Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LPGA and LET Rookie of the Year Races at Crossroads in Evian

As I noted at the end of last season, the LPGA's rookie class of 2010 is thinking more globally than most previous classes, with some of their best players attaining dual memberships on the LPGA and LET. Azahara Munoz has a big lead on Amanda Blumenherst and Gwladys Nocera in the LPGA Rookie of the Year race, while she lags far behind Kristie Smith and Maria Hernandez in the LET ROY race.

Take a look at the 2 lists and who's in the field at Evian, which is an LET major but not one on the LPGA:

1. Azahara Munoz (9 events) 423 points
2. Amanda Blumenherst (11) 242
3. Gwladys Nocera (10) 124 [sponsor exemption]
4. Beatriz Recari (8) 108
5. Mariajo Uribe (8) 63 [sponsor exemption]
6. Misun Cho (8) 40 [not in field]
7. Marianne Skarpnord (10) 33
8. Pernilla Lindberg (8) 32 [not in field]
T9. Yoo Kyeong Kim (7) 25 [not in field]
T9. Mina Harigae (9) 25 [not in field]
11. Maria Hernandez (9) 20

1. Kristie Smith (9 events) €80.6K
2. Maria Hernandez (2) €58.0K
3. Pernilla Lindberg (4) €32.4K [not in field]
4. Caroline Masson (8) €32.0K [not in field]
5. Mollie Fankhauser (8) €30.6K [not in field]
6. Rebecca Flood (10) €23.7K [not in field]
7. Jeehae Lee (7) €19.4K [not in field]
8. Kim Welch (8) €14.3K [not in field]
9. Azahara Munoz (3) €11.6K
13. Bo Mi Suh (5) €6.3K
21. Christina Kim (2) €2.7K

Keep in mind that Uribe, In-Kyung Kim, and Ai Miyazato are also LET rookies, the former via Q-School and the latter via wins on the LET last season. I wonder whether the LPGA will grant ROY points to Uribe and Nocera (as they got in the field via sponsor exemptions) and whether the LET will count winnings by Kim and Miyazato in their ROY race. If their ROY points/winnings will count in their respective races, I'm a bit surprised the tournament organizers didn't extend a sponsor exemption to Pernilla Lindberg, as well.

Whatever happens with the other players I named, this week is a wonderful opportunity for Munoz and Hernandez to pick up the pace in the ROY race each hasn't excelled in this season and for Uribe to get in the game in both. If they play well at Evian, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they all decide to spend the next 5 weeks on the LET, which stays in the British Isles for a month after the Evian Masters. In fact, if they're willing to skip 3 LPGA events, they could play the heart of the LET schedule in northern and western Europe all the way through the end of September, returning to the LPGA for the Navistar and CVS events in October to ensure they qualify for the LPGA's end-of-season Asian swing. Actually, with Uribe #86 and Hernandez #100 on the LPGA money list right now, they couldn't afford to do this unless they play great at Evian and Royal Birkdale. And yet if they don't play well, they may still decide to commit to the LET for the rest of the season and accept they're going back to LPGA Q-School at the end of the year.

Kristie Smith, by the way, is also a member of the Futures Tour. Before their season started, I picked her to finish 1st on their money list at season's end. Right now she's 18th, with 1 win in 4 starts, so she's facing a tough decision, as well. Go for the LET gusto and keep striking while the iron is hot or return to the States after the Women's British Open for the last 3 Futures Tour events and then go back to Europe?

Job 1 is 1st to play well. But Job 1A is to make smart decisions about your schedule. Should be interesting to follow both threads.

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