Friday, May 28, 2010

The Best of the Young Guns: Class of 2007, May 2010 Edition

The '06ers, the oldest rookie class in the LPGA's Young Guns generation, have a new top gun in Ai Miyazato. Let's take a look at the class of 2007 to see what's new with their careers, shall we? For the vast majority of the class, it's not a pretty sight. But a few players are coming on strong in the early season.

Simply the Best

1. In-Kyung Kim: She's played well outside the States, but has had trouble hitting greens and making putts inside them this year. Still, given that Eun-Hee Ji's Open jinx has kicked into an even higher gear and Song-Hee Kim still hasn't broken through for her 1st win, Inky regains the #1 position in this ranking.
2. Song-Hee Kim: As a player who can both drive for show (she's a straight shooter like Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, and last week's winner Sun Young Yoo) and putt for dough, she's finally realizing the potential everyone saw in her years ago. As I wrote last December, "if she can improve her iron play in the offseason, that 1st win won't be too far away." Well, the 1st win still hasn't come, but she has improved her iron play--even though she's been very slightly shorter and less accurate off the tee so far this season than last, she's still hitting more greens than before. The result is that she's nabbed 7 straight top 10s to open this season (she also got a top 10 in the unofficial Mojo 6), which is even better than her 5 of 7 run to end last one. How due is she for a win?
3. Eun-Hee Ji: She's never been a fantastic iron player, but her approach shots this season have been truly horrendous (at least in the States, where the LPGA keeps performance stats). She's driving the ball the same or even better than ever, but she's missing a ton of greens and not getting anywhere close to the pin when she does hit them--her 1.98 PPGIR rate is among the worst on tour. At least there's only that one glaring culprit to focus on--if she can straighten out those approach shots, she can return to the LPGA's elite.
4. Inbee Park: Last December, I wrote that "If she can get her driver straightened out and start hitting more greens, she can take real advantage of being one of the best putters on the LPGA in 2010." Well, it's mission accomplished in the early season on both the LPGA and the JLPGA, where she's #2 on the money list despite playing in only 6 events (4 silvers and a gold will do that for you). She isn't quite putting as well on the LPGA as in Japan (3.10 birdies per round here vs. 4.11 there), and she still has room for improvement when it comes to finding the fairway off the tee (still only 62.3% of the time thus far in the States), but she's hitting close to 70% of her greens in regulation in Japan and over 72% here, so it's not much of a surprise that she's riding a 4-event top 20 run and has 3 top 10s in 6 LPGA starts despite playing indifferently on the Asian Swing. I'd say she's due to contend regularly and get win #2 some time in the next few months.

The Contenders

5. Kristy McPherson: Like Song-Hee Kim, she's both a leading candidate for best on tour without a win and a very good ballstriker. But unlike Kim, she's a precision player, not a straight shooter. While I wrote last December that "If she ever really gets her putter going in 2010, she could become a superstar," what's been holding her back thus far this season is actually her iron play--for whatever reason, she's had trouble finding the green and it's actually been her putter that's been saving her. With 3 top 20s in her last 3 starts, I expect her to find her precision groove soon and be a force in the early summer.
6. Angela Park: I'd say this former Rookie of the Year is the Julieta Granada of her class, but that might be unfair to Granada. Both are playing in the Brazil exhibition this week and I hope they start pulling out of their tailspins immediately. But Park's ballstriking stats are not encouraging, to say the least.
7. Ji Young Oh: It's been a very tough start to the season for Oh, who trained in the off-season with Ji-Yai Shin in Australia. Hopefully as she gets used to her new body, her ballstriking will come back on line.
8. Jane Park: Although she's making a decent amount of birdies thus far this season, she's been plagued by that "one-terrible-round-per-week" syndrome. Here's hoping her back stays healthy and she is able to build up a good playing rhythm over the next couple of months. I still believe she can be a top player in her class and on the LPGA.

Quantum Leap Candidates

9. Na On Min: She's taking advantage of her medical exemption this season by making a ton of birdies in the events she's gotten into, but needs to further improve her iron play to really get her career back on track.

On the Bottom Looking Up

10. Irene Cho: She's off to an uneven start this season, but still snagged a top 10 in Mexico and shot a 69 in the opening round of the Bell Micro, right after finding out about the death of her friend Erica Blasberg. Still, based on her performance stats and missed cuts, I have to demote her in this ranking. Sorry, Irene! Hang in there!
11. Paige Mackenzie: Last December, I asked "If she ever figures out that she could have a Cristie Kerr-Angela Stanford-Brittany Lang quality game with a little more practice around and on the greens, who knows how good she could get?" Unfortunately, she, too, has had a slow start to the season, with her performance stats way down from last year's.

On the Outside Looking In

12. Jin Joo Hong: Dealing with injuries last season, she began the year #148 on the priority status list, but she hasn't played a single LPGA event this season. She's been a regular on the KLPGA, however, so maybe she'll get some good vibes going back home and come back rejuvenated to the LPGA.
13. Charlotte Mayorkas: Hmm, I don't know where she'd disappeared to--she's not even playing in the Brazil exhibition this week, and hasn't been spotted on the Futures Tur or LET, either.
14. Sophie Giquel: Down to #93 on the LET money list in her 1st 6 starts, she's having another tough year already. Through 12 holes today, though, she's on track to make the cut, at least.
15. Seo-Jae Lee: Haven't seen her on the Futures Tour, so maybe she's playing the KLPGA?
16. Su A Kim: She's definitely back on the KLPGA.
17. Becky Lucidi: Don't know what she's up to.
18. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke: Ditto.
19. Sarah Lynn Sargent: She's only played 1 event on the Futures Tour and is at #119 on their money list.
20. Cindy Pasechnik: Going for her MBA at the University of Calgary.

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. Song-Hee Kim, $347.6K (#6), 70.00 (#2), 3.87 (#4), 71.2% (#10)
2. Inbee Park, $241.3K (#10), 71.79 (#23), 3.10 (#35), 72.2% (#4)
3. In-Kyung Kim, $153.4K (#19), 71.50 (#17), 3.41 (#11), 64.4% (#45)
4. Kristy McPherson, $80.8K (#30), 72.39 (#32), 3.09 (#13), 63.6% (#52)
5. Na On Min, $45.0K (#48), 73.00 (#47), 3.57 (#46), 65.6% (#37)
6. Irene Cho, $28.0K (#64), 73.55 (#69), 2.91 (#74), 57.1% (#97)
7. Eun-Hee Ji, $25.7K (#66), 74.33 (#100), 2.39 (#54), 53.3% (#117)
8. Jane Park, $25.6K (#67), 73.21 (#61), 3.00 (#55), 60.0% (#79)
9. Ji Young Oh, $21.4K (#71), 74.00 (#80), 2.75 (#52), 59.7% (#82)
10. Paige Mackenzie, $18.7K (#78), 74.08 (#86), 2.75 (#73), 54.2% (#114)
11. Angela Park, $9.0K (#100), 75.31 (#120), 2.38 (#77), 43.7% (#138)

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 2007 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 '07ers 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!

1. In-Kyung Kim, $2.63M (#75), 84/0/2/7/24/37/0/0/14/70 (.833)
2. Song-Hee Kim, $2.45M (#80), 76/0/0/7/26/38/0/0/15/61 (.803)
3. Eun-Hee Ji, $2.14M (#95), 62/1/2/5/15/23/0/3/8/51 (.823)
4. Angela Park, $2.12M (#96), 78/0/0/8/18/25/4/0/13/61 (.782)
5. Inbee Park, $2.05M (#99), 82/1/1/4/14/23/1/1/19/61 (.744)
6. Ji Young Oh, $1.42M (#130), 83/0/2/2/8/17/1/0/23/59 (.711)
7. Kristy McPherson, $1.40M (#133), 75/0/0/3/12/24/0/0/17/58 (.773)
8. Jane Park, $.92M (#199), 61/0/0/3/6/11/4/0/11/46 (.754)
9. Jin Joo Hong, $.58M (#252), 60/0/0/0/2/7/6/0/17/37 (.617)
10. Na On Min, $.55M (#256), 57/0/0/1/2/7/0/0/21/36 (.632)
11. Irene Cho, $.38M (#299), 65/0/0/0/3/5/3/0/25/37 (.569)
12. Paige Mackenzie, $.29M (#340), 56/0/0/0/1/2/0/0/27/29 (.518)
13. Charlotte Mayorkas, $.28M (#346), 56/0/0/0/0/4/1/0/22/33 (.589)
14. Sophie Giquel, $.12M (#454), 39/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/21/17 (.436)
15. Becky Lucidi $.10M (#472), 35/0/0/0/0/2/0/1/25/9 (.257)
16. Su A Kim, $.07M (#510), 26/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/13/12 (.462)
17. Seo-Jae Lee, $.07M (#514), 25/0/0/0/0/0/2/0/13/10 (.400)
18. Sarah Lynn Sargent, $.05M (#549), 26/0/0/0/0/0/14/12 (.462)
19. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, $.02M (#603), 34/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/29/4 (.118)
20. Cindy Pasechnik, $.02M (#626), 19/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/14/5 (.263)

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 '07ers 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. Song-Hee Kim, 5.59 (#11), 69.40 (#8); 0
2. In-Kyung Kim, 5.50 (#12), 70.48 (#25); 1
3. Inbee Park, 4.81 (#15), 70.43 (#23); 0
4. Kristy McPherson, 3.56 (#24), 70.17 (#18); 0
5. Eun-Hee Ji, 3.10 (#33), 71.90 (#70); 4
6. Ji Young Oh, 2.05 (#51), 72.30 (#90); 0
7. Angela Park, 1.37 (#85), 75.42 (#313); 0
8. Jane Park, 1.06 (#103), 72.30 (#91); 0
9. Paige Mackenzie, .87 (#120), 71.98 (#74); 0
10. Irene Cho, .84 (#125), 72.57 (#108); 0
11. Jin Joo Hong, .70 (#151), 72.13 (n.r. [too few events]); 2
12. Na On Min, .56 (#184), 71.67 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
13. Sophie Giquel, .18 (#327), 75.22 (#297); 1
14. Charlotte Mayorkas, .12 (#381), 75.44 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
15. Becky Lucidi, .11 (#390), 75.86 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
16. Seo-Jae Lee, .03 (#544), 74.37 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
17. Su A Kim, .02 (#608), n.r.; 0
18. Sarah Lynn Sargent, .00 (#709), 75.72 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
19. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, n.r., 76.07 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
20. Cindy Pasechnik, n.r., n.r.; 0


Looks like this class could get a lot smaller--and fast!

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