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.]


The Florida Masochist said...


I don't know if you noticed, but every player from 13-20 on your list with the exception of Rosales is a mother. Parenting and playing successful LPGA golf seems to be very difficult. Before C. Matthew won last summer, I wonder when the last time a Mom won on tour who had a child under the age of five.

courtgolf said...

That is a SERIOUS top 9 ! I've been big on the Pressel bandwagon since she turned pro...but didn't realize how short she was off the tee. Get another 15 or so yards more with the driver and she will be tough.

Love Tseng - she always reminds me of a street fighter. And there is no prettier swing on tour than Na Yeon Choi.

Nordqvist with a veteran's attitude could be a lot of fun to watch. (ok - Nordqvist in spandex was fun to watch, too) :-D

Jim C said...

Nordqvist should be ahead of Pressel. Aside from the 2 wins her scoring average was 70.78 compared to 71.38 for Pressel.

Nordqvist had 5 top 10s and 10 top 20s in 17 just events compared to Pressel's 5 and 8 in 24.

The Constructivist said...

Bill, this list makes achievements by Pat Hurst and Juli Inkster even more impressive, eh? I think Stupples at #8 could win more, but it'll take extraordinary efforts from the rest of the moms on the list to graduate from it.

CG, just wait till some of the top 1-time winners join this list. I wonder if this list will grow from that, or whether there'll be more grads from this one into my next one before that happens.

The Constructivist said...

Jim, I agree Nordqvist had a better 2009 than Pressel, but does that mean she'll have a better 2010? The list is organized by who I think has the best chance to win in the coming season. If I was just aiming to replicate my Best of the Young Guns ranking, Ji would have been 3rd on this list:

As the lone New Blood generation member with 2 wins, Nordqvist would have been 4th, ahead of Kim and Pressel.

Albert said...

A short note regarding Carin Koch. She has returned to live permanently in Sweden after 14 years in USA so that her children can go to school there. I think her competitive days in LPGA are gone for good.

The Constructivist said...

Thanks, Albert, has this news made it into print yet?

Albert said...

Probably, but it's hardly news any more. She moved more than a year ago... I read it in her blog.