Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 LPGA Preview: The Rest of the Top 80

The race to secure full status on the LPGA will be more intense than ever in 2010. I can't tell you how hard it was to round out the rest of the top 80 after putting together my projected top 30 and next 20 the last 2 days.

51. Shiho Oyama
52. Stacy Prammanasudh
53. Mariajo Uribe
54. Nicole Castrale
55. Marianne Skarpnord
56. Pat Hurst
57. Gwladys Nocera
58. Kyeong Bae
59. Mina Harigae
60. Wendy Ward
61. Angela Park
62. Maria Hernandez
63. Meena Lee
64. M.J. Hur
65. Paige Mackenzie
66. Beatriz Recari
67. Julieta Granada
68. Shi Hyun Ahn
69. Meaghan Francella
70. Shanshan Feng
71. Haeji Kang
72. Allison Fouch
73. Jimin Kang
74. Katie Futcher
75. Moira Dunn
76. Sarah Lee
77. Janice Moodie
78. Grace Park
79. Young Kim
80. Na On Min

[Update 1 (2/1/10, 5:30 am): Jamie's not-quite-top-30 post at Snap Hook Herald made me realize I totally blanked on Brittany Lincicome. Knock everyone on this list down a spot, as I'll call her my #51 in 2010. Of course she has the talent to prove me way wrong, but so do a lot of players on this list who hit the ball a lot straighter than she does and perform a lot more consistently.]

Friday, January 29, 2010

Momo-chan and Ryo-kun Team Up Against Chie Arimura and Yuta Ikeda

And guess who got top billing on Japanese tv? The JLPGAers, of course!

Check out the blindfolded par 3 approach shots in part 2:

Even if you understand less Japanese than I do (which is saying a lot!), you still get the picture. It was cold and Ueda was hot! I'm telling you, watch out for her this season!

But give Ishikawa credit for stealing the show with his impression of Shingo Katayama's pre-shot routine (and post-shot reaction)!

Can't wait to see what he's got on the West Coast swing....

[Update 1 (2/3/10, 3:36 am): Check out Golf Girl's post on Ryo-kun's arrival in the States!]

[Update 2 (2/5/10, 2:17 pm): Here's Shane Bacon on Ryo-kun and Rory McIlroy. Wish he'd work as hard at identifying up-and-coming LPGA stars!]

2010 LPGA Preview: The Next 20

So who was I most hesitant to leave off my projected top 30 on the LPGA in 2010?

31. Stacy Lewis
32. Se Ri Pak
33. Hee Young Park
34. Christina Kim
35. Amanda Blumenherst
36. Jane Park
37. Mika Miyazato
38. Lindsey Wright
39. Azahara Munoz
40. Helen Alfredsson
41. Inbee Park
42. Jeong Jang
43. Candie Kung
44. Sandra Gal
45. Ji Young Oh
46. Tania Elosegui
47. Teresa Lu
48. Juli Inkster
49. Pernilla Lindberg
50. Mi Hyun Kim

Wow, that 2nd 10 was harder to decide on than I anticipated. May as well round out my picks for the top 80 tomorrow!

[Update 1 (2/1/10, 5:27 am): Jamie at Snap Hook Herald profiles some of the players who just missed his projected top 30 in 2010.]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SunCoast Series Update: Lewis Beats Gal

Just as I predicted, the showdown between the 2 previous winners on the SunCoast Series, Meredith Duncan and Maria Hjorth, fizzled this week at West Orange, as both blew up in the final round. Stacy Lewis, fresh off my leaving her out of my projected LPGA top 30 in 2010, played the steadiest among the rest of the field, beating Sandra Gal by 3 shots in the end.

Just as at Rio Pinar, Hannah Yun played solidly the 1st 2 rounds, but struggled in the final one. Still, she ended up T5 with Hjorth and Cindy LaCrosse (for the 2nd week in a row), for 3 straight top 5s to kick off the 2010 season. It was also nice to see Na On Min putting up 2 solid rounds so early in the season. She's going to be playing a full LPGA schedule this year, thanks to a medical exemption.

2010 LPGA Preview: The Mostly Harmless Top 30

Following in rjay's and Hound Dog's footsteps (as usual, it seems, but hopefully not in results in this year's LPGA Prognostication Derby), here are my preseason picks for the top 30 on the LPGA in 2010:

1. Ai Miyazato
2. Ji-Yai Shin
3. Lorena Ochoa
4. Michelle Wie
5. Paula Creamer
6. In-Kyung Kim
7. Na Yeon Choi
8. Song-Hee Kim
9. Seon Hwa Lee
10. Ya Ni Tseng
11. Suzann Pettersen
12. Cristie Kerr
13. Angela Stanford
14. Karrie Webb
15. Morgan Pressel
16. Brittany Lang
17. Kristy McPherson
18. Vicky Hurst
19. Amy Yang
20. Katherine Hull
21. Anna Nordqvist
22. Eun-Hee Ji
23. Sun Young Yoo
24. Momoko Ueda
25. Hee-Won Han
26. Jee Young Lee
27. Maria Hjorth
28. Karen Stupples
29. Sophie Gustafson
30. Natalie Gulbis

For my reasoning, check out my sidebar. Next up: my preseason picks for #31 through #50. I'll tell you what--all of them could end up on the top 30 instead of 20 of the players on this list!

[Update 1 (2/2/10, 12:58 am): Here are #26-#30 predictions from Jamie at Snap Hook Herald.]

[Update 2 (12/29/10, 8:50 am): Linking to Bill Jempty's picks to get ready for scoring next month. Anyone else participated?]

[Update 3 (8:54 am): Here's Verdant Garden!]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Whoo-hoo! Sybase Match Play in 2010? Awesomeness!

Read all about it!

[Update 1 (8:55 am): Here's Stephanie Wei's reaction.]

[Update 2 (10:21 am): And here's Brent Kelley's.]

[Update 3 (10:45 am): Randall Mell's summary of how the 64-player field will be put together shows how smart Mike Whan is. By having the Bell Micro Classic the week before serve as a qualifier for those who fell outside the top 48 on last year's money list--in 2 ways, as the top 10 at the half-way point and the top 4 on this year's money list after the conclusion of the event get all but the last 2 spots, which are sponsor exemptions--the LPGA encourages players with dual memberships to come back to the States for that 2-week stretch in mid-May.

Looking at the worldwide schedule more closely, it's still likely most with JLPGA membership will be in Japan from the conclusion of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April, skipping Tres Marias in late April in order to play a 5-event run culminating with the tour's 1st major, the Salonpas Cup. But instead of staying in Japan for the rest of May, it's more likely now they'll accept a little break before and after the 2-week run in Alabama and NJ and the meat of the tour's U.S. schedule in June and July.

As for those with dual LPGA-LET membership, with no LET events in April, either, it's now unlikely they'll choose Europe in May over the LPGA. That gap in the LET schedule between the Turkey-Germany run and the Ladies Slovak Open is going to look a lot worse compared to the Alamaba to NJ commute.]

[Update 4 (1/28/10, 5:37 pm): Hound Dog sees the addition of the Sybase as good news, but maybe he'll upgrade it to great when he considers that only the top 48 spots in the 64-player field are based on past performance (and that all 48 players may not choose to tee it up, either) and that the LPGA is probably waiting on the KLPGA to announce their 2010 schedule before sharing news about the dual-sponsored event.]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tim Maitland's Interview with HSBC's Giles Morgan

Return of the Champions!
Tim Maitland

The world's top female golfers return to Singapore this February for the third edition of the HSBC Women's Champions. Following on from the success of its brother event in Shanghai, which become Asia's first World Golf Championship event last November, the world's local bank can claim to have created two of the most significant professional tournaments in golf's most vibrant region, according to Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.

Q: There's more bad news than good for golf when it comes to sponsors at the moment, but with the HSBC Champions becoming a WGC tournament, Phil Mickelson winning in Shanghai and almost all of the top women players committed to Singapore again, you seem to be one of the few sponsors who are buoyant. Why is that?

A: HSBC believes that sponsorship is a very powerful investment to develop our business and brand internationally and around the world. Within our golf portfolio in Asia over the last three or four years we've seen a significant development of our business and our brand through our golf sponsorships, so something that we believe very strongly is that prudent sponsorship, targeted sponsorship--where we have very clear objectives and very clear measurement of those objectives--can be of benefit to our business.

Q: When you announced WGC status and increased the prize money by US$2 million, it was going against the trend of the overall market. Now it must look like a wise decision, doesn't it?

A: It was the investment that was required to bring a World Golf Championship to China and to Asia, in terms of the prize fund required to be a World Golf Championship and also the fund needed to become a major, major golf tournament--it's one of the top 10 tournaments in the world--and therefore required a certain level of investment that needed to be made. That coupled with the fact that we are the biggest international bank in Asia and this is the biggest golf tournament in Asia, was a very logical business partnership to make. While it required a significant investment, we do believe it paid off.

Q: Is that what your measurement of the sponsorship is showing?

A: The measurement for the first WGC, as a rudimentary rule of thumb, is that we’ve pretty much doubled everything that we set out to achieve in terms of spectators, international media coverage and so on. We're still waiting for data from our business, which you'd expect because that takes longer to come through, but on the more traditional sponsorship metrics that companies use to evaluate success there has been a huge shift in all of those areas, particularly around the TV, both locally and internationally, the local media coverage as well as spectators coming along.

There's also the field, which as everyone knows was an astonishing field. To have the world’s number one and number two walking down the fairway in the final group on the final day really was the icing on the cake.

Q: Your sponsorships haven't been completely untouched by the economic downturn though. The prize money of the HSBC Women's Champions is down. Would you say it has been downgraded or does it still stand as the best women’s event in Asia?

A: We believe it is the best. As you've heard with some of the recent announcements of the players who will be competing, I think we're going to see a field that is virtually identical to 2009 with the additional bonus of having Michelle Wie playing, which is great for women's golf and particularly for women's golf in Asia. I think she'll be a source of inspiration to a lot of women who aspire to watching or playing the game. I think the tournament investment mirrors the economy that we are in right now. We did need to have a long, hard look at the return on investment. Women's golf is a fantastic product but doesn't enjoy quite the same level of international exposure and therefore we had to realign the investment, but it's still a very significant investment that we make within the sport. I think the event in the last week of February will be as special, if not more so, than the previous two events.

Q: So you don't think the reputation of the tournament has been affected?

A: No. The fact that we have been able to attract possibly an even better field this year is a recognition in the sport that it needed to realign and refocus its sights during what have been horrifically difficult trading conditions around the world. I'm sure the sport and women's golf is grateful to have a partnership with someone like HSBC and will look to use that as a foundation to start growing their model as the world's economies hopefully improve.

Our level of investment for the tournament, outside prize money, is the same. So there will be the same look and feel and the same quality for the spectators and TV viewers. We've reduced the prize fund, but we're still investing to give our customers and potential customers the experience that we believe women's golf can provide.

Q: Effectively the value of LPGA events went down dramatically last year because they were unlucky enough to find themselves more exposed than most to the downturn than any of the other tours. But the other tours are going to find out how the value of their events has changed as contracts come up for renewal in the next year or so, aren't they?

A: Golf is an expensive sport to sponsor and companies will have to cut back. We've certainly had to be prudent. There isn't a sport in the world that hasn't been affected by it. What is encouraging when you see the Asian spring swing coming up with our event and the Honda event is that there are still some fantastic LPGA events and there is still strength in their calendar. I have no doubt that in the next two or three years, as the world bounces back from economic meltdown, that their product is strong enough; they've got some wonderful, wonderful golfers and some wonderful talent. It'll pick up, I have no doubt, and that's why we didn't want to pull out.

Q: Do you think that the LPGA is leaner, more effective and more attractive to potential sponsors because they took so much of their punishment in one go?

A: One of the benefits of downturn and tough economic times, and this is true in life, is that people dramatically reevaluate what is important. It gets people to really focus. And I think the LPGA will be a better and stronger organization because of what they went through in 2009. They've been fantastic to deal with over the last eight or nine months. They've been incredibly understanding and that's helped us continue our partnership. It's that kind of forward thinking that will really help them and I think their partners too going forward.

Q: What are your thoughts for your other golf sponsorships in 2010?

A: I'm looking forward to 2010 very much. We've got the HSBC Women's Champions coming up and the investments in Singapore around that. The first WGC-HSBC Champions really was a great success for us and I think there's an enormous appetite from people in the golf community in and around Shanghai to see the next tournament. I was speaking to some of the players in Abu Dhabi (at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship in January) and they've been saying what a magnificent tournament it was and how much they're looking forward to coming again in 2010.

One of the other exciting things is the energy and excitement that Olympic status for golf has created, particularly in China. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the HSBC China Junior Golf Program evolves this year and in the next few years. So yes, I think the future is rosy for us in our golf portfolio and in Asia.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Recommended Reading: tatkins's Frankenstats

Since the end of the 2009 season, I've been trying to provide useful tools for those who want to prepare for the 2010 LPGA Prognostication Derby. You can check the various Hitchhikers' Guides on the sidebar if you're so inclined. But I can't recommend highly enough the ranking system tatkins has been creating, developing, refining, and extending over at Hound Dog LPGA. My predictions come out this Thursday and I guarantee I'll be making use of tatkins's stats. Don't miss out on them!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How's Paula? Creamer Pulls Out of SunCoast Series Event

It's only the pre-season for the LPGA's stars, so let's not make too much of this, but this coming week was supposed to be Paula Creamer's competitive debut for 2010. It's not, though. She's not in the pairings sheet for the SunCoast Series's West Orange event.

Of course, the 1st thought that occurs to my suspicious mind is that this is an early indicator of the state of her health this coming season, which, my regulars will no doubt recall, was the main reason I ranked her only the 3rd-most likely player to get off my list of the best on the LPGA without a major. Good thing for Paula her 1st published interview of 2010 was with Mike Walker--she didn't have to answer any tough questions about her health from him.

With Paula sitting this week out, the biggest story of the 1st round will be the pairing of the previous 2 weeks' winners. Meredith Duncan won at Rio Pinar and Maria Hjorth at Forest Lake, each without the other in the field. I'm also quite interested to see how Hannah Yun handles playing with Stacy Lewis and Haeji Kang. She's gone from being paired with Moira Dunn and Meredith Duncan 2 weeks ago to playing with Maria Hjorth, Jane Park, and Sandra Gal last week, and has gone over par only once in her 1st 6 competitive rounds of 2010. In going under par twice, she hasn't yet broken 70, but she's been playing solid golf, finishing 3rd (+1) and T5 (-1). Both Dave Andrews and Happy Fan have identified Yun as a player to watch on the Futures Tour, so let's see how she plays in the biggest field of the pre-season thus far.

[Update 1 (2:48 am): About that Hjorth-Duncan showdown...let's just say their recent tweets aren't raising my expectations for what they'll bring to the course this week!]

[Update 2 (6:30 pm): From Creamer's tweets today, she doesn't sound at all concerned about her health. She's focused on going out to watch the Vikers-Saints game. Phew!]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Recommended Reading: Hound Dog on Indicators of Rookie Success

Not much time to do more today than pass along a link to Hound Dog's analysis of rookie resumes since 2001 to see what accomplishments before joining the tour are the best predictors of success on the LPGA. I hope Bo Bae Song, winner of the 2009 Mizuno Classic, reads it and decides to become a member, because according to HD's analysis, she would have better odds as a non-member winner on tour than either Mina Harigae (Futures Tour #1) or Amanda Blumenherst (Q-School medalist) to make the top 40 in his year-end ranking for 2010.

Be on the lookout for his sequel on what this might mean for the entire rookie class of 2010. My gut feeling is that this class is very deep in top-80-caliber players, any number of whom could break into the top 40. Let's see what he thinks!

Friday, January 22, 2010

SunCoast Series Update: Hjorth Hot at Forest Lake

As I mentioned before, the field for the SunCoast Series event at Forest Lake this week was a strong one, headlined by Maria Hjorth, Jane Park, and Sandra Gal. While Gal struggled to make the top 10 and Park had to settle for a 4th-place finish, Hjorth went 68-68-66 to beat Noriko Nakazaki by 9 shots. That's as many sub-70 rounds as everyone else in the fields of the 1st 2 SCS events have produced! Let's see if newbies Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis, last week's winner Meredith Duncan, or one of the other SCS regulars can hang with Hjorth next week at West Orange.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Come One, Come All: 2010 LPGA Prognostication Derby

In 1 week, for the 3rd year in a row, I'll predict the top 30 players on the LPGA in the coming season, ranked by their probability of winning Player of the Year, in a tradition not-quite-unlike any other that was started and named by Hound Dog, and won by him in 2009 after he finished 2nd in 2008. Want to join in? It's easy!

You can you can post it on your own blog and send me the link over email(my coordinates are in my profile), you can email your top 30 to me and I'll post it for you here at Mostly Harmless, you can make like rjay and do a fanpost over at Hound Dog LPGA, or you can post your top 30 at the Seoul thread I've started. Don't be shy--give it a try! Just be sure to get your predictions in before the 1st event of the LPGA's season begins in Thailand!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Does JAL's Bankruptcy Mean the End for Ai Miyazato's Endorsement?

Uh-oh, just found out that JAL has filed for bankruptcy. Forget whether they end up partnering with Delta or American: the real question is, does this mean they will no longer be endorsing Ai Miyazato?

Bad decision for them if they stop now, just when she's poised for her best season ever!

Wie to Close out Winter Term at Stanford with a Study-Abroad Component

Add Michelle Wie to the list of LPGA stars--including Lorena Ochoa, Ji-Yai Shin, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, and Natalie Gulbis--who have committed early to the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand season-opening event, according to Randall Mell. (If anyone conversant in Thai would care to translate the daily video updates on the tournament web site, please let me know!) So after Wie plays in Thailand and Singapore at the HSBC Women's Champions event, I'm wondering if the organizers of the ANZ Ladies Masters will try to snap her up for a quick jaunt Down Under....

[Update 1 (11:33 am): Head on over to Asian Golf Daily for more on Wie's 1st appearance at the HSBC.]

[Update 2 (12:32 pm): drops some more names of SE Asian swing participants, including ones we've known about like Juli Inkster and ones we've expected like Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, and Na Yeon Choi.]

[Update 3 (12:36 pm): I think it's safe to assume that all the LPGAers who qualified for the HSBC Women's Champions event will be tuning up in Thailand the week before, eh?]

[Update 4 (1/21/10, 7:03 pm): Ji-Yai Shin is a sophomore at Yonsei University in Korea? News to me!]

Jennifer Song to Turn Pro After Curtis Cup

Beth Ann Baldry reported yesterday that USC's Jennifer Song, recent winner of a Seoulie for Clutch Performance of the Year from the Seoul Sisters blog for her victories at the WAPL and U.S. Women's Amateur last year, will be turning pro after the Curtis Cup in mid-June. I assume she'll be dividing her time between the Futures Tour and the LPGA events that she can get sponsor exemptions into.

By waiting that long, Song can get into at most 9 FT events, which makes it very unlikely she'd be able to make the top 5 on their money list. This means that her best bet to avoid Q-School is to earn enough in the LPGA events she gets into to make the top 80 on their money list, which would give her Category 10 priority status for the 2011 season. Of course she could just go ahead and win an LPGA event, but that's easier said than done. Most likely we'll see her in Category 11 in 2011. Let's see if she can beat the odds!

[Update 1 (1/21/10, 11:21 PM): Ryan Herrington reports Song is one of 7 amateurs invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's 1st major of 2010.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best on the LPGA without a Major

As with my other pre-season wins-based rankings, the following tiered and ranked list of the best on the LPGA without a major is ordered partly by how well the golfers on it were playing in the 2nd half of the 2009 season and partly on their annual and career achievements. It's 33% expectations, 33% speculations, and 33% hunches, of course, but hopefully it's better-informed than the now-classic Paula Watch and soon-to-be-classic Wie Watch. Oh, and the numbers in parentheses are for LPGA wins and international wins (only from the JLPGA, KLPGA, LET).

Most Likely to Break Through in 2010

1. Ai Miyazato (1/15): 2009, her 1st full healthy season since she was a rookie in 2006, was much more of a return to her normal game than a hot streak. Even in the face of her injuries and their aftermath from mid-2007 to mid-2008, she's still finished in the top 10 in a major each of the 4 seasons she's been an LPGA member--and both years she was healthy she got 2. With Player of the Year firmly in her sights for 2010, she's bought a house in the U.S. and started training in Phoenix. Like Jason Sobel, I expect great things from her this coming season, particularly in the majors. More on that later!
2. Na Yeon Choi (2/4): Barring last season's wind-swept Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she ballooned to T40, her worst finish in a major as an LPGA member has been T21 and she's made the top 10 in half her starts, including her last 3 in a row. And she accomplished all that before she broke through for her 1st and 2nd wins of her short LPGA career in the last third of last season. Watch out for her in 2010!
3. Paula Creamer (8/2): Her LPGA bio page fails to note her 2 JLPGA wins in 2005, which is odd, because they got featured on that year. I mention this to belabor the obvious: as most players in the Double Digits Club in worldwide wins have won at least 1 major, she's just the slightest bit due for her 1st. Since becoming an LPGA member in 2005, her only finish in a major outside the top 25 was in the 2006 LPGA Championship and she's finished inside the top 10 in 40% of her starts, including her last 2 in a row. Given that record, the only reason she's not #1 on this list is the uncertain status of her health in 2010. [Update (7/11/10): Congrats to Paula for being the 1st player in 2010 to graduate from this list. Look for a new version tomorrow, reordered to reflect how everyone's actually playing this season!]
4. In-Kyung Kim (2/1): In her last 6 majors, her worst finish has been T28 in the winds at the 2009 KNC; everything else has been a top 20 or better, including 2 T3s at consecutive U.S. Women's Opens. Her season-ending win in Dubai shows she's capable of beating major-quality fields. And that came at the end of a run after her win at the State Farm where she uncharacteristically mixed 4 missed cuts in with many strong tournaments. Imagine what she's capable of when she's rested and prepared for a new season!
5. Michelle Wie (1/0): As much as her rookie season exceeded my expectations, her performance in last year's majors was nowhere near her 7 close calls from 2003-2006, including 6 top 5s. Look for her to rectify that in 2010, although it's still an open question how early her season will start and how rusty she'll be when her winter term (carrying 20 credits at Stanford) ends.
6. Angela Stanford (4/0): Her best chance to win a major to date came in the 2003 U.S. Women's Open, but Hilary Lunke answered Stanford's 27-foot birdie with her own walkoff birdie to win the 18-hole playoff instead. Since then, she's had 10 top-25 finishes in majors, including 2 top 5s at the LPGA Championship. She may have cooled off a bit from her hot streak at the end of 2008 and start of 2009, but she's definitely got the game to win a major in 2010.

The Contenders

7. Song-Hee Kim (0/0): With top 25s in 5 of her last 6 majors, she's got the talent and the game to make her 1st LPGA win a major. I'm talking Cristie Kerr-style talent and game. Let's see if she can catch her in 2010 in total majors won.
8. Seon Hwa Lee (4/3): One of the main reasons she finished so low on the money list in 2009, barely hanging onto the top 30 after being a top 5 threat the previous 2 seasons, was her uncharacteristically bad performances in last year's majors, including a WD at the U.S. Women's Open and an MC at the Women's British Open. Whereas her worst performance in 2008 was a T27 at the U.S. Women's Open, her best in 2009 was a T30 at the wind-blown KNC. Still, last season's overall performance stats were near her career norms and she's going to be able to stay sharp this one by filling out her schedule on the JLPGA. She's shown she can handle big-time pressure, beating Ai Miyazato in the last Women's World Match Play Championship and running up one of the best head-to-head records in international team play ever. I'd love to see the Stone Buddha in the hunt on more than 1 major Sunday this season. As she followed up her 2 top 20s in the 1st 2 majors of 2006 with 2 top 10s in them in 2008, the numbers are in her favor in 2010 (not to mention the Chinese zodiac).
9. Brittany Lang (0/0): She's finished inside the top 40 in 8 of her last 9 majors (the only blemish being a missed cut at the 2008 WBO). She still hasn't improved on her T2 finish (with fellow then-amateur Morgan Pressel) in the 2005 U.S. Women's Open that Birdie Kim won with a walkoff slam dunk from the sand, much less her 1st professional major, a T8 at the KNC. But she's long and straight enough to contend in any major and just needs to have a good putting week to make her 1st LPGA win a major.
10. Sophie Gustafson (5/18): Even though she's played about the same high-quality golf (if rather inconsistently so) over the past 4 seasons and change, the last 2 haven't been as kind to her when it comes to the majors. Compared to 4 top 10s in a 7-major run from the end of 2005 to the middle of 2007, her best recent finish has been a T16 at the 2009 LPGA Championship. But coming off yet another LET money title, she's coming into 2010 with a lot of confidence and gearing up for an early-season charge.
11. Jee Young Lee (1*/2): She's struggled the last 3 majors, after establishing 1 of the best records in them among LPGA's Young Guns, with 3 top 10s capped by a T2 in the WBO in 2007 and no finish worse than T22 between the 2006 LPGA Championship and the 2009 KNC. Her falloff last season, though, was much more severe than Seon Hwa Lee's and she'll need a big comeback in 2010 to put herself back in most conversations about this season's contenders for majors.
12. Momoko Ueda (1*/8): She's been working harder on her game than almost anyone on the LPGA since she joined it in 2008, but unfortunately the results didn't really start to show last season until after she had taken a big step backwards in the majors from her rookie season. Still, she's made 9 straight cuts in majors and is certainly ready to win outside Japan.
13. Katherine Hull (1/0): 2 top 20s last season, including a T8 in the wind at the KNC, show what she's capable of. I've heard on the grapevine that Dean Herden, Ji-Yai Shin's caddy, thinks Hull is on track for a win in 2010, so I emailed him for a quote. I'll insert it here when he gets back to me.
14. Hee-Won Han (6/2): Back when she was among the very best players in the world from 2003-2006, she had 10 top 25s in the majors. But 3 of her best 4 career finishes in them have actually come since her son Dale was born, including a T6 at the windy 2009 KNC (the 2nd in her last 4 starts there) and a T9/T3 combo in the last 2 Women's British Open. Count her out at your own risk!
15. Maria Hjorth (3/5): Don't be fooled by that dip in her majors output in late 2008 or her late start to the 2009 season--both were strictly a pregnancy effect. Now that she's put her maternity leave behind her by getting stronger with each start in 2009, she's ready to be the kind of player again who averaged 2 top 10s a year in 2007 and 2008--although I doubt she'll improve on that T2, 4th, 2nd run from the '07 WBO to the '08 U.S. Women's Open. Her T11 in last season's WBO shows what she's capable of, though.

Quantum Leap Candidates

16. Kristy McPherson (0/0): Her worst finish in the last 6 majors she's qualified for was T34 at the U.S. Women's Open; the rest were all in the top 25, capped off by T2 at the KNC, T5 at the LPGA Championship, and 7th at the WBO last season. So she's already shown she has what it takes to contend--can she close the deal in 2010?
17. Sun Young Yoo (0/0): She's made the cut in 6 of her last 7 majors, a fitting companion to her late bloom on the LPGA relative to most of her Young Gun-generation peers. Even though her best finish in a major (and only top 20) was T12 at last season's KNC, she's been putting up impressive performance stats over the last 2 seasons. Like Lang, she just needs her putter to get hot the right week this season to make her 1st LPGA win a major.
18. Hee Young Park (0/4): She's the kind of fearless, aggressive, and unfortunately inconsistent player who you wouldn't expect to play a U.S. Women's Open or a WBO all that well. But her 3 best finishes in majors in her career have all come in the last 2 seasons at these events--T9 stateswide and T14/T11 across the pond. So maybe she's finding better ways to minimize the damage when she gets into trouble.
19. Amy Yang (0/3): A T9 at last year's LPGA Championship is the only hint she's shown in the majors of her prodigious talent. I'm high on her chances to transfer her success on the LET over to the LPGA--with her game, it could happen as easily in a major as not.
20. Vicky Hurst (0/0): Her best--and only--finish in a major came in last year's WBO (T28), but be patient. Her rookie season was certainly better than Song-Hee Kim's, and look where Kim is on this list with 2 more full LPGA seasons under her belt.
21. Candie Kung (4/0): Her solo 2nd to Eun-Hee Ji at last year's U.S. Women's Open was the best performance in a major of her career, but let's not forget that from late 2002 through 2006, she was a regular in the top 30, finishing inside it in 10 of 17 starts, including 7 top 10s and 2 top 5s in that run. So if she can come as close as she did to graduating from this list in 1 of the worst seasons of her career, what if she returns to her career norms--or peaks--in 2010?
22. Christina Kim (2/0): Even though she had an uncharacteristically weak Solheim Cup year, her best performances in last year's majors outdid her best previous season (7th at the KNC and T3 at the WBO vs. T8 in the KNC and T6 in the LPGA Championship in 2004). So let's see if end her 4-season victory drought in a 2010 major.
23. Stacy Lewis (0/0): Her best finish in a major last season--T9 at the LPGA Championship--her only finish in the top 45 out of all of them--wouldn't have felt like quite such a letdown if she hadn't finished T3 at the KNC in 2007 and T5 at the U.S. Women's Open before she joined the LPGA. Can she play up to her expectations in 2010?
24. Natalie Gulbis (1/0): From late 2004 through the 2006 season, she made the top 20 in majors 9 times in a row, including a run of T5, T4, T8, and T3 in 1 calendar year from the LPGA Championship to the KNC. If she's healthy in 2010, I don't see why she can't continue to approach this level of play again.
25. Mi Hyun Kim (8/11): Another player who is overdue for a major, having averaged well over a top 10 per season in them over her 1st 10 on tour. Let's see how motherhood treats her game before we move her up this list, though.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 7-Up

I'm curious as to which players from my previous wins-based rankings can join the best of the LPGA's best on this list, and how quickly. Will anyone have the kind of wins explosion this coming season that Annika and the #1 player here became famous for? Or will it be more of the steady climb that's characterized the #2 and #3 players here? After the Hall of Famers, there are very few active players who've made it to double digits in career victories left on the LPGA--and very few of them who are still viable threats to add to their totals in 2010. Who will be the next to join the Double Digits Club? Stay tuned!

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. Lorena Ochoa (27/2): If 2009 was a down season for the world #1, she's 1 of the 5 best players in LPGA history. Not only did she win her 4th-straight Player of the Year award and Vare Trophy, 2009 was her 5th multiple-win season in her 7-year career on the LPGA and her 6th-straight season in the Million Dollar Club. The only pertinent question for 2010 is how much longer she can remain Queen of the LPGA Hill, now that she's married and has to be thinking about when to add to her new family. To augment her standing in LPGA history, though, she will need to win more majors and have more multi-million dollar seasons with 4 wins or more. After 2010, she needs 2 more full seasons to enter the LPGA Hall of Fame. Will she hold off on having a child of her own until after 2012? Or will she try to add to her legend before then by becoming one of the few moms on tour to keep winning regularly?
2. Paula Creamer (8/0): Even though she didn't win in 2009, she made it her 5th-straight season in the Million Dollar Club and, according to tatkins at Hound Dog LPGA, she had the 3rd-best season on tour (behind only Ochoa and Cristie Kerr) when you consider performance stats alone. So if she's healthy in 2010, I see her having a multiple-win season, particularly if she putts like she's capable of.
3. Cristie Kerr (12/1): Let's see how she bounces back from letting a couple of majors, the Player of the Year award, the Vare Trophy, and the money-list title slip through her fingers in 2009. I see a little bit of a letdown in the 1st half of 2010 for her. But I'd be shocked if she failed to join the Million Dollar Club for the 7th-straight season and failed to win in 2010. If she's going to qualify for the Hall of Fame, though, she'd better pick up the pace!

The Contenders

4. Karrie Webb (36/7): During her 1st 11 seasons on the LPGA, she was a consistent threat for the money-list title (which she took 3 times), Player of the Year award (twice), and Vare Trophy (3 times, the lowest scoring average of the 3 coming in 1999, at 69.43). In her 14-year LPGA career, she's never finished outside the top 30 on the money list, never had a scoring average above 72, only twice failed to make the top 20 on the money list (these were the only times her scoring average rose above 71.50), and only 3 times failed to enter the winner's circle (each of those seasons, her best finish was 2nd). The thing is, all 3 of those seasons came in the last 5 years, which raises some nagging doubts about 2010. A key for her this coming season will be continuing to improve her driving accuracy, as she did in 2009. Giving herself better looks at the green will translate into more and better birdie opportunities and could reignite her putter, which has been her Achilles heel since the 2007 season.
5. Se Ri Pak (25/5): From 1998-2004, she was one of the 3 best players in the world of women's golf, racking up 22 golds, 14 silvers, 6 bronzes, and 83 top 10s in all. She won the Vare Trophy in 2003 with a 70.03 scoring average, but not in 2002 with a 69.85 one or in 2001 with a 69.69 (thanks, Annika!). She was a 4-time silver medalist on the money list and 2-time bronze medalist during this stretch. She hasn't been quite that dominant since then, but she won her 5th major in dramatic fashion at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship and became a 5-time winner of the Farr in 2007, the year she was inducted into the Hall of Fame. With her driver getting back on track in 2009, all she needs in 2010 is for more putts to drop to show the cohort of "Dragon Ladies" inspired by her 1998 U.S. Women's Open victory a thing or 2 about winning on the LPGA. [Update 1 (5/16/10, 11:45 pm: Well, that was quick!]
6. Helen Alfredsson (7/1): Her scoring average in 2009 was her 4th-lowest ever, even better than some from 1992-1995, when she was a fixture on the top 20. As long as she stays healthy, I don't see any reason why she shouldn't notch her 3rd-straight top 40 season in 2010, which would be the 2nd-longest streak of such consistently strong play in her 18-year career on the LPGA.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Mi Hyun Kim (8/0): First it was knee surgery, then pregnancy, and now it's motherhood for my fave among the old school Seoul Sisters. She was a regular on the top 10 for her 1st 9 seasons on tour, but the last 2 have been struggles, at least on the course. I'm not optimistic about her chances of adding to her victory total in 2010, but I do think she will return to the top 40 on the money list.
8. Juli Inkster (31/7): Randall Mell reports she's optimistic about her putting from the work she's been putting in with Dave Stockton and has committed to the LPGA's 1st 4 events of the 2010 season. If her stroke holds up under tournament conditions, she could do very well during this trial run at a full schedule. Her ballstriking in 2009 was as good as it was in 2005-2006.
9. Laura Davies (20/4): She still needs 2 more points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame, but Hound Dog's evidence that she's lost her distance advantage over the last several years suggests to me he's right that it's going to be very difficult for her to win again on the LPGA. As usual, she'll be going Down Under early in the season, so let's see if she can rekindle the magic from her great come-from-behind win at last February's Women's Australian Open in 2010.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

10. Rachel Hetherington (8/0): A very badly broken ankle from a skateboarding accident will push the start of her 2010 season back and apparently it's made her start thinking about how long she wants to keep playing professionally. Here's hoping she recovers quickly and rededicates herself to her game--she's one of the few players who can boast about beating Annika more than once in head-to-head competition. From 1999-2004, she was a regular on the top 20 and a top 10 threat; even from 2005-2008, she was typically a top 40 player. One bad season and one big injury should not spell the end of her career. I'd love to see her make a big comeback in 2010!
11. Sherri Steinhauer (8/2): She's coming back from hip surgery and it's an open question whether she'll pick up where she left off before injuries interrupted her 2008 season, when she had been on a 4-season run in which she had notched 3 victories, including her 2nd Women's British Open. The odds are against her, but even early in her comeback she's already won a senior major, so don't count her out just yet.
12. Meg Mallon (18/4): She's made only 25 cuts in 40 starts over the last 4 seasons, but she still sits at #85 on the 2010 priority status list, thanks to her exercising her Career Top 20 exemption option. Can she turn things around and speed up her run at the LPGA Hall of Fame over the next 2 seasons? The only hopeful sign is that she's improved her accuracy off the tee the last 2 years, but as she's lost almost 10 yards off the tee and maybe more with her irons from her great 2004 season, when she finished 4th on the money list, she just hasn't been giving herself enough good birdie chances to stay competitive on tour lately. Her scoring average has been over 72 since 2005, so it's not looking good for her in 2010.
13. Liselotte Neumann (13/1): She's had even more trouble making cuts than Mallon recently (only 4 made cuts in 26 starts over the last 2 seasons), but also retains a good position on the 2010 priority status list (#87), thanks to a Career Top 20 exemption. Unlike Mallon and like Lorie Kane, though, this is the last year she's eligible for it, so let's see if 2010 will be her swan song or the year she put off her last stand for another season.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

SunCoast Series January: Duncan Wins Rio Pinar, Strong Fields at Forest Lake and West Orange

The SunCoast Series is starting to heat up, as more and more golfers kick off their 2010 seasons down in Florida this month.

Last week, Meredith Duncan shot 3 straight 70s at Rio Pinar to run away from Kendall Dye, Hannah Yun, and Taylor Leon. It's a good sign for Duncan, who's slipped down to #158 on the LPGA's priority status list. My old golfing buddy Moira Dunn was quite a bit rustier, but no worries!

This week, Maria Hjorth, Jane Park, Sandra Gal, and Taylor Leon are headlining the Forest Lake field. But don't overlook LPGA rookies Misun Cho, Christine Song, and Cindy LaCrosse or Futures Tour favorites Hannah Yun, Briana Vega, and Su A Kim. Pretty sweet for Yun to be paired with Hjorth and Gal!

The following week at West Orange, Lorie Kane, Paula Creamer, and Stacy Lewis join in the fun, along with soon-to-be ex-Senior Standout Katie Futcher, soon-to-be Senior Standout Na On Min, and soon-to-be Super Sophs M.J. Hur and Haeji Kang. They'll have to be ready to play, as Maria Hjorth and Hannah Yun will be making it 2 and 3 weeks in a row, respectively.

Looks like the Florida weather is back to normal, so we'll get a better sense of what kind of game everyone is bringing into the new season in the next 2 weeks than last one....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm Liking What I'm Seeing from Those Writing on the PGA Tour Lately

But maybe that's because those writing on the men's tour have been facing a situation somewhat similar to the post-Annika LPGA while Tiger's "indefinite leave" winds down. Here's Jaime Diaz considering what Geoff Ogilvy's win at the SBS Championship portends for competition on the Tigerless tour and Cameron Morfit focusing on the tour's young guns in a SONY Open preview. Practically ever since I started blogging here, I've been extolling the benefits of close competition from a large number of relatively evenly-matched players and focusing on the global youth movement reshaping women's golf. Is it too much to hope for that if golf writers get used to doing this for the men, they'll start paying more attention to the women in 2010? Probably so. But a guy can hope, right?

Friday, January 15, 2010

ANZ Ladies Masters Commitments Watch

I've been arguing that many women golfers are going to be frontloading their schedules in 2010, loading up on early-season LET and JLPGA events whenever possible. Well, lo and behold, the LET's overview of who has committed to the ANZ Ladies Masters supports my point nicely. Sophie Gustafson will be playing for the 1st time in 6 years in the event that moved this year to follow right after the LPGA's HSBC Women's Champions.

Others confirmed to be heading Down Under the 1st week of March include Anna Nordqvist and Laura Davies, with further international commitment announcements coming soon. They'll be joining Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, defending champion Katherine Hull, last year's runner-up Tamie Durdin, the JLPGA's Nikki Campbell, and the rest of the international Australian contingent, many of whom are starting their 2010 seasons at the end of the month in the Royal Canberra Ladies Classic on the ALPG. However, with the JLPGA's kickoff event scheduled for the same week as the ANZ Ladies Masters and its 2nd event going against the Australian Women's Open the next week, I don't expect to see any non-Aussies among the tour's top players in Australia this year, except for perhaps Ji-Yai Shin, who's been training there once again during the off-season.

Speaking of Korean golfers, the KLPGA gets 15 spots, by contrast with the JLPGA's 4. Already confirmed by the Korean press are Ha Neul Kim, 2009 Rookie of the Year Shin Ae Ahn, and 3rd-year player Hye Youn Kim. More on this as I find out more!

[Update 1 (9:45 am): Randall Mell reports that Juli Inkster has committed to the 1st 4 LPGA events of the season and is optimistic about her putting from work she's been doing with Dave Stockton, but no word on whether she'll try to get a sponsor's exemption into any of the Australian LET events. If she's not playing Down Under, I'm pretty skeptical that she'll play a full LPGA schedule in 2010. Let's see how she plays--and putts--in thse 4 events, though.]

[Update 2 (9:07 pm): Happy Fan over at Seoul notes that Hee Kyung Seo and So Yeon Ryu, the top 2 golfers on the KLPGA in 2009, have been quoted in the Korean press as saying they plan to play in Australia. Be sure to check out the progress of the "Seoulies," his year-end awards, at the Seoul Sisters blog.]

[Update 3 (1/20/10, 11:06 am): The next wave of international commitments was announced yesterday. It makes me wonder if Ji-Yai Shin won't be playing there this year, as the headliners in the press release are the new major winners to have committed: Eun-Hee Ji and Brittany Lincicome. The other new names mentioned are Suzann Pettersen, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, Hee Young Park, M.J. Hur, Stacy Lewis, and Christina Kim from the LPGA and Hee Kyung Seo from the KLPGA. Still haven't seen a preliminary field list, so it's not definite Shin will be resting, training, or playing on the JLPGA instead. It's just odd that she hasn't committed yet when so many others have....]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tim Maitland on Ji-Yai Shin's Prospects for 2010

It's neat to see Tim Maitland coming out with another feature on Ji-Yai Shin around the same time that Happy Fan awarded her the Seoulie for Heartbreaker of the Year over at the Seoul Sisters blog.

Ji-Yai Shin: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet!
Tim Maitland

21-year-old Korean sensation Ji-Yai Shin missed out by one shot on becoming only the second woman ever to win both the LPGA's Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year titles in 2009. As she prepares for the 2010 LPGA season and the defence of her HSBC Women's Champions title in Singapore she does so with the feeling that last year was almost the first backward step in her short career. Tim Maitland reports.

By anyone's standards, Ji-Yai Shin had a great year last year.

She won the rookie title at a canter, finished atop the LPGA's money list with over US$1.8 million, added two other LPGA wins to her HSBC Women's Champions title, which she clinched with two near-faultless rounds of 66 on the weekend, and found time to add another win on the Japan Tour. She missed out on matching Nancy Lopez's achievement in 1978 of claiming the Player of the Year title by one shot on the final hole of the final day of the final tournament.

By anyone's standards, Ji-Yai Shin had a great year--except by the standards she's already set for herself.

"It looks like a really, really great season, but inside--in my golf--it was not perfect," said Shin after another hot day in the subtropical sun of Australia's Gold Coast, following her winter migration from frigid Seoul to prepare for the 2010 season in sub-tropical Queensland.

"To other people it looks like 100 per cent but, for myself, it was a 70 or 75: too many mistakes. In 2008 I was more consistent. There was a really big difference; it was more like 99 out of 100. I've been having really good season each year for the last four or five years. In my three years in Korea my golf was really consistent. Moving to the States and having to travel a lot more, feeling so tired, having some worries about my English and everything, I felt I had big ups and downs."

That feeling is backed up by her stats. In 10 LPGA events in 2008 she had three wins including her first Major at the British Open and six top-ten finishes. In 25 events in her first full-season she had three wins and finished in the top ten 12 times--impressive still, but not at the same pace she set for herself when she first announced herself to the golf world.

"In 2008 she was always close to the lead and a lot of the times she was in the top five going into the last round. That defines how good a season you're having. Not the number of wins," says her caddie of the past two seasons Dean Herden.

"In 2009 we didn't have as many opportunities. The end of the season summed up that she'd played too much golf."

The fact that a 21-year-old can be less than satisfied despite topping the LPGA's money list on her first full season on the tour is a sign of just how much the girl known in Korea as "The Final Round Queen" and "The Little Angel" has achieved in a short career that has seen her become the first woman to win all of Korea's Majors in the same season, smash the Korean LPGA's career earnings record in just 30 tournaments, and become the first Korean in LPGA history to take the LPGA's money-list title.

"To have a slight sense of disappointment after one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the LPGA shows how much of her potential Ji-Yai has already realised. Watching her win last year was a treat for Asia's golf fans. I'm sure they're hoping can put on another display like last year's in Singapore this February," said HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan.

"We had Shin earmarked as a potential winner of the HSBC Women's Champions long before the first tournament was held and the emergence of talented young Asians, the young Koreans and especially her age-group--the Dragon Ladies--was one of the factors considered when we moved our golf sponsorship from the U.S. to Asia. It wasn't a surprise to us when she finished seventh and leading Korean in 2008 and the only surprise about her winning in 2009 was that she was so far behind after two rounds," Morgan added.

The Shin Ji-Yai who emerges when the 2010 season starts with the Asian spring swing in February and returns to Asia in late October will be leaner, fitter and stronger after deciding with McRae on a radical change of approach for her pre-season camp. Gone are the 10-hour days on the driving range that Shin and the rest of her ultra-talented 1988-born Year of the Dragon age-group were weaned on. Instead, her training has been far more focused on physical preparation, so as she and fellow Dragon Lady Ji-Young Oh winter on the Nicklaus-designed Lakelands Golf Club in Merrimac, among the rivers and creeks that wind around behind the beaches that made Surfers Paradise famous, she is spending an unprecedented amount of time without a golf club in her hands. The aim is to avoid a repeat of the agony of losing that player of the year title by failing to birdie the 72nd hole of the season-finale LPGA Tour Championship.

"It was very, very frustrating! I think I was almost in tears when I watched it fall apart," says Ji-Yai’s Australian coach Steve McRae.

"But I knew it was always going to be tough to beat Lorena, given she's such an athlete and very, very fit. Her back end of the year was very good and I knew where Ji-Yai was heading. Basically she was going downward because she had just played too many events and it all caught up with her. It was close and it was exciting, but in one way it was disappointing because she's good enough to have achieved the thing that only Nancy Lopez has done before."

Not only did Ji-Yai run out of steam at the end of 2009 but, again, by her own lofty standards, she was struggling even as the year began. She proves this by her description of her mindset before she stormed around Tanah Merah to win the HSBC Women’s Champions with a weekend of near-perfect shot making. Three weeks before, for the first time in her entire life she had missed a cut--in the season-opening SBS Open in Hawaii--and then had failed to get into contention at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

"I was nervous. I felt pressure. I was afraid," she admits candidly.

"The first and second day [of the HSBC Women's Champions] was so-so. I tried to change my feeling in my body, but my confidence was already gone. My confidence was zero. I realized I had to change my mind[set]. After the Friday round, I decided I had to think about my winning times. I had to find my winning feeling. I needed that and I was thinking a lot on Friday night. On the Saturday the feeling came back. It was a really simple game that day; seven birdies and one bogey. I just made it a simple game. My shots were so good and I made a lot of birdie chances."

The next day she lived up to the "Final Round Queen" nickname by overhauling Katherine Hull despite the Aussie having a three-shot lead at the turn.

"The biggest thing on Sunday was making birdies on the first four holes; a 15-foot putt on the first hole, on the next hole 22 or 23 feet. I missed the green on the third hole, and was trying to make par, but in my practice swing it just felt like I could make it. The hole looked really big. It looked open. The hole was calling my ball 'C'mon, c'mon! Come in!' The next hole, number four, is a tough hole. I hit a five or six iron to about 20 feet, but I had the same feeling. The hole was calling my ball 'Come in!' and when it went in I thought 'Wow! Maybe I can get close to a win today.' I was thinking that already. I had so much confidence in my shots and I got more aggressive and made everything. There were lots of Koreans watching me and Mi-Hyun Kim. They were calling 'nice birdie' and 'good job Ji-Yai' so my feelings got even higher and I kept that good feeling for all 18 holes to win. I felt like the Final Round Queen. My score was telling me that. On Sunday, I had tension, but it was good tension. It can sometime make it hard and cause more pressure, but that Sunday it felt very light. Since winning the HSBC, every time I see one of their banks anywhere in the world I look at the sign and say to myself 'Ah! I won that tournament!' I look around and say 'Oh, there's the HSBC! I won that!'"

Winning in Singapore was, however, a rare highlight in the first half of the season. The problem was that, in starting her season at the ANZ Masters on the Gold Coast, Shin caught a virus that gave her with aching joints and left her physically exhausted. While the symptoms did not linger, in bravely battling through the illness to complete the event in temperatures as high as 35 degrees Celsius her shoulders slumped and stayed that way. Unaware, Shin's normally immaculate ball striking suddenly disappeared, but that wasn't the only result.

"I was having very bad headaches a lot all through the year. Standing up quickly gave me [head] pain. When I got my shoulders loose it was gone. It was interesting. I stopped the massages after the season and in two weeks the headaches came back again, so I knew it was really important for me," she explains.

The problem was only spotted when McRae came onboard as Ji-Yai's coach in June. He immediately sent her to the Tour's physios who confirmed his suspicions and quickly began working on the muscles in her upper back.

"The first massage was at McDonalds and I finished third and had good scores but my hitting was so ugly. At the address I was worried about my impact because it wasn't clean. Once the massage got my shoulders open I had good impact and won the next tournament--the Wegmans--so that was exciting,' says Shin, whose seven-shot victory margin there was one of the year's most dominant performances.

Shin added the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship title in September, beating Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo in a play-off after charging from near last on the final day. She won again in sudden death against Yuko Mitsuka and Akiko Fukushima in October at the Japan LPGA Tour’s Masters GC Ladies Open in Hyogo, but time-and-time-again her scores betrayed her fatigue. One characteristic of her game has always been that, as sure as night follows day, she gets stronger as the tournament proceed. In the second half of 2009 the opposite was often true.

"My physical condition was really tired. Usually in Korea we play three rounds and the LPGA is usually four rounds. There's a big difference. In Korea the maximum drive is four hours. In America we once drove for 12 hours from New York to Atlanta and usually you're travelling for 6 or 8 hours," she explains.

McRae goes even further and says that, despite all the accolades showered on his player as she topped the LPGA Money List, tiredness had caught up with her long before the Player of the Year award slipped agonisingly through her grasp.

"She was even close to being done and dusted mid-year. It’s a shame. She got sick in Danville [in September], only played one round and missed the following week, which was a godsend in a way because it made her last to the end of the season. I was hoping she could get two weeks off multiple times, but she had commitments in Japan, commitments in Korea and was playing the LPGA. She should have won at least six extra events last year. She won four, she should have won ten. She was in a position to win them."

To avoid a repetition of 2009 Ji-Yai and her father Jessop, a former lay preacher, are working on a more modest 2010 schedule with more rest. Meanwhile McRae has brought in two Queensland-based specialists in physiotherapist Michael Dalglish and athlete development specialist Richard Nizielski. They have run a three-dimensional biometric analysis of Ji-Yai's physical strengths and weaknesses and designed a programme which Nizielski, a former short-track speed skating world champion and Kung Fu instructor says will ultimately prolong her career at the highest level.

"Anyone who has the qualities to be the world's best will at some point be the world's best, but the question is for how long and will it be with or without injuries? We're getting a good athletic base under Ji-Yai so that in the future she doesn't shorten her career through injury or through not being able to develop technically," says Nizielski.

"It's a long process but in the short-term she'll make good gains. Ji-Yai has amazing determination and mental fortitude and the ability to quickly process and understand what she needs to be doing. A lot of the stuff is new to Ji-Yai and we've noticed it with other Korean golfers we've worked with because until now it's all been about hitting the ball on the range. This is why there hasn't been a Korean player who has hung around at the very top for very long because their mental fortitude can only carry them for so long."

Shin's aim is to shed as much as 10 kilos by the time the LPGA season starts and she's been working on applying some of the new-found strength, coupled with a technical change in her swing to get her weight fully across onto her front foot in her follow through, to address the one glaring weakness in her arsenal--a lack of distance.

"My average drive was 247 yards and I was 98th in the stats," she says with a laugh.

"Hopefully I can get up to 270 yards and inside the top 50 for driving. That's my hope."

McRae has also continued the work he started last year in developing Ji-Yai's conservative approach to bunker play, adding an array of different shots for her to apply in the sand traps.

"Before, I was really good in the bunkers, but I've got better since I got more skills. I just had one type of bunker shot, now I have four or five," Ji-Yai says of the new arrows in her quiver.

All of which begs the question just how good will the Ji-Yai Shin who arrives in Singapore to defend her HSBC Women's Champions title be? Given that she nearly swept the board of LPGA honours despite her fatigue and physical problems, which only added to the relative lack of distance in her game and robbed her of her typical weekend surges, the possibilities must be frightening for some of her rivals such as current world number one Lorena Ochoa and the resurgent Michelle Wie.

McRae, without a hint of being bombastic, thinks her achievements already suggest she is capable of eclipsing those of legends like Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.

"I actually think she's probably a better player than those two. That's a big thing. Mentally she’s amazing, absolutely amazing. If we get her where she needs to be physically, I think she could be something very, very special. I know Annika was a great player and she won many events and that there are a lot of good players out there now and the competition's tough, but if Ji-Yai commits herself to what she needs to do I think she could create her own greatness. I don't like to try and compare too much to past players, but she may be something special for her era. Don't take it the wrong way, I think Karrie is probably the best golfer, male or female, ever to come out of the Australia, but Ji-Yai really is something special."

Ji-Yai, when asked about her goals, shows the modesty and warmth of personality that has made her a darling of the Korean golf fans.

"My dream is number one in the world. But it feels that my golf has come really fast. Just a few years ago I was just dreaming of playing on the LPGA Tour and then last year I came so close to being Player of the Year. It’s all come so fast," she says, adding that while she may be aiming to end Ochoa's reign as the undisputed queen of women's golf she will never allow it to turn into a personal rivalry with Lorena.

"I really respect her. I'll try to be number one, but I think just inside the golf course is enough. Outside we're friends. I don't like inside the golf course being rivals and outside still rivals. Every season my goal is to be better than the season before. Last season was great because I made my goal, but this year must be better. I want to be more consistent and my main goal is to win Major tournaments. Last year my best was third at the McDonalds, but I really want to win a Major. That's my big, big goal."

As for McRae, he's convinced that the course his player has set out on will lead to a Tigeresque domination of the women’s game.

"Oh yes. For sure! It comes back to a few things that she needs to attend to and she's doing that. She sees where she needs to be. She wants to be the best player she can be over another 10 or 15 years. She's identified where she needs to be better and she's committed to it. She's got the drive and the Tigerish mentality. I can't say she will do it, but I think she will because she's that kind of person. From the time I've spent with her, the things she's done have been amazing. She doesn’t sit back and wait for things to happen. She makes it happen!" he exclaims.

"I think the western world just doesn't realise how good she is," he adds.


Here's a capsule overview of Shin's golfing career from Tim:

Born: 04/28/1988

Educated: Hampyeong Golf High School, near Gwangju in Chonnam; Yonsei University, Seoul

Major victories: 1 (2008 Ricoh Women's British Open)
LPGA victories: 6
Total victories worldwide: 29


Masters GC Ladies Open (JLPGA)
P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship (LPGA)
Wegmans (LPGA)
HSBC Women's Champions (LPGA)


ADT Championship (LPGA)
Mizuno Classic (LPGA/JLPGA)
KB Star Tour in Incheon (KLPGA MAJOR)
Hite Cup Ladies Championship (KLPGA)
Shinsegye Cup KLPGA Championship (KLPGA MAJOR)
Ricoh Women's British Open (LPGA/LET MAJOR)
BC Card Classic (KLPGA)
Taeyoung Cup Korea Women's Open (KLPGA MAJOR)
Woori Investment & Securities Ladies Pro Golf Tournament (KLPGA)
Studio Alice Ladies Open (JLPGA)
Yokohama Tire Golf Tournament PRGR Cup (JLPGA)
China Ladies Open (KLPGA)

Notes: Internationally, Shin made headlines winning her first Major at Sunningdale in Surrey, England, and also by claiming the US$1 million prize at the ADT Championship. At home she earned a 10-year exemption by winning two KLPGA Majors in the same season and became the first woman to do the Grand Slam of Korea's Majors.


ADT CAPS Championship (KLPGA)
Inter-burgo Masters (KLPGA)
Samsung Finance Ladies Championship (KLPGA)
SK Energy Invitational Women's Golf (KLPGA)
KB Star Tour in Chungcheong (KLPGA)
KB Star Tour in Pohang (KLPGA)
MBC Tour BC Card Classic (KLPGA)
Hillstate Seokyung Ladies Open (KLPGA)
MBC Tour MC Square Cup Crown CC Ladies Open (KLPGA)

Notes: Her nine wins in one year wiped one of Se-Ri Pak's long-standing KLPGA benchmarks off the record books. In doing so she took her season earnings past half a million US dollars, another all-time high for the tour. Her career winnings of Korean Won 1,048,596,000 (around US$1,128,296) passed the mark of another LPGA player Il-Mi Chung, but while Chung needed 99 tournaments to accumulate Korean Won 886,835,546 (around US$975,300) Shin bettered her figure playing in just 30 events.


Orient China Ladies Open (KLPGA)
PAVV Invitational (KLPGA)
Taeyoung Cup Korea Women's Open (KLPGA MAJOR)

Notes: Along with the three wins in her KLPGA season, Shin had five second places and finished outside the top 10 only once in 15 tournaments. At the end-of-season awards ceremony she won every title (Player of the Year, Prize Money, Scoring Average, Rookie of the Year and the "Da Seng Wang" award for most wins) except for "best-dressed player."


SK EnClean Invitational (A) (KLPGA)

[Update 1 (1/19/10, 3:31 pm): A version of Tim's story has made it onto!]

The Best on the LPGA: 3- to 6-Time Winners

I have a feeling those on this list are going to get a lot more company early in 2010--and none too soon, in my book. There's no quicker way to become a household name than to join the ranks of those who are already household names (or were in their day).

Sure, the most recent knock on the LPGA going around the golfy media--that the tour needs a single dominant player to re-emerge, now that Annika's step away from competitive golf is looking more and more permanent and Lorena's lead chase pack has virtually caught up to her--is mistaken, big time, on many grounds. What made Annika so great was the quality of her competition--Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Rachel (Teske) Hetherington, Mi Hyun Kim, and many of the veterans on this list, as well as younger superstars like Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer. For her to beat so many multiple winners so often was what laid the foundation for her fame, well before she became well-known outside the LPGA and its fans when she competed on the PGA Tour. Of those players, only Cristie Kerr has been able to join the active Hall of Famers by bringing her victory total to double digits. More on them next post. My point here is this: as the best players in the Young Guns and New Blood generations identify themselves by entering the winner's circle more often, it'll be easier for the casual fan to see that they're something special. My #1 case in point is the #1 player on this list. But I have a strong feeling we're going to see more double-digit victory totals from the top players in the classes of 2005 through 2009 than any other half-decade in LPGA history. It seems from this list that too many players from earlier half-decades have hit the wall.

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. Ji-Yai Shin (6/1): 3 of her wins, including her only major thus far, the Women's British Open, came before she was even an LPGA member, and after the end of her rookie year, she maintained her 3 wins per season rate. I'm wondering what she's capable of when she actually gets comfortable on tour. She's set her sights squarely on LPGA Player of the Year in 2010 and has told the Korean media she plans to play less on the JLPGA. Which means we can expect a minimum of 4 LPGA wins from her in the coming season. For more reasons why, check out the guest post from Tim Maitland I'm putting up here at lunchtime.
2. Suzann Pettersen (6/1): Just as she had to wait a long time for her 1st win, she had to wait a long time for her 6th. But she convinced me during that drought that she's truly one of the tour's elite players. While I don't see another 5-win season on her horizon, I wouldn't be surprised if she won a couple of tournaments in 2010.
3. Angela Stanford (4/0): Like Pettersen, her wins have come largely in bunches. She won twice at the end of 2008, when it seemed like she was putting herself in contention every week, then won the opening event of 2009. And even though she's endured a little bit of a drought since then--due in no small part to taking time away from golf to support her mom during her cancer treatments--she improved all her key stats from 2008 to 2009. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see her to become the top American on tour in 2010.
4. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): Although 2009 was a down year for her in wins and winnings, her key performance stats were right around her career norms, which had been good enough to make her a top 5 threat in her 1st 3 seasons on the LPGA. The 2006 Rookie of the Year is still averaging 1 win per season, so watch out for her in 2010. Accustomed to playing 30 events a year, she'll stay sharp when the LPGA's schedule goes dark, thanks to her dual membership on the LPGA and JLPGA. I expect her to win more often there than here, but you never know.

The Contenders

5. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): Even though she remains a mercurial player, she's made the top 30 on the LPGA money list 5 straight seasons and in 2009 topped the LET money list. In 4 of them, her scoring average was below 72 and last year's was the lowest in that period. She definitely has the talent to win any week she tees it up, so even though her inconsistency is her Achilles' heel, she's a blast to watch when she's in contention. Plus, she's shown her commitment to 2010 by committing to play the LET's ANZ Ladies Masters for the 1st time in 6 years (on which more later).
6. Hee-Won Han (6/0): She was averaging a win a year over her 1st 6 seasons and was a fixture on the top 10 of the money list for 4 of them, but since taking a maternity leave in 2007, enduring long separations from her son in 2008, and struggling a bit by her standards in 2009, she's something of a question mark for 2010. Her scoring average last season was the closest to going above 72 since her rookie season in 2001 and she had almost as much trouble finishing in the top 10. But the 2 times she did, she took home bronze medals. If she can improve her ballstriking, particularly her approach shots, in the coming season, she'll be a top 15 player again for sure. But I'm not sure how much time on the range her son will let her have.
7. Maria Hjorth (3/0): She came back from maternity leave and got stronger as the season progressed, culminating with a silver medal in Korea and ending up with the lowest scoring average of her 12-year career on the LPGA. If she maintains her excellent ballstriking and gets her putter going in 2010, this former English major could write a new chapter in a very solid career to date.
8. Catriona Matthew (3/1): She took even less time to come back from her maternity leave than Hjorth, winning the Women's British Open in her 2nd event back from giving birth. Let's see what she does with a full season in 2010. It'll be hard to top her Player of the Year award from the LET, but seeing as how she actually came close to striking the ball as well in 2009 as she did in 1999-2005, when she was a consistent top 30 player and sometime top 10 threat, it won't take very big improvements to keep her momentum going.
9. Candie Kung (4/0): If she could have hung in there on Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open, her 2009 would have been quite different, but as it was, it was a huge disappointment. She wasn't that terrible off the tee (she was actually fairly solid), but her approach shots were off and her putting was horrific. It was the 1st time in her career, barring an injury-shortened 2007, that she failed to break the 72 barrier in scoring average, she could only manage 2 top 10s, and she missed more cuts than at any other time in her 8-year LPGA career. So of course I think she's poised for a comeback in 2010.
10. Brittany Lincicome (3/1): As high as I am on everyone else's chances in 2010, I'm skeptical about Lincicome's. Yes, she had the shot of the year in 2009, denying Kristy McPherson her 1st LPGA win and Cristie Kerr her 2nd career major with her walkoff eagle at the KNC. But she's still never broken the 72 barrier in scoring average, never notched more than 5 top 10s in her 5-year LPGA career, and never hit more than 68% of her fairways. When you're as long as she is, a little lost accuracy isn't that big a deal, but Bam Bam hasn't even exceeded a 65% fairway rate since her rookie season.

Quantum Leap Candidates

11. Wendy Ward (4/0): This 1996 rookie had her best season on the LPGA since the 2000-2006 period, when she was a regular top 30 threat. Her scoring average in 2009 was the 3rd-best of her career and her approach shots were so good she compensated for innaccuracy off the tee and an inconsistent putter to still average 3.52 birdies per round. I don't see her as a true top 30 threat in 2010, but if she drives for a little more show and putts for a little more dough next season, she'll most likely prove me wrong.
12. Pat Hurst (6/1): She surprised me twice in 2009, first by winning the MasterCard Classic and following it up with a T8 at the KNC, then by failing to break into the top 10 the rest of the season. It's not like last season was terrible--in fact, she improved her ballstriking, particularly her approach shots, in significant ways--but just as only her rookie season in 1995 was worse than her 2008, so, too, was her 1996 the only other season she ended up with a higher scoring average than in 2009. Even in her maternity-leave shortened 1999, she only had 1 fewer top 10 than last season (in 8 fewer starts). So she'll need to make yet another comeback in 2010. Can she do it?
13. Grace Park (6/1): Speaking of comebacks, she's coming back from hip surgery. Can this former Player of the Year candidate and 2004 Vare Trophy winner put her long-standing back problems behind her in 2010?

On the Bottom, Looking Up

14. Lorie Kane (4/0): 2010 is her last stand on the LPGA, as Hound Dog noted last week. Her last 4 seasons have gotten progressively worse, so I'm not at all optimistic on her chances of avoiding Q-School in December. Or of returning to the LPGA in 2011.
15. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card from 2006-2008, but she fell off a cliff in 2009, going 0 for 16 in made cuts and even bombing out of Q-School. Her 1st 4 years on tour when she averaged a win a year and was a consistent top 30 threat are a distant memory now. I wonder if she'll be trying to find her game on the Futures Tour in 2010?

[Update 1 (1:00 pm): Here are links to Tim Maitland on Shin and bangkokbobby on Grace Park.]

[Update 2 (1:36 pm): Oh, man, how could I have forgotten 3-time LPGA winner Wendy Doolan? Due to breast cancer treatments, she played a limited LPGA schedule in 2009 and didn't add to her total of 34 career top 10s. She's got full status in Category 1 for 2010 due to a medical exemption, so she'll get her opportunities to play if she's healthy enough. She's starting her season on the ALPG back home in Australia, so we'll get a pretty good sense of how she's doing. Let's say she belongs at #14 on this list, ahead of Lorie Kane.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 2-Time Winners

Whereas coming up with ranked lists of the top players on the LPGA with no wins and 1 win was pretty cut-and-dried, some of the best active players on the LPGA have 2 wins and even those who have been struggling recently have pretty impressive records. It'll be very interesting to see who's the 1st to graduate from this list in 2010. Will it be 1 of the LPGA's Young Guns, someone from the New Blood generation, or one of the resurgent vets on tour? Here's who I think is most likely to win again in 2010.

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. Ya Ni Tseng: It took her what felt like forever to get that 2nd LPGA win, but I doubt she'll have to wait that long for win #3. She's riding a 5-event top-10 run into 2010 and is averaging 1 win and $1.55M in winnings per season thus far.
2. Na Yeon Choi: She was 1 of the hottest golfers in the world at the end of last season and I don't see any reason for her not to carry that over into 2010. After all, she's never missed an LPGA cut or failed to join the Million Dollar Club in her 1st 2 seasons.
3. In-Kyung Kim: Her win at Dubai to end 2009 gives her dual LPGA-LET membership in 2010. If she plays her scheduling cards right, she could have the best season of anyone on this list.
4. Morgan Pressel: With her new swing grooved, short game sharp, and her confidence rising, she's poised for a breakout 2010.
5. Anna Nordqvist: Hound Dog claims her rookie season was the best by anyone in LPGA history who failed to win the Rookie of the Year award and ranks it 8th overall. I'm not going to argue with Hound Dog, but I'd like to see the LET's ROY make the top 20 and top 10 more consistently before I'm moving her up this list. Like Kim, she may be able to take advantage of dual LPGA-LET membership in 2010.
6. Eun-Hee Ji: She gutted out a win at the U.S. Women's Open to join this list, then joined the list of players who succumbed to the Open jinx. So far she's handling it better than Inbee Park--and way better than Birdie Kim or Hilary Lunke--but she still is the coldest among the top-shelf 2-time winners on the LPGA.

The Contenders

7. Jeong Jang: She didn't bounce back from wrist surgery like I expected her to in 2009, but still maintained her lead in career winnings in the Seoul Sisters generation, staying just ahead of Hee-Won Han and maintaining her lead on Grace Park. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a comeback for her in 2010.
8. Karen Stupples: She came back from maternity leave faster and played better than I expected in 2009, so I'm looking for her to have a great 2010.
9. Christina Kim: She didn't have that breakout Solheim Cup year that I was looking for, but after working hard to get in better shape she's in good shape for 2010.

Quantum Leap Candidates

10. Ji Young Oh: Somehow I can't believe that this Junior Mint has as promising a future on the LPGA as the other Young Guns on this list, but she's proven me wrong before and she could well do it again in 2010.
11. Stacy Prammanasudh: 2009 was easily the worst season of her 7-year career. She dropped to #59 on my Best of the LPGA ranking, but I don't expect to see her that low at the end of 2010. The key for her is to get her driving accuracy back to where it was in 2004-2006, when she was hitting the fairway over 70% of the time. If she can do it, she can start attacking courses again. If you don't think this matters, check out the difference between Ai Miyazato's 2009 and her previous 2 seasons.
12. Meena Lee: After being a top 20 player in her 1st 2 seasons, averaging 1 win and 6 top 10s per year, her last 3 have been more of a struggle, as she's failed to crack the top 30 on the money list and is averaging only about 2 top 10s per year. Still, she made cuts and scored pretty close to her career norms in 2009, earning the #46 spot on my Best of the LPGA ranking, so there's no reason she can't come back in 2010, particularly if she keeps improving her approach shots, her Achilles heel the last 3 seasons. When you're as accurate off the tee as she is, she should be giving herself a lot more birdie chances.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

13. Michele Redman: She hasn't been the top 30 player she was from 2000-2005 for quite some time, but even in that stretch she's never finished worse than 61st on the money list and ended 2009 ranked #44 on my Best of the LPGA ranking. I don't see any signs that she won't continue to add to her total of 76 career top 10s since she joined the LPGA in 1992, but at the slower pace she's set in 2006-2009, when she's averaged just over 1 per season. If that playoff against Eunjung Yi and Suzann Pettersen had turned out just a little bit differently, though, she would have graduated from this list last season, so don't count her out for 2010.
14. Janice Moodie: This 3-time Solheim Cupper has never lost her LPGA tour card, even when she gave birth in 2006 and played only 10 events. But she hasn't won since 2002 and has gotten only 4 of her 44 career top 10s in her last 4 seasons, so it's not like being a mom on tour hasn't taken its toll on her game.
15. Carin Koch: She notched 56 top 10s between 1995 and 2008, but only 2 wins, and at the Corning Classic and in Mexico (2 warning signs from my 1-time winners' ranking). But 2009 was a disaster when she took the driver out of her hands and she enters 2010 at #153 on the priority status list. I don't see her returning to her top-10 form in 2002 from back before her daughter was born, but I do see her playing closer to her career norms this coming season.
16. Laura Diaz: She suffered easily the worst season of her LPGA career in 2009, when she couldn't find the fairways off the tee or the hole once she got to the green. Thanks to her top 40 finish in 2008 (actually she was 20th on both the money list and my Best of the LPGA ranking), though, she squeaked into the 144th spot on the priority status list for 2010. She'd been a regular in the top 40 and on the Solheim Cup since 2000, and even had 2 consecutive top-10 seasons early last decade, so I expect her to make the most of her opportunities this coming season--at least as long as her pregnancy allows her to play!
17. Gloria Park: She got a medical exemption after sitting out all of 2009 on a maternity leave, so enters 2010 at #141 on the priority status list. Let's see how she adjusts to being one of the newest moms on tour!
18. Jennifer Rosales: She was a top-30 caliber player from 2002-2005, when she notched her 2 wins and 17 of her 19 top 10s, but she hasn't broken into the top 10 since then, making only 42 of 69 cuts in that stretch (and that's using the LPGA's generous policy of not usually counting WDs and DQs toward totals on career bio pages). Still, she's kept her card each of these seasons and has been bringing her scoring average back down to respectable levels, so maybe 2010 will be her year.

On the Outside, Looking In

19. Patricia Meunier-Lebouc: She's made 16 of 42 LPGA cuts over the last 3 seasons and sits at #221 on the priority status list for 2010. She's also curtailed her LET schedule in that same period, so my guess is she's almost ready to move on from her professional golf career, which dates back to 1994 on the LET.
20. Heather Daly-Donofrio: She's made 16 of 40 cuts over the last 4 seasons and joined the LPGA's Communications Department in 2009. Still, she's #223 on the priority status list for 2010, so may well be able to tee it up a few times this coming season, now that her daughter is past the terrible 2s.

[Update 1 (10:54 pm): Reader Albert pointed me toward Carin Koch's blog post from last January in which she mentioned she had moved back to Sweden. Doesn't necessarily mean she's through with the LPGA, as she got more than 2/3 of the way to her resolution of playing 18 events on tour in 2009. But given how badly she played and how unexcited about golf and travel she sounded in her most recent post (from last April--she didn't keep the "blog more often" resolution all that well, either!), I might have been better off putting her at #18 on this list.]