It's Evian Masters week, so you know what that means here at Mostly Harmless, right? Well, after Whine About My Game Monday, it's time to kick off Ai Miyazato's First LPGA Title Defense Celebration Week with an update to my June ranking of the Best of the LPGA. As usual, I'll be mashing up the LPGA money list (through the U.S. Women's Open), the July 13th Hound Dog Top 70 (which focuses exclusively on LPGA performances and results from 2010 and 2009), the July 19th Rolex Rankings (which assigns points based on results over the last 104 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour), and the July 18th Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (which ranks players based on relative finishes over the last 52 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour) to divide LPGA players into tiers, then using my own judgment to rank them within each tier.
That "new era where #1 is up for grabs" that I mentioned in June is starting to become a little more clearly defined, as the top contenders to replace Lorena Ochoa have distanced themselves just a bit from the lead chase pack.
1. Ai Miyazato: #1 money ($985.4K), #1 HD, #1 RR (10.27), #7 GSPI (69.20). Due to her 5 LPGA wins in the last calendar year, Ai-sama gets the nod over her nearest competitors. Even though she's in a dead heat with Cristie Kerr in the Rolex Rankings right now, I still expect Ji-Yai Shin to be her top competition for both world #1 and Player of the Year, now that she's recovered from her emergency appendectomy, as both will be duelling across 2 tours, the LPGA and JLPGA, the entire 2nd half of the season.
2. Cristie Kerr: #2 money ($954.3K), #2 HD, #2 RR (10.27), #2 GSPI (68.81). In June, I wrote, "Let's see if she can do this year what she couldn't do last year--become the 1st American to lead the LPGA in well over a decade." Well, after her dominating performance at the LPGA Championship (Louis Oosthuizen's Open Championship win is reminiscent of hers, not the other way around), I'd say she's poised to do it. But she was in this position last year around this time, too. So it's up to her to finish stronger in 2010 than she did in 2009.
3. Ji-Yai Shin: #6 money ($680.4K), #3 HD, #4 RR (9.56), #1 GSPI (68.79). In June, I wrote, "She was my pick for best in the world of women's golf last year--can she repeat again this year? It all comes down to wins!" That's because her 3 LPGA wins from 2 years ago will be dropping out of the Rolex Rankings calculations very soon, starting with the Women's British Open. If she wants to pass Ai-sama and Kerr, she'll need to start winning on both the LPGA and JLPGA in the 2nd half of 2010.
4. Suzann Pettersen: #3 money ($901.6K), #5 HD, #3 RR (9.86), #3 GSPI (68.89). She may yet become the 1st LPGAer to break the $1M barrier this season. If she ever gets her putter going, watch out! She'll make the 2nd half of 2007, when she won 5 times, look like a warm-up act. Even with all those wins dropping out of the Rolex system at the end of last season, she's still maintained her position among the top contenders for #1 in the world of women's golf. Plus she can take advantage of gaps in the LPGA schedule, try to take over the British Isles on both the LPGA and LET, and play Spain in late September, all without missing any LPGA events. Or she can rest her nagging injuries and come back to the LPGA stronger than ever.
5. Na Yeon Choi: #4 money ($775.6K), #4 HD, #6 RR (7.74), #5 GSPI (69.04). With 3 wins in the last calendar year, she's a serious threat to the Big 4. The way she's been playing lately, she could get another any given week.
With Lorena Ochoa removed from the Rolex Rankings at her request but still listed in the other 3 measures I combine, I'm going to keep her in my system, like I did for Annika Sorenstam when she stepped away from the LPGA. She's a good benchmark for how well those in the lead chase pack are doing.
6. Ya Ni Tseng: #7 money ($655.3K), #6 HD, #5 RR (8.32), #6 GSPI (69.16). So far, she hasn't exactly followed the trajectory to take over the world of women's golf that I laid out in June: "[S]he's already #1 in her class and her generation...so next comes her tour, right? It's within her reach! And she'll have a lot less jet lag to deal with than Miyazato and Shin...." But hey, if she can notch her 2nd major of the year at the Women's British Open, she'll be right back in the thick of things!
7. Song-Hee Kim: #5 money ($738.9K), #7 HD, #9 RR (6.99), #4 GSPI (68.93): She remains even more due than Pettersen for her next win--but for her it'll be her 1st one on the LPGA. I'll bet she gets it before Lee Westwood wins a major!
8. Paula Creamer: #8 money ($637.3), #8 HD, #7 RR (7.59), #11 GSPI (69.53). Just before she returned in the ShopRite, I wrote, "Everyone's eagerly awaiting her return from thumb surgery." Well, a top 10 there and a win at Oakmont for her 1st major and she's on the verge of rejoining the game's ultra-elite.
9. Lorena Ochoa: #29 money ($176.5K), #9 HD, n.r. RR (#2 [9.20] as of 5/3/10); #8 GSPI (69.26). Nothing to add to what I wrote in June: "I still don't believe she's gone for good, but pretty soon she'll disappear from this list, just like Annika did before her. I'm still devastated."
Right behind the contenders for #1 and their lead chase pack are some very good players with top 10s in at most 2 of the 4 systems and/or top 20s in at least 3 of them:
10. Karrie Webb: #14 money ($378.6K), #12 HD, #10 RR (6.79), #9 GSPI (69.41). She's so close to playing great--just needs a few more putts to drop!
11. In-Kyung Kim: #11 money ($478.8K), #10 HD, #11 RR (6.52), #17 GSPI (70.14). At the LPGA Championship, she aptly summed up her season as "on and off," but lately she's been nothing but on.
12. Angela Stanford: #12 money ($440.5K), #11 HD, #13 RR (6.32), #10 GSPI (69.53). I'm expecting great things out of her in the next few events.
13. Anna Nordqvist: #17 money ($278.8K), #13 HD, #8 RR (7.37), #15 GSPI (69.95). Still a kind of quiet season for her overall, but she's hanging with the very best on tour and not losing all that much ground.
14. Michelle Wie: #20 money ($260.0K), #14 HD, #12 RR (6.40), #14 GSPI (69.94). As I wrote in June, she's "still a work in progress, but capable of a breakthrough any time."
15. Morgan Pressel: #21 money ($257.5K), #15 HD, #16 RR (4.65), #12 GSPI (69.74). She hasn't taken off on the LPGA after winning the JLPGA's 1st major of the year, the Salonpas Cup, like I expected her to, but she's still playing well. Only problem is, she doesn't have a good record on the European swing.
16. Inbee Park: #9 money ($531.0K), #17 HD, #14 RR (5.37), #18 GSPI (70.15). Well, my June prediction that "she's shaken her Open jinx just in time to win another one" was a little premature, but she's definitely playing well enough to win any given week.
17. Sun Young Yoo: #10 money ($487.4K), #19 HD, #24 RR (3.90), #34 GSPI (70.74). So far there hasn't been much of an encore to her Sybase Match Play Championship victory, but give this late bloomer time!
18. Catriona Matthew: #30 money ($173.7K), #16 HD, #19 RR (4.18), #19 GSPI (70.19). Her Women's British Open title defense is 2 weeks away. She's not playing fantastic coming into it, but at least she has a little more preparation for it than she did last season!
19. Amy Yang: #13 money ($406.4K), #18 HD, #32 RR (3.26), #20 GSPI (70.21). I stand by my June prediction that "She's due for a win soon." I still have that feeling.
It's not like players in this group are doing badly--after all, they have at most 2 top 20s and/or at least 3 top 30s--but they'll have to get it going if they want to knock anyone above them out of the top 20!
20. Brittany Lincicome: #18 money ($263.3K), #21 HD, #23 RR (3.94), #36 GSPI (70.79). She continues to impress me. I wouldn't be surprised if she makes a move up this list.
21. Jee Young Lee: #16 money ($304.9K), #20 HD, #40 RR (2.88), #37 GSPI (70.82). Ditto.
22. Brittany Lang: #26 money ($201.8K), #22 HD, #29 RR (3.43), #32 GSPI (70.69). Her putter came alive at Oakmont. Let's see if it stays hot for the European swing!
23. Kristy McPherson: #36 money ($137.0K), #24 HD, #27 RR (3.49), #25 GSPI (70.42). She's been putting very well all season--a big improvement from last year--but still needs to give herself more birdie chances to vault into the game's elite (where she belongs).
24. Katherine Hull: #27 money ($199.6K), #25 HD, #28 RR (3.45), #31 GSPI (70.68). She's having a really solid season already and even though Oakmont was her worst made cut of the year, she's on track for an even better 2nd half.
25. Stacy Lewis: #15 money ($309.8K), #26 HD, #37 RR (3.09), #35 GSPI (70.79). In June, I wrote, "Watch out for her--she's starting to play up to her potential." When I'm right, I'm right!
26. M.J. Hur: #19 money ($261.2K), #29 HD, #26 RR (3.55), #33 GSPI (70.71). In June, I wrote, "Beating Ai Miyazato in the 2nd round of the Sybase (when Ai-sama shot a 67!) was the highlight of her season. Let's see if she can translate that into more stroke-play success." She couldn't beat Ai-sama in the final round of the ShopRite, but she still had a great tournament. It'll be interesting to see how she plays in the 2nd half of the season.
A large number of players have at most 2 top 30s and/or at least 3 top 40s:
27. Hee Young Park: #25 money ($213.7K), #23 HD, #33 RR (3.16), #43 GSPI (71.07). In June, I wrote, "Once The Rocket remembers how to kick it into that super-low gear, she'll be moving up this ranking--and fast." So far, she's only done it at the State Farm and the Farr, but I have a good feeling for her the rest of the season.
28. Maria Hjorth: #34 money ($146.9K), #27 HD, #36 RR (3.10), #21 GSPI (70.25). She missed 3 cuts in a row recently, part of 4 MCs in a 5-event stretch, but with a top 20 and a top 30 in her last 2 starts, this Solheim Cupper seems headed in the right direction as she heads back to home turf (generally speaking).
29. Sophie Gustafson: #35 money ($137.2K), #28 HD, #30 RR (3.37), #28 GSPI (70.55). A top 20 at Oakmont gives her some momentum heading into the stretch that catapulted her to the top of the LET money list last season.
30. Momoko Ueda: #45 money ($114.5K), #30 HD, #34 RR (3.15), #24 GSPI (70.39). She's got to be bitterly disappointed by her missed cuts in the last 2 majors and frustrated at the state of her knee. Here's hoping things pick up for her in Europe.
31. Azahara Munoz: #24 money ($217.0K), #40 HD, #52 RR (2.24), #23 GSPI (70.38). The highest-ranked rookie on my list, she's already got a non-member LET win under her belt. She's ready to win on any tour.
32. Christina Kim: #23 money ($221.4K), #35 HD, #49 RR (2.27), #61 GSPI (71.52). She's got her putter going now, so watch out for her the rest of the season.
33. Se Ri Pak: #22 money ($241.7K), #49 HD, #31 RR (3.28), #75 GSPI (71.89). She's gone into a nosedive since getting her 25th career win in a playoff at the Bell Micro. The culprit: injuries.
A huge number of players have at most 2 top 40s and/or at least 3 top 50s:
34. Hee-Won Han: #32 money ($169.4K), #31 HD, #45 RR (2.51), #44 GSPI (71.12). T4 at the ShopRite was the highlight of her season to date, a MC at Oakmont the low point. Which Han will show up in Europe?
35. Shanshan Feng: #28 money ($178.8K), #33 HD, #66 RR (1.87), #72 GSPI (71.74). In June, I wrote that she's "playing--and putting--very well in 2010. Looks like her slump from last season is finally over." She missed the cut at Oakmont, so she's looking to get back on track in Europe.
36. Karen Stupples: #33 money ($149.4K), #37 HD, #63 RR (1.95), #46 GSPI (71.21). She's cooled off from earlier in the season, not having cracked the top 30 in recent memory, but she should play well in Europe.
37. Natalie Gulbis: #40 money ($120.9K), #38 HD, #64 RR (1.90), #60 GSPI (71.50). Many people scoffed when I picked her to finish in the top 30, but as long as she stays healthy, she's on track to do so.
38. Na On Min: #39 money ($123.9K), #50 HD, #122 RR (1.01), #38 GSPI (70.84). She's missed only 1 cut this season and is playing good golf.
39. Seon Hwa Lee: #46 money ($106.4K), #32 HD, #54 RR (2.18), #42 GSPI (71.01). She finally seemed to be starting to play better, but then missed the cut in her last 2 starts. It's the 1st time in her LPGA career that she's failed to make the cut twice in a row.
40. Juli Inkster: #48 money ($102.3K), #36 HD, #65 RR (1.88), #45 GSPI (71.13). Her missed cut at Oakmont was only her 2nd of the season, but her other was at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and her previous start was a T62 at Locust Hill. It's up to the Women's British Open for her to salvage her performance in majors this year.
41. Jeong Jang: #38 money ($123.9K), #44 HD, #81 RR (1.60), #41 GSPI (70.99). Watch out for JJ! Since missing the cut in her 1st event this season, her worst finish was her very next start, a T48. She hasn't finished outside the top 40 since and in her last 4 events has 2 top 20s and 2 top 30s.
42. Meena Lee: #44 money ($115.4K), #39 HD, #83 RR (1.57), #48 GSPI (71.30). Her missed cut at Oakmont was only her 2nd of the season and broke a 4-event top-25 run that included a top 10 at the Farr.
43. Candie Kung: #31 money ($172.5K), #46 HD, #43 RR (2.57), #57 GSPI (71.47). A top 30 at Oakmont was a far cry from her close call at the Open in '09. Let's see what kind of game she brings to Europe.
44. Lindsey Wright: #59 money ($75.8K), #43 HD, #38 RR (3.02), #59 GSPI (71.49). She's played a very limited schedule this season. I wonder if she's trying to rest an injury.
45. Eun-Hee Ji: #56 money ($79.6K), #34 HD, #42 RR (2.77), #74 GSPI (71.85). She's in "1 step forward, 2 steps back" mode. Which is better than being completely under the thumb of the Open jinx, I suppose.
46. Meaghan Francella: #37 money ($128.1K), #48 HD, #74 RR (1.68), #124 GSPI (72.76). Her top 10 at the LPGA Championship called attention to what a solid season she's been having so far. Let's see how she plays the rest of the way.
There's a good-sized group with at most 2 top 50s and/or at least 3 top 60s:
47. Jimin Kang: #42 money ($118.7K), #42 HD, #89 RR (1.46), #91 GSPI (72.15).
48. Mika Miyazato: #47 money ($103.8K), #53 HD, #47 RR (2.32), #102 GSPI (72.38).
49. Shi Hyun Ahn: #50 money ($96.9K), #47 HD, #82 RR (1.58), #47 GSPI (71.24).
50. Karine Icher: #41 money ($120.8K), #41 HD, #90 RR (1.45), #69 GSPI (71.70).
51. Stacy Prammanasudh: #54 money ($81.4K), #52 HD, #98 RR (1.34), #54 GSPI (71.45).
52. Amanda Blumenherst: #49 money ($100.6K), #63 HD, #86 RR (1.53), #52 GSPI (71.42).
53. Wendy Ward: #43 money ($116.4K), #61 HD, #72 RR (1.68), #104 GSPI (72.42).
54. Kris Tamulis: #70 money ($47.8K), #45 HD, #147 RR (.81), #94 GSPI (72.18).
There's a very large group with at most 2 top 60s and/or at least 3 top 70s:
55. Alena Sharp: #52 money ($91.2K), #51 HD, #106 RR (1.15), #67 GSPI (71.65).
56. Heather Bowie Young: #53 money ($87.3K), #55 HD, #107 RR (1.13), #64 GSPI (71.58).
57. Haeji Kang: #55 money ($79.7K), #56 HD, #105 RR (1.16), #103 GSPI (72.40).
58. Amy Hung: #58 money ($75.8K), #58 HD, #112 RR (1.09), #106 GSPI (72.44).
59. Laura Davies: #87 money ($31.5K), n.r. HD, #56 RR (2.15), #53 GSPI (71.42).
60. Vicky Hurst: #51 money ($94.2K), #62 HD, #67 RR (1.85), #76 GSPI (71.90).
61. Katie Futcher: #61 money ($72.6K), #54 HD, #118 RR (1.05), #78 GSPI (71.92).
62. Kyeong Bae: #63 money ($66.0K), #59 HD, #85 RR (1.56), #93 GSPI (72.18).
63. Chella Choi: #71 money ($47.7K), #67 HD, #140 RR (.83), #58 GSPI (71.49).
64. Karin Sjodin: #73 money ($46.1K), #57 HD, #167 RR (.71), #127 GSPI (72.85).
65. Helen Alfredsson: #81 money ($35.2K), #66 HD, #58 RR (2.08), #101 GSPI (72.33).
66. Allison Hanna: #97 money ($22.5K), #60 HD, #193 RR (.60), #117 GSPI (72.63).
67. Pat Hurst: #60 money ($75.2K), n.r. HD, #75 RR (1.65), #82 GSPI (71.98).
68. Paige Mackenzie: #78 money ($40.9K), n.r. HD, #130 RR (.90), #56 GSPI (71.47).
69. Gwladys Nocera: #57 money ($79.0K), n.r. HD, #110 RR (1.11), #148 GSPI (73.27).
And here are the players with at most 2 top 70s and/or at least 3 top 80s:
70. Michele Redman: #72 money ($46.9K), #69 HD, #71 RR (1.78), #62 GSPI (71.55).
71. Sarah Jane Smith: #64 money ($64.7K), #64 HD, #119 RR (1.03), #88 GSPI (72.22).
72. Soo-Yun Kang: #74 money ($46.0K), #70 HD, #109 RR (1.12), #86 GSPI (72.07).
73. Mi Hyun Kim: #79 money ($40.7K), #65 HD, #172 RR (.69), n.r. GSPI (72.04) [too few events in database].
74. Mindy Kim: #85 money ($33.3K), #68 HD, #180 RR (.65), #126 GSPI (72.79).
75. Jennifer Rosales: #65 money ($59.3K), n.r. HD, #134 RR (.89), #71 GSPI (71.72).
76. Sandra Gal: #67 money ($57.0K), n.r. HD, #93 RR (1.38), #79 GSPI (71.94).
77. Teresa Lu: #66 money ($58.5K), n.r. HD, #94 RR (1.38), #90 GSPI (72.15).
78. Eunjung Yi: #68 money ($51.3K), n.r. HD, #68 RR (1.84), #122 GSPI (72.71).
79. Janice Moodie: #69 money ($50.8K), n.r. HD, #102 RR (1.26), #119 GSPI (72.64).
80. Sherri Steinhauer: #62 money ($67.5K), n.r. HD, #203 RR (.55), n.r. GSPI (71.21) [too few events in database].