ji-Hee Lee Leads Shin and Yokomine by 1

Ji-Hee Lee got it to -6 at the halfway point of the Life Card Ladies, but a terrible stretch on the back (bogey-bogey-double bogey on the 12th through 14th holes) let many players back into the tournament. The chief beneficiaries were Sakura Yokomine, who went birdie-birdie-par-birdie on the 13th through 16th just as Lee was struggling, and Ji-Yai Shin, who responded with back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th. Just when it seemed we'd have a logjam at the top of the leaderboard, Yokomine birdied the 18th to get to -3. But then Lee battled back with a birdie on the 17th to tie her. And Shin birdied the 18th to tie them. But then Lee birdied the 18th to regain the lead. So even though Momoko Ueda had earlier birdied 3 of her 5 closing holes, she still trailed Lee by 4 when all was said and done. The only other player with a very good shot at victory tomorrow, Yuko Mitsuka, also birdied the defenseless 18th to get back under par for the tournament.

Here's how the top 10 and notables stand as we head into Sunday:

1st/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (68-72)
T2/-3 Sakura Yokomine (73-68), Ji-Yai Shin (72-69)
4th/-1 Yuko Mitsuka (73-70)
5th/E Momoko Ueda (74-70)
T6/+1 Li-Ying Ye (80-65), Erina Hara (76-69), Yuri Fudoh (73-72), Hiroko Yamaguchi (73-72)
T10/+2 Itsumi Okada (75-71), Ji-Woo Lee (73-73)

Pretty awesome move by Ye there. If she could replicate it tomorrow, my guess is she'd win the tournament! I suppose I shouldn't count out Fudoh or Hara, either, but the 5 players ahead of them are going to be tough to pass.

T12/+3 Mie Nakata (73-74)
T20/+4 Miho Koga (75-71), Yuko Saitoh (75-71), Kaori Higo (72-76)
T26/+5 Akiko Fukushima (80-69), Rui Kitada (77-72), Midori Yoneyama (76-73), Chie Arimura (73-76), Yukari Baba (71-78)
T33/+6 Akane Iijima (76-74), Mayu Hattori (75-75), Miki Saiki (73-77), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-77), Julie Lu (68-82)
T42/+7 Ayako Uehara (77-74), Tamie Durdin (77-74)
T46/+8 Kumiko Kaneda (76-76), Sakurako Mori (76-76), Shinobu Moromizato (73-79)

Nice to see Kaneda making her 1st JLPGA cut and most of the other young guns following suit. But so many players moved backward today, led by 1st-round co-leader Lu and defending champion Baba. Even Fukushima, who got to -6 on her round through her first 14 bogey-free holes, stumbled with a double and a bogey as she closed out the front.

T51/+9 Rikako Morita (81-72)
T64/+11 Shiho Oyama (78-77), Woo-Soon Ko (78-77), Nikki Campbell (78-77)
T72/+12 Ai-Yu Tu (77-81), Rui Yokomine (77-81)
T98/+19 Yuki Ichinose (80-83)

The most painful stumble probably belongs to Morita, who doubled her last hole, the 9th, to miss the cut by a shot. The only real big surprises among others who missed the cut were Campbell, who had been playing fairly solidly coming into this week, and Oyama, who cements her status as one of the coldest players on the planet with yet another MC. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of withdrawals today:

Saiki Fujita (76-WD)
Ah-Reum Hwang (77-WD)
Mi-Jeong Jeon (81-WD)
Esther Lee (85-WD)

Except for Fujita, all of them simply disappeared from the leaderboard. Odd.

What's not odd is the fact that 5 of the top golfers from Asia will be battling it out tomorrow. Should be a classic showdown!

[Update 1 (9:30 am): Speaking of classic showdowns, congratulations to Hee Kyung Seo for winning hers on the KLPGA. That makes 7 wins in less than a year there for Seo!]

[Update 2 (4/19/09, 11:12 am): The Japan Times was getting excited abut Yokomine's chances for her 2nd-straight and 11th-career JLPGA victry, but no such luck.]

Louisiana Pelican Friday: Janangelo Shoots 29 on the Front, Leads by 4

Lisa Mickey has the key details about the top rounds of the day at the Futures Tour's Louisiana Pelican Classic, starting with Liz Janangelo's 65. Dave Andrews is no doubt following brand-new pro Hannah Yun this week; her opening 73 was not too shabby on a day only 4 players broke 70 and only 8 others went under par. Me, I'm glad to see Haeji Kang was one of those 4 players, but disappointed that Alison Walshe finished with 4 straight bogeys for her 72, the Thai players I predicted to do so well this season have so much ground to make up this weekend, and Kristie Smith WDed. And where are Mina Harigae and Angela Oh?

[Update 1 (4/18/09, 8:36 am): Oh, there's Harigae, back at E after a 74 yesterday, but having to wait to finish her 2nd round until tomorrow due to dangerous (and soaking wet) weather conditions that stopped play early today. Song Yi Choi has also battled back to E. If they can get some decent weather tomorrow, the course should be soft and we should see lots of birdies!]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life Card Ladies Friday: Ji-Hee Lee and Julie Lu Lead the Way

The 2nd-hottest golfer among the JLPGA's finest was one of only 4 players to go under par today at the Life Card Ladies event in Kumamoto. In fact, the only other player in the entire field to join Ji-Hee Lee in breaking 70 was Julie Lu, and she needed to make 4 birdies in her last 7 holes to do it. A lot of big names have a lot of ground to make up this weekend. Ji-Yai Shin is 4 behind the leaders, Sakura Yokomine and Yuri Fudoh are 5 back, Momoko Ueda is 6 back, and Miho Koga is 7 back. Yup, scoring was high, but you know conditions were brutal when neither Akiko Fukushima nor Mi-Jeong Jeon could even break 80--and Fukushima even eagled the 18th!

Here's how the top 10 and notables stand after round 1:

T1/-4 Ji-Hee Lee, Julie Lu (68)
T3/-1 Yukari Baba, Michie Ohba (71)
T5/E Ji-Yai Shin, Kaori Higo (72)
T7/+1 Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, Yuko Mitsuka, Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Woo Lee, Chie Arimura, Miki Saiki, Maiko Wakabayashi, Mie Nakata, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Kuniko Maeda, Kurumi Dohi, Na-Ri Lee (73)

T20/+2 Momoko Ueda (74)
T28/+3 Miho Koga, Yuko Saitoh, Mayu Hattori (75)
T42/+4 Erina Hara, Akane Iijima, Saiki Fujita, Midori Yoneyama, Kumiko Kaneda, Sakurako Mori (76)
T57/+5 Ayako Uehara, Ah-Reum Hwang, Ai-Yu Tu, Tamie Durdin, Rui Kitada, Rui Yokomine (77)
T76/+6 Shiho Oyama, Woo-Soon Ko, Nikki Campbell (78)
T88/+8 Akiko Fukushima, Yuki Ichinose, Li-Ying Ye (80)
T96/+9 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Rikako Morita (81)
107th Esther Lee (85)

What makes Lu's round particularly impressive is that she only birdied 1 par 5, saving it for her final hole; most of those who kept it near par birdied 2 or more of them. The other thing that distinguished the leaders from the field was the ability to avoid big numbers. Except for a double bogey by Arimura on the 7th hole, a double bogey by Saiki on the 14th, and a triple bogey by Dohi on the 10th--all fairly long par 4s--nobody at +1 or better did worse than a bogey.

With only Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Eun-A Lim, Hiromi Mogi, and Na Zhang among the JLPGA's finest sitting this one out, and with so many top players so far behind, this weekend represents a great opportunity for Ji-Hee Lee to get her 1st win of 2009 and protect her #1 ranking from Sakura Yokomine. It'll be interesting to see if anyone take a big run at her on moving day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recommended Reading: Wie in Korea, Frankenstats Revisited, Jill McGill Brings the Funk

Happy Fan has the lowdown on the first round of the KLPGA's Lotte Mart Women's Open featuring Michelle Wie. Hound Dog has the LPGA's driving and putting numbers for '09 nice and crunched for us. Armchair Golfer has Jill McGill guest blogging. Me, I got nothin'. For the time being, one hopes.

[Update 1 (5:10 pm): I still got zip, but Happy Fan has a Round 2 update.]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Ryan Herrington notes that Amanda Blumenherst won for the 1st time this season and Maria Hernandez for the 4th, while Maria Jose Uribe announced she's leaving UCLA after the NCAA Championships to spend some time at home in Colombia as she prepares to turn pro. Golfweek's on all these stories, too.

Oh, and if you've ever wondered how well NCAA teammates know each other, head on over to Lance Ringler's Room for one of the funniest quizzes evah!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: JLPGA Edition

It's too soon to update my ranking of the JLPGA's Finest--that's for the week before their 1st major of 2009, the Salonpas Cup (featuring Paula Creamer). What I can do now, though, is check in on who the hottest and coldest golfers in the world of Japanese women's golf are, along with those doing fine, thank you.


Who are the hottest among the finest? Read on....

1. Sakura Yokomine: Hasn't finished worse than 6th all season. With her win last week, she's now on an 18-event top-20 streak, with 2 wins, 7 top 5s, and 14 top 10s in that run.

2. Ji-Hee Lee: Also hasn't finished worse than 6th all season, but still looking for her 1st win. Still, she's finished in the top 10 in 9 of her last 10 events, including a win, a runner-up, and 5 top 5s, to go with her 5-event top-10 streak. The single blemish in that run, a T31, is her only finish outside the top 20 since her missed cut in the opening event of 2008. Now that's a hot streak!

3. Miho Koga: Has only played twice in '09, finishing 12th and 4th--which is a lot more consistent but less explosive than her stretch run last season when she sandwiched a missed cut between 2 wins to steal the money title from Ji-Hee Lee.

4. Mi-Jeong Jeon: Hasn't finished worse than 16th all season, with 3 top 10s in 4 starts capped off by last week's disappointing playoff loss--a bad flashback to the end of last season, when she handed a major and a money title to Koga with a bogey-double finish. But at least she's back in contention again after disappearing for virtually all of the JLPGA's stretch run in 2008. I'm hoping it was just a coincidence that her bad play began soon after I ranked her #1 on tour!

5. Yuko Mitsuka: Last season ended well for her, with 3 straight top-5 finishes and 5 straight top 20s. She started off this season with a win and followed up a disappointing end to her top-20 streak with a top 5. So never mind last week's missed cut.

Honorable Mention

Ayako Uehara: She followed up her season-opening runner-up with a win, then nabbed her 3rd straight top 10 of the season before missing the cut last week. Great bounceback from a disappointing 2nd half of last season.

Ji-Yai Shin: Yes, her T15 last week was her worst finish on the JLPGA since an exhaustion-induced 16th-place finish at the last event of '08. But that's only disappointing because her other worst finishes last season were her 3 runner-ups, which just happened to be sandwiched between her non-member win and convincing win at the Mizuno Classic.

Erina Hara: She closed out last season with 4 straight top 20s, but no top 10s. This season, she already has 2 runner-ups to go with her T12 last week. Never mind that missed cut in between--she's definitely among the hottest players on the JLPGA.

Bo-Bae Song: Speaking of bouncebacks, she disappeared for most of last season after a super-hot start to it, until finishing strong with 3 top 10s in her last 4 events. She now has a 4-event streak going in which she hasn't finished worse than 7th. And she's not even putting well in '09 yet!

Eun-A Lim: One of the hottest players on the JLPGA at the end of last season--she finished with 4 top 5s in her last 6 events--she's sandwiched a missed cut between a T16 and a T9 this season, for only her 3rd finish outside the top 20 in her last 14.


This is the list you don't want to be on and especially near the top of--it consists of those golfers who have been playing the furthest below expectations.

1. Akiko Fukushima: Has only played in 1 event all season and finished T38 there. It's her 6th finish outside the top 20 since she got her 2nd win last season, which may not sound that bad, but it's quite a nosedive for any elite JLPGA player, not to mention the one in 2nd place on the career money list.

2. Mayu Hattori: Had a run at the end of last season when she squeezed a win, a runner-up, and 2 other top 5s into 5 events, but she's only managed to finish 1 of 4 tournaments this season, and it wasn't even a good finish.

3. Kumiko Kaneda: One of the hot young things I've been keeping an eye on for awhile now, she hasn't come close to making a cut in her 1st 4 professional starts.

4. Miki Saiki: Struggled mightily for most of '08, but seemed to be getting it back just in time for LPGA Q-School, as she nabbed top 10s in 3 of her last 4 and 5 of her last 8 events on the JLPGA. But she flubbed Q-School and hasn't broken into the top 20 in her 4 JLPGA events in '09.

5. Yuri Fudoh: Barely made the top 10 in her 1st event of the season, then missed the cut in the 2nd. She still knows how to win, to be sure, as evidenced by her tying Koga for most wins on tour in '08, with 4. And yes, that run at the end of the season--when she won twice, had a runner-up and 1 other top 5, and never finished worse than 14th--shows she's still able to string a lot of great events together. But the days of her Annika- or Lorena-like dominance over the JLPGA seem to be over.

Dishonorable Mention

Actually, most of the JLPGA's young guns--from Maiko Wakabayashi, Yuki Ichinose, and Ritsuko Ryu in last year's rookie class to Sakurako Mori, Rikako Morita, Yuki Sakurai, and Mai Arai in this year's--are off to slow starts.

Daijo Bu

Here's where I keep track of players threatening to break into the hot list.

1. Ai Miyazato: Dating back to 2007, she's made the top 10 in 6 of 8 JLPGA starts. But it's her inability to close the deal, despite being in serious contention in almost every one of those top 10s, that defines the player who won 13 times on tour between 2004 and 2006 (and once as an amateur in 2003). She had a great chance to break the streak last week, but couldn't do it. I'm not putting her on the hot list b/c I'm not sure when she's next playing on the JLPGA.

2. Ji-Woo Lee: She followed up her 1st runner-up on the JLPGA with a T4 last week. That's the 1st time in her JLPGA career that she's strung together 2 top 5s in a row.

3. Ah-Reum Hwang: What a difference a week makes! Last weekend, she went 67-65 to run away from the field for her 1st JLPGA win. This weekend, she faded to T37 with a 79-75 weekend showing. But still, what a start for a player who only had 2 Step-Up Tour wins and a late-season runner-up on the big tour to her name until 2009.

4. Hyun-Ju Shin: She was the hottest golfer on tour for a stretch last season when she capped off a 7-event top-10 streak with a win. But injuries forced her to the sidelines for far too long. So it's a good sign that she's got 4 straight top 20s to start the new season, but too soon to tell if she's all the way back.

5. Yuko Saitoh: Also riding a 4-event top-20 streak in '09, a nice bounceback from some seriously bad play in the 2nd half of '08.

Honorable Mention

Nikki Campbell: She really only had a 4-tournament stretch last JLPGA season when she played well, so her solid start this season--2 top 10s in 4 starts, with no missed cuts--is hopefully a sign of better things to come for her.

Hiromi Mogi: It's been either feast (2 top 10s) or famine (2 missed cuts) for her thus far this season. She was steadier last season, but rather unimpressive since her mid-season win. So it's good to see her getting her 1st top 5 since October, but troubling that she's already missed more cuts this season than all of last year.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Further Evidence of Globalization in Women's Golf

Even as the LPGA appears to be fading from network tv--starting in 2010, there are likely to be more LPGA events on networks in Japan than the U.S.--it's actually a great time to be one of the best players in the world of women's golf. With the Corona Championship still a week away, and another week off between it and the Michelob Ultra, many of the tour's top stars are experimenting with a more worldly 2009 schedule than even the LPGA's own. We already know that Michelle Wie will be visiting the KLPGA this week and that Ji-Yai Shin will be spending her 2nd week in a row on the JLPGA. Well, looking ahead on the JLPGA schedule, Shin plans to make it 3 weeks in a row in Japan at the Fujisankei Ladies Classic, in which she'll be playing instead of the Corona Championship. I can't help but think she's gearing up for the Salonpas Cup. But who else is likely to be skipping the Michelob Ultra for the JLPGA's 1st major of 2009?

Momoko Ueda, who's competing with Shin this week on the JLPGA, will also be playing the Crystal Geyser Ladies, the final tune-up before the Salonpas Cup. So even though the tournament organizers haven't yet announced their full field, it's highly likely that Ueda will be in it. Less clear are the plans of Ai Miyazato and Shiho Oyama. The former played last week and the latter is playing this week in Japan, so they still may decide to submit last-second entries to any of the JLPGA's tune-up events and its main event of May. But what the tournament organizers have announced may surprise you: Paula Creamer will be joining 2008 LET money list leader Gwladys Nocera at the Salonpas Cup!

This is a huge deal, as Creamer's vying for the #1 spot on the LPGA money list and the Michelob Ultra boasts one of the biggest purses in women's golf. It's not like Creamer has hacked up Kingsmill, either. Although last season she finished outside the top 10 for only the 2nd time in 4 career starts there, she was in contention for a time on Sunday in 2007 and was in the lead chase pack well behind Karrie Webb in 2006. Maybe she figures that somebody's likely to run away from the field like Karrie did then and Annika did last season--and it's not likely to be her. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as she won a shootout at the Jamie Farr last year and has shown over the course of her career that she's perfectly capable of going low. A more likely explanation is that she wants to get more experience playing in majors. Whatever her reasoning, Creamer will be returning to Asia for the 2nd time in 2009 this May.

Even the LPGA's veterans are getting in the globetrotting act. In what seems like a bid to promote the Solheim Cup in Europe and scout out the likely competition, Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon will be representing the U.S. at the Communitat Valenciana European Nations Cup.

With another big gap in the LPGA schedule coming in August and a limited number of spots on the Solheim Cup, I wonder how many Americans will be joining their international competitors and trying to get into JLPGA, KLPGA, and LET events?

[Update 1 (12:44 pm): Speaking of Momo-chan, she just threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers/Padres Opening Day game.

Now we know why she delayed her visit to Japan by a week.]

[Update 2 (4:44 pm): Holy coincidence, Batman! Happy Fan just posted his 2009 KLPGA primer. Here's hoping he helps the English-speaking world follow all the action there all season! I'm curious to see how many LET events Hee Kyung Seo decides to play this season, as well.]

[Update 3 (4/16/09, 2:27 am): Oh great, just as Anheuser-Busch announces they're expanding their Futures Tour commitments, word comes out that the future of the Michelob Ultra is up in the air! (h/t Dennis at Seoul Funny how Creamer's absence is buried in the notes at the end of the latter link, isn't it?]

Studio Alice Ladies Open Sunday: Yokomine Hauls Down Jeon over Last 4 Holes, Wins in Playoff

Sunday at the Studio Alice Ladies Open started off as a duel between 36-hole leaders Ai Miyazato and Mi-Jeong Jeon. Miyazato, however, peaked at -5 for the tournament after the 6th hole, but bogeyed 4 of her next 6 holes to fall 4 behind Jeon after 12 holes. So it was up to golfers playing in earlier pairings to pick up the slack and try to put some pressure on Jeon. 1st-round co-leader Rui Kitada was one of them. Starting the day in the next-to-last group, she fluctuated between -2 and -3 for the tournament for most of the day, until a birdie on the 399-yard par-4 14th brought her to -3 for good. And Sakura Yokomine was playing even better. Having started the day at even par, she rattled off 3 birdies in her 1st 7 holes, but a bogey in that stretch kept her at -2, where she stayed for the next 7 holes. Others making runs included Ji-Woo Lee (-3 through her 1st 11 holes to get to -1 for the tournament) and Ji-Hee Lee (who fell back to -1 for the tournament as well when she bogeyed the 11th), but they had caught Miyazato, not Jeon, who continued chugging along after a birdie on the par-5 10th hole brought her to -3 on the day and -6 for the tournament. In fact, when she stepped onto the 15th tee, she was 3 up on Kitada and Yokomine, who had birdied that hole a few minutes earlier. But Jeon bogeyed the 15th as Kitada birdied the 16th and Yokomine birdied the 17th, so all of a sudden she sat at -5 and her two challengers were only 1 shot back at -4. It all came down to 18, a 405-yard par 4. Yokomine parred it, Kitada bogeyed it...and Jeon did, too. Playoff time!

The only English-language account of the final round I could find,'s feed to the Kyodo news story, didn't bother to mention Kitada or anything that happened on the climactic 54th hole. Nor did it say anything about the playoff except that Yokomine won on its 2nd hole when she made a 3-footer for par on 18 after Jeon bogeyed it for the 2nd time that day.

Typical pitiful coverage from the people who are supposed to be pros. This is, after all, the 2nd huge collapse for Jeon over the final holes of a tournament that was hers for the taking. At the very end of last season, she gave a gift to Miho Koga, who won the JLPGA's season-ending major and the money title thanks to Jeon's bogey-double bogey finish. This time, another telegenic JLPGA star was the beneficiary of Jeon's collapse. And who deserved it more than Yokomine, who endured an epic fail of her own just over a year ago when duelling with Ji-Yai Shin?

So here are the final results:

1st/-4 Sakura Yokomine (71-73-68) [won in playoff]
2nd/-4 Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-72-71)
3rd/-3 Rui Kitada (69-73-71)
T4/-2 Ji-Woo Lee (74-72-68), Ji-Hee Lee (72-72-70)
T6/-1 Yukari Baba (77-68-70), Bo-Bae Song (72-70-73), Ai Miyazato (69-72-74)
T9/+1 Chie Arimura (72-75-70), Shinobu Moromizato (72-73-72), Eun-A Lim (75-68-74)

T12/+2 Erina Hara (76-69-73)
T15/+3 Ji-Yai Shin (74-75-70), Hyun-Ju Shin (73-71-75), Mie Nakata (71-72-76), Da-Ye Na (73-69-77)
T20/+4 Yuko Saitoh (73-72-74)
T23/+6 Maiko Wakabayashi (74-77-71), Nikki Campbell (75-72-75)
T27/+7 Saiki Fujita (76-71-76)
T30/+8 Yuki Ichinose (75-76-73), Na Zhang (74-74-76)
T34/+9 Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-74-77)
T37/+10 Ah-Reum Hwang (72-79-75), Esther Lee (74-75-77)
T46/+12 Tamie Durdin (76-71-81)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥20.48M
2. Yuko Mitsuka ¥18.92M
3. Ayako Uehara ¥18.78M
4. Sakura Yokomine ¥16.04M
5. Erina Hara ¥13.15M
6. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥11.05M
7. Ji-Woo Lee ¥10.32M
8. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.20M
9. Julie Lu ¥6.85M
10. Midori Yoneyama ¥6.19M
11. Rui Kitada ¥5.11M
12. Ji-Hee Lee ¥5.10M
13. Hiromi Mogi ¥5.10M
14. Miho Koga ¥4.63M
15. Nikki Campbell ¥4.34M
16. Yukari Baba ¥4.32M
17. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥4.10M
18. Shinobu Moromizato ¥4.06M

Next up is the Life Card Ladies, where Ji-Yai Shin will try her luck on the JLPGA once again. This time she'll be joined by fellow LPGAers Momoko Ueda and Shiho Oyama (but apparently not Ai-chan, darn it!), as well as JLPGA superstars Yuri Fudoh, Akiko Fukushima, and Miho Koga.

[Update 1 (12:58 pm): Looks Japanese tv made the same mistakes as their English-language print media:

Wouldn't you think they'd want to show a couple of the key shots down the stretch?]

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Apparently Bill Benzon, who has all the privileges of the author function here at Mostly Harmless, was too embarrassed to post this himself:

Yes, it's Carson and Rickles at a Tonight Show studio onsen in 1968--I truly have no shame. And on the morning of the most sacred Sunday in the world of golf.

As penance, I'm linking to Uncle Bill's robo-subaltern post over at The Valve.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Studio Alice Ladies Open Saturday: Miyazato and Jeon Share the Lead

Mi-Jeong Jeon looked like she was on track to finish stronger today than the bogey and 12 pars she made to close out yesterday's round--quite a let-down from her 4-birdies-in-five-holes start to the Studio Alice Ladies Open--as she made birdies on the 6th and 11th holes to open up a 2-shot lead on Ai Miyazato, who could only manage a birdie and a bogey--quite a let-down from her 6-birdie Friday--through her 1st 14 holes. But even though Ai-chan held steady with an even-par round today, she still finds herself tied for the lead, as Jeon bogeyed 2 of her last 4 holes to drop back to -3.

Several players took advantage of the co-leaders' struggles to move into position to contend tomorrow. Yukari Baba's 68 (including the lowest score on the back in the tournament, a 33) lifted her to T11 at +1, where she joined Erina Hara (69) and Shinobu Moromizato (73), among many others; Eun-A Lim's 68 lifted her into a tie for 6th with Mie Nakata (72); and Da-Ye Na's 69 pulled her into a tie for 3rd with Bo-Bae Song (70) and 1st-round co-leader Rui Kitada (73), just 1 shot behind the co-leaders. Even though they didn't do anything special today, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, and Hyun-Ju Shin are only 3 shots out of the lead.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

T1/-3 Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-72), Ai Miyazato (69-72)
T3/-2 Da-Ye Na (73-69), Bo-Bae Song (72-70), Rui Kitada (69-73)
T6/-1 Eun-A Lim (75-68), Mie Nakata (71-72)
T8/E Hyun-Ju Shin (73-71), Ji-Hee Lee (72-72), Sakura Yokomine (71-73)

In fact, given how tough the back is playing, I'd say anyone within 6 shots of the lead has a legitimate chance if they can break 70 tomorrow or make a final charge on the back 9.

T11/+1 Yukari Baba (77-68), Erina Hara (76-69), Yuko Saitoh (73-72), Shinobu Moromizato (72-73)
17th/+2 Ji-Woo Lee (74-72)
T18/+3 Saiki Fujita (76-71), Tamie Durdin (76-71), Chie Arimura (72-75)
T24/+4 Na Zhang (74-74), Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-74)
T33/+5 Nikki Campbell (75-72), Ji-Yai Shin (74-75), Esther Lee (74-75)
T43/+7 Yuki Ichinose (75-76), Maiko Wakabayashi (74-77), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-79)

Very surprising to see Shin down there near the cut line; she's now shot 3 straight sides over par. Almost as surprising was seeing last week's winner Hwang going in the wrong direction in a big way on moving day. But at least they made the cut, something neither Yuko Mitsuka nor Ayako Uehara could accomplish despite their hot starts to the 2009 season--until this week.

T54/+8 Woo-Soon Ko (75-77), Ayako Uehara (74-78), Mayu Hattori (74-78)
T66/+9 Yuko Mitsuka (80-73), Midori Yoneyama (77-76), Sakurako Mori (76-77), Rui Yokomine (75-78)
T73/+10 Akane Iijima (81-73), Miki Saiki (80-74), Hiromi Mogi (79-75)
T85/+12 Rikako Morita (81-75), Kumiko Kaneda (76-80)
Yun-Jye Wei (82-WD or DQ)

So heading into the final round, this could end up being a free-for-all or a photo finish between the few golfers who pull away from the lead pack. I'll be rooting for Ai-chan all the way!

[Update 1 (4/13/09, 12:17 pm): The Daily Yomiuri has more details on the conditions the players struggled under Saturday.]

Happy News from Happy Fan

In his updates on the first KLPGA event of the season over at the Seoul Sisters discussion boards--which was won by one of the 5 players on tour named Jung Eun Lee--Happy Fan announced that he'll start blogging on KLPGA events. It just so happens that his first time will coincide with Michelle Wie's 1st KLPGA appearance of 2009. So be sure to check out his Seoul Sisters blog next week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Studio Alice Ladies Open Friday: Miyazato Shares Lead with Jeon and Kitada

Yup, I'm referring to the LPGA's own 33rd-ranked Ai Miyazato, who bounced back from last week's horrible Kraft Nabisco Championship and shrugged off this week's jet lag to fire a fine 69 today at the Studio Alice Ladies Open. She shares the lead with JLPGA regulars Mi-Jeong Jeon and Rui Kitada, the only other players to break 70 in the field.

And what a field it is! Sure, there's no Yuri Fudoh, Miho Koga, Momoko Ueda, Akiko Fukushima, or Shiho Oyama, but the rest of the JLPGA's finest are there, including the returning Na Zhang and the visiting Ji-Yai Shin. Too bad for Ai-chan she followed up three-hole birdie trains on each side with a 3-hole bogey train down the home stretch.

But she wasn't the only player to suffer on the back. Kitada was -5 and playing bogey-free golf through her first 14 holes, so of course she bogeyed the par-3 15th and par-4 17th to close out her round. And Jeon cooled off fast after making birdies on 4 of her 1st 5 holes. After a bogey on the par-4 6th, she rattled off 12 straight pars. In fact, the best round on the back belonged to last week's winner, Ah-Reum Hwang, a bogey-free 34...marred only by a crushing walkoff double bogey. And Shin? A 39 on the back dropped her all the way back to T18. Even with a late double, Zhang made up a stroke on Shin on that side to match her 74. So we know the course isn't playing easy....

Here are the top 10 and notables:

T1/-3 Ai Miyazato, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Rui Kitada (69)
T4/-1 Sakura Yokomine, Mie Nakata, Natsu Nagai, Yui Mukaiyama (71)
T8/E Ji-Hee Lee, Bo-Bae Song, Shinobu Moromizato, Chie Arimura, Ah-Reum Hwang, Azumi Katoh (72)

T14/+1 Hyun-Ju Shin, Yuko Saitoh, Da-Ye Na (73)
T18/+2 Ji-Yai Shin, Ayako Uehara, Na Zhang, Maiko Wakabayashi, Mayu Hattori, Ji-Woo Lee, Esther Lee, Hiroko Yamaguchi (74)
T36/+3 Eun-A Lim, Nikki Campbell, Yuki Ichinose, Woo-Soon Ko, Rui Yokomine (75)
T51/+4 Erina Hara, Saiki Fujita, Tamie Durdin, Sakurako Mori, Kumiko Kaneda (76)
T67/+5 Midori Yoneyama, Yukari Baba (77)
T82/+7 Hiromi Mogi (79)
T87/+8 Yuko Mitsuka, Miki Saiki (80)
T94/+9 Akane Iijima, Rikako Morita (81)
T100/+10 Yun-Jye Wei (82)

Mitsuka, one of the hottest players on tour coming into this event, accounted for 40% of the triples in the field--of course, both came on the back.

Lucky Imoto!

Turns out nobody in the Constructivist household shares a birthday with an active LPGA member. Except imoto, who turns 3 this month. If anyone can correctly guess who it is, I'll mail you an autographed piece of original imoto artwork. To make it easier for my regular readers (all 5 of you!), I'll throw out one other hint: she comes from the same state imoto was born in! To protect imoto's identity, I'm closing comments on this post--email me your contest entry at the coordinates listed in my profile.

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.