Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Best of the Young Guns: Class of 2006, May 2010 Edition

With the LPGA's season about to shift into high gear, the time is right to update my rankings of the Young Guns generation, the rookie classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008. With Annika and Lorena retired, Paula and Suzann battling injuries, and Cristie and Angela finding it difficult to return to the winner's circle, the time is ripe for the Best of the Young Guns to simply become the Best of the LPGA. After all, the '06ers have won 4 of the 1st 7 events of 2010 alone!

Simply the Best

1. Ai Miyazato: 3 of those wins, of course, belong to Ai-sama. While I pointed out last December that "her 64 in her final competitive round of the season is a sign of things to come in 2010," and made much bolder predictions in February, even I have to admit being surprised that she's been able to close the deal so consistently when being in contention this season. Don't mind her low GIR figure below; it doesn't include stats from any of her wins this season, which all came out of the country.
2. Seon Hwa Lee: Even though she's been playing slightly better on the LPGA than the JLPGA, she's been spending much more time in Japan than the States thus far this season (7 events there vs. 4 "here"--and 2 of those were in Asia!). Whichever tour you look at, though, her key stats are definitely way down from her career averages--GIR under 57% on both tours, a 2.35 JLPGA birdie rate, unimpressive putting stats--so I'd say she's definitely in danger of slipping further down this list. Here's hoping she's not injured!
3. Morgan Pressel: I said it before and I'll say it again: "Pressel is due in 2010." Once she improves her approach shots, watch out for her!
4. Jee Young Lee: It sure didn't take her long to bounce back from her worst season in her LPGA career: she's gotten 4 top 10s in 7 starts, thanks to some very good iron play and putting. Once she really gets her driver going, she's going to be a consistent contender.

The Contenders

5. Brittany Lang: I said it before and I'll say it again: "she could win any week her putter gets hot. It wouldn't hurt to work on her irons, too. She should be making a lot more birdies than she has been this season and it can't all be her putter's fault." At #1 on tour in GIR, she's taken 1 big step forward. But with 1.91 PPGIR and only 2.57 birdies per round, she's taken 2 giant leaps back with the flat stick. She'd better turn that trend around--and fast--or she's going to get passed by last week's winner by next ranking!
6. Sun Young Yoo: Last December, I asked "Will she be ready to chase down the cream of the crop in 2010?" Well, she's #4 on the money list right now! And she got there by going 6 rounds in the Sybase Match Play Championship against some of the very best on tour--and beating them all. Let's see if she picks up where she left off when the LPGA gets back in action.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Kyeong Bae: She's starting to hit more greens and make more birdies, but she'll need to both drive for more show and putt for more dough to move further up this list.
8. Teresa Lu: She, too, has been spending more time on the JLPGA (where she's made 3 of 5 cuts and gotten 1 T3) than the LPGA (where she's 3 for 3 with a T11 at the Kia Classic her best finish) thus far in 2010. She's having trouble making birdies on either tour right now, and there's no clear culprit, as neither her driver nor irons nor putter are doing anything very special lately. Let's see if she can turn it around soon!
9. Meaghan Francella: While she's making cuts more regularly this season than she has been in quite some time, her worse-than-average putting and disappointing iron play from 2009 have carried over into this season. She'll need to pick up the pace to catch Lu and Bae.
10. Julieta Granada: Despite her recent record of futility on the LPGA, she hasn't taken much advantage of her dual membership on the LET, having played only 6 events there last season and skipped their Down Under swing at the start of this one. But she's shown signs of life once she got this year started, having made 3 of 4 cuts thus far in 2010. Let's see how she does in the exhibition in Brazil this week!
11. Hye Jung Choi: Nothing much is working well for her this season, although she has made 3 of 5 cuts despite hitting less than 52% of her greens in regulation.
12. Katie Futcher: Off to a so-so start this season, she needs to go from barely making cuts to moving up leaderboards.
13. Allison Fouch: She kept her card by the skin of her teeth last season and she hasn't yet found her game this one.
14. Karin Sjodin: She finally showed some signs of life at the Bell Micro Classic. Let's see if she can really get it going as the season really gets going.

On the Bottom Looking Up

15. Sarah Jane Smith: At #149 on the priority status list, she's sure taken advantage of the events she's gotten into, averaging 4.14 birdies per round thus far in 2010. And in only 2 Futures Tour events, she's 31st on their money list.
16. Louise Stahle: She played all 3 events in the LET's Down Under swing, with her best finish a T16 at the Women's Australian Open, but she has had trouble hitting greens and making putts in LPGA play thus far this season.
17. Na Ri Kim: Like Lee and Lu, she's been focusing on the JLPGA this season, but unlike them, it's starting to pay off. Although she's made only 8 of 11 cuts there, she just got her best finish, a runner-up, last week. Wonder if she'll stay there all year or try to get into some U.S. LPGA events at some point this season?
18. Danielle Downey: So far she hasn't taken advantage of her medical exemption, missing the cut in all 3 starts thus far this season.
19. Libby Smith: Getting into the Sybase helped her pull her "finished events" (formerly "made cuts") rate over the Mendoza line. Let's see if she continues to attempt Monday qualifying to get into more LPGA events from her 326th position on the priority status list, or whether she'll decide to spend more time on the Futures Tour, where she's 116th on the money list through 5 events.

On the Outside Looking In

20. Minea Blomqvist: Still on maternity leave from the LPGA and LET. Let's see what kind of game she has when she returns before moving her back up this list.
21. Linda Wessberg: A full-time LETer this season, she's currently 15th on their money list through 6 events.
22. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Her recovery from shoulder surgery continues on the Futures Tour, where she's 28th on their money list through 5 events.
23. Nina Reis: Played the LET full-time in '09 and ended up 57th on their money list in 16 events; through 6 starts in '10, she's 47th.
24. Veronica Zorzi: In 2009, she finished 29th on the LET money list in 14 starts; through 5 starts in 2010, she's 26th.
25. Kim Hall: A San Antonio newspaper noted that she's focusing on the LPGA Board of Directors right now, which makes sense, as this Stanford grad lost her card last year and couldn't get it back via Q-School.
26. Ashley Johnston: I wonder if she's done with professional golf entirely--the LPGA has zeroed out all her old records on her player profile.


For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the May 2010 ranking.

2010 LPGA Money List (rank), scoring average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, and how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category (except for birdies, which ranks by total and not by average). I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I don't include putts per green in regulation here. Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future (although with so many events out of the country, it would be nice for the LPGA to collect performance stats there, too).

1. Ai Miyazato, $605.2K (#1), 70.43 (#4), 3.90 (#7), 55.6% (#106)
2. Sun Young Yoo, $431.0K (#4), 72.41 (#34), 2.82 (#48), 59.5% (#84)
3. Jee Young Lee, $216.2K (#13), 71.48 (#16), 3.91 (#3), 71.2% (#10)
4. Morgan Pressel, $122.3K (#22), 72.04 (#28), 3.04 (#15), 59.6% (#83)
5. Brittany Lang, $73.6K (#33), 72.62 (#39), 2.57 (#42), 75.9% (#1)
6. Seon Hwa Lee, $61.1K (#38), 71.88 (#26), 3.13 (#46), 52.8% (#119)
7. Kyeong Bae, $48.3K (#45), 72.65 (#41), 3.30 (#20), 68.8% (#16)
8. Teresa Lu, $44.9K (#50), 72.83 (#46), 2.83 (#70), 63.2% (#56)
9. Meaghan Francella, $41.0K (#53), 73.33 (#62), 2.95 (#29), 61.1% (#68)
10. Sarah Jane Smith, $28.7K (#62), 71.43 (#14), 4.14 (#84), 70.4% (#12)
11. Katie Futcher, $27.8K (#65), 73.46 (#66), 2.62 (#70), 65.4% (#40)
12. Julieta Granada, $18.7K (#79), 74.29 (#97), 2.21 (#77), 53.3% (#117)
13. Hye Jung Choi, $12.7K (#93), 74.45 (#105), 2.46 (#89), 51.9% (#123)
14. Louise Stahle, $10.3K (#98), 73.50 (#112), 2.60 (#92), 56.5% (#103)
15. Karin Sjodin, $7.5K (#104), 73.71 (#74), 3.29 (#99), 64.4% (#45)
16. Allison Fouch, $4.0K (#113), 75.40 (#121), 2.20 (#102), 59.0% (#91)
17. Libby Smith, $2.6K (#124), 73.33 (n.r.), ? (n.r.), ? (n.r.)
18. Danielle Downey, $0K (n.r.), 75.50 (#122), 1.83 (#131), 62.5% (#58)

Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events started/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/withdrawals/disqualifications/missed cuts/finished events (rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Class of 2006 hasn't been at this all too long, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt every season (although that in itself is an indication of how someone's career has been going!). What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now--although Thomas Atkins has posted an inflation-adjusted LPGA Career Top 50 as of the end of the 2008 season and a Top 50 ranking over at Hound Dog's place (and recently updated it to a Greatest 100 LPGA Players ranking). In any case, I include the other ways of seeing how the '06ers finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. Many thanks to the LPGA for updating their 2010 Performance Chart after every event! [Note: *=non-member win]

1. Ai Miyazato, $3.87M (#41), 98/0/4/11/33/48/1/0/14/83 (.847)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $3.70M (#43), 116/0/4/11/28/55/2/0/9/105 (.905)
3. Jee Young Lee, $2.93M (#62), 111/0/1*/8/31/58/5/0/8/98 (.883)
4. Morgan Pressel, $2.92M (#64), 105/1/2/9/30/48/0/0/12/93 (.886)
5. Brittany Lang, $2.27M (#88), 114/0/0/6/25/46/0/0/24/90 (.789)
6. Julieta Granada, $2.23M (#91), 104/0/1/5/10/22/0/1/37/66 (.635)
7. Sun Young Yoo, $1.95M (#106), 111/0/1/4/15/34/1/0/23/87 (.784)
8. Kyeong Bae, $1.14M (#163), 102/0/0/2/9/17/4/0/29/69 (.676)
9. Teresa Lu, $1.07M (#168), 94/0/0/1/6/21/1/0/21/72 (.766)
10. Meaghan Francella, $.97M (#187), 81/0/1/1/6/14/0/0/29/52 (.642)
11. Hye Jung Choi, $.74M (#225), 79/0/0/0/8/12/1/0/23/55 (.696)
12. Minea Blomqvist, $.67M (#237), 79/0/0/1/3/8/1/1/29/48 (.608)
13. Katie Futcher, $.53M (#261), 89/0/0/0/4/8/0/1/26/62 (.697)
14. Karin Sjodin, $.52M (#265), 84/0/0/0/3/11/0/0/35/49 (.583)
15. Allison Fouch, $.52M (#267), 55/0/0/1/4/8/0/0/21/34 (.618)
16. Kim Hall, $.35M (#311), 74/0/0/1/3/4/0/0/44/30 (.405)
17. Linda Wessberg, $.34M (#319), 43/0/0/0/5/6/0/0/17/26 (.605)
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.23M (#374), 56/0/0/0/1/4/0/0/28/28 (.500)
19. Nina Reis, $.23M (#376), 51/0/0/0/3/4/0/0/23/28 (.549)
20. Sarah Jane Smith, $.20M (#392), 37/0/0/0/1/6/0/0/20/17 (.459)
21. Louise Stahle, $.16M (#421), 42/0/0/0/1/2/1/0/22/19 (.452)
22. Na Ri Kim, $.15M (#426), 49/0/0/0/0/0/3/0/24/22 (.449)
23. Danielle Downey, $.15M (#427), 44/0/0/0/1/2/0/0/30/14 (.318)
24. Veronica Zorzi, $.09M (#494), 16/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/3/13 (.813)
25. Ashley Johnston, $.05M (#552), 13/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/7/6 (.462)
26. Libby Smith, $.03M (#598), 23/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/17/5 (.217)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 5/24/10) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 5/24/10) and rank, International and Non-Member LPGA Wins (as of today): This is a way of seeing how those '06ers who sometimes or regularly or often compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Ai Miyazato, 8.93 (#2), 69.30 (#5); 15 [up from #8/#8 last December]
2. Morgan Pressel, 4.29 (#18), 70.08 (#17); 1 [up from #23/#23]
3. Sun Young Yoo, 3.85 (#20), 70.59 (#28); 0 [up from #35/#16]
4. Brittany Lang, 3.16 (#32), 70.72 (#30); 0 [down from #27/#13]
5. Jee Young Lee, 2.84 (#37), 70.94 (#33); 2 [up from #46/#33]
6. Seon Hwa Lee, 2.54 (#45), 70.65 (#29); 3 [down from #31/#25]
7. Kyeong Bae, 1.60 (#72), 71.66 (#59); 3 [up from #71/#70]
8. Teresa Lu, 1.50 (#77), 72.27 (#89); 0 [down from #76/#48]
9. Na Ri Kim, 1.34 (#88), 71.90 (n.r. [too few events in database]); 0
10. Meaghan Francella, 1.28 (#91), 72.63 (#113); 0
11. Hye Jung Choi, .87 (#118), 72.32 (#92); 1
12. Katie Futcher, .82 (#118), 71.83 (#67); 0
13. Sarah Jane Smith, .82 (#129), 72.64 (#116); 0
14. Allison Fouch, .76 (#141), 73.04 (#139); 0
15. Minea Blomqvist, .61 (#171), 73.81 (#188); 5
16. Louise Stahle, .59 (#176), 73.91 (#199); 0
17. Linda Wessberg, .56 (#181), 74.62 (#249); 7
18. Julieta Granada, .54 (#188), 72.62 (#111); 0
19. Karin Sjodin, .52 (#190), 72.81 (#125); 1
20. Veronica Zorzi, .43 (#214), 73.40 (#187); 2
21. Kim Hall, .23 (#285), 75.20 (#295); 0
22. Nina Reis, .20 (#316), 74.54 (#241); 5
23. Danielle Downey, .12 (#374), 74.58 (n.r. [too few events in database]); 0
24. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .08 (#428), 75.75 (#330); 0
25. Libby Smith, .04 (#492), 76.21 (#365); 0


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