Monday, January 4, 2010

On the Rookie of the Year Races on the LPGA and LET

The fact that 4 of my 9 frontrunners for LPGA Rookie of the Year honors can also be contending for LET ROY adds another wrinkle to both races. Azahara Munoz, Pernilla Lindberg, Maria Hernandez, and Mariajo Uribe will have to think long and hard about how they put together their 2010 worldwide schedules. As I explained over at Waggle Room,

They’ll definitely need to play the 3 New Zealand/Australia LET events in late February and early March (assuming none have qualified for the HSBC Women’s Champions event) and can play 3-5 LET events in May-early June, depending on whether they want to skip the Bell Micro and/or the Shoprite on the LPGA, then will have to decide how long to stay on the LET after the LPGA’s European swing ends in early August (probably for at least 2 events, as they wouldn’t even have to leave the British Isles, but it could be as many as 7 in a row through early October), and finally would have to decide which tour’s Asian swing to play (assuming they will have made the top 50 on the LPGA money list to qualify for theirs).

I’m thinking that those LET rookies with only partial LPGA status--Mallory Blackwelder, Alison Walshe, and Dewi Claire Schreefel--may have the advantage in the LET ROY race as a result. They can concentrate almost exclusively on the LET and won’t have to deal with as much transcontinental travel. Same for Diana D’Alessio, Hannah Jun, Jeehae Lee, and Mollie Fankhauser....

Back to the LPGA ROY, my point is that Blumenherst and Harigae have a built-in advantage on any of their 4 top competitors who have a real shot at LET ROY. On the other hand, if any of them do well enough on the LET not to have to skip any LPGA events to stay in the LET ROY race, then those players have an advantage on Blumenherst and Harigae, b/c they don’t have to do stop and start golfing....

To add another plot twist here, Munoz and Hernandez may feel pressure to compete in the LET's Spanish events, given that they take place in their home country and were announced as TBAs (sorry, TBCs). But if the Open de Espana Femenino is actually scheduled against the U.S. Women's Open, there's very little chance they'll choose it, unless by chance they haven't qualified for the Open in the States. So there'll be even more pressure on them to play in the Madrid Ladies Masters sometime in September. The earlier it's scheduled, the more likely they'll be to skip the Safeway, Canadian Women's Open, and NW Arkansas event on the LPGA to keep their travel to a minimum. And if it's in late September, they're likely to skip the Navistar, particularly if they aren't in the LPGA's top 50 and haven't qualified for its Asian swing--no problem for them, as they have the LET's own Asian swing to fall back on. Except that then they're talking about playing only about 14 LPGA events in 2010, which means they could probably kiss LPGA ROY goodbye.

Amazingly, the LET has no events scheduled in Sweden in 2010, so Lindberg doesn't have to deal with the same pressure from her home country as Munoz and Hernandez do--not to mention Beatriz Recari, as well. With only 1 French LET event besides Evian, Gwladys Nocera also has less pressure than the Spaniards, while Marianne Skarpnord has none, as there are also no LET events in Norway in 2010. So Nocera could conceivably get away with just skipping the LPGA's NW Arkansas event to play in the Open de France Feminin and otherwise focus on the LPGA, playing on the LET only when there are no conflicts and travel isn't insane. And Uribe, Lindberg, and Skarpnord could play the bare minimum on the LET that makes sense to them (and keeps the first 2 in the running in that ROY race).

Bottom line: so much depends on how the LPGA and LET rookies play in the 1st half of the season on both tours. Anna Nordqvist won LET ROY playing in only 6 events in 2009, but I can't see anyone who plays in fewer than 8 having a legitimate chance in 2010, unless they play phenomenally at the Evian Masters and Women's British Open. The time to reassess your worldwide schedule is after those events: do you concentrate on making the LPGA's top 50, qualifying for their Asian swing, and giving yourself a chance in their ROY race? Or do you focus on winning LET ROY and pretty much forget the LPGA until the Tour Championship? Or do you try to figure out how to stay alive in both ROY races somehow?

How the top 4 LPGA-LET members with a chance to win ROY on both tours answer these questions will have a big impact on the outcome of of both races.


courtgolf said...

Can't believe you left Jean Reynolds off the list. She was THE story at the US Open this past year. She has the length to play the bigger courses. She has a good pedigree from the U of Georgia and a couple of years on the DFT.

The Constructivist said...

She's not left off the list--she's just lower than you want to see her in the full post. If Stacy Lewis couldn't parlay her previous USWO Cinderella run into a top 30 on the LPGA this past season, I can't imagine how Jean Reynolds could outdo her.

courtgolf said...

What in the world does Stacy Lewis have to do with Jean Reynolds ? Completely different people and players.

You left Reynolds off the RoY list altogether and she barely got a mention in the Rookie class.

But hey - your list - and you have a good track record. I just think she's going to parlay that US Open performance into a solid season.

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, Lewis is different--she had a better amateur/early pro career than Reynolds. So why would I expect Reynolds to do better in 2010 than Lewis or '08 FT #1 Vicky Hurst did in 2009? Of course these comparisons are rough, but if you're going to play the odds, Reynolds will do well to make the top 50 on the money list. That's a solid season, sure, and many who went on to have great LPGA careers didn't even do that well in their rookie year, but it's not ROY-caliber material, either.

You'll note, though, that I hedged my bets in the rookie class overview, praising Reynolds's relatively high birdie rate! I have nothing against her and would love to see her exceed expectations, like Seon Hwa Lee did in '06. But there's no point in heaping the pressure of unrealistic expectations on her just because she had a few good rounds on women's golf's biggest stage.

As for my track record, I predicted Shiho Oyama would have a great '09 and Anna Nordqvist would spend most of her time on the LET, so it's well short of great!

courtgolf said...

Beats me - but who had ever heard of Paula Creamer before she hit one great shot from under a tree up to birdie range in the US Open ? People expected Davis Love III to be a world beater, but it took him most of his career to get to 20 wins. Who figured David Duval as a #1 player in the world ?

Reynolds has spent a few years developing her game after college at one of the top programs in the country - UGA. A late bloomer by some people's standards - but I think she has the game and the drive to be a top 30 or 40 player fairly soon.

And I still say watch out for Vicky Hurst.

Mike said...

I'm really looking forward to see what Uribe does this year. She shows some fire when she plays, and appears to have the game to back it up.

I wouldn't bet against Hurst either. Five Future Tour wins, coupled with her power... she could do some serious damage.

Dual membership should work well for the women who have it this year, especially Uribe. When they talked to her at the Ochoa Invitational, she seemed to be chomping at the bit to get out there. More chances to play could really help her if she gets on a roll.

The Constructivist said...

CG, I'm not writing anyone off when I point out that their rookie year left something to be desired, or suggesting that it might take a few years to get up to speed on the LPGA. That's exactly what happened to my favorite player, Ai Miyazato, after all. I fully expect Vicky Hurst to be a top 10 player in the next few years.

As for Davis Love taking too long to get to 20 wins, tell it to Cristie Kerr (stuck at 12)! 20 wins is world-beating good. They can't all be Tigers/Annikas.

This rookie class may turn out to be full of Davis Loves.