Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 2-Time Winners, August 2010 Edition

With Michelle Wie's wire-to-wire win in Winnipeg last week, it's high time to see where she stands in terms of her likelihood to move on to my 3-to-6-time winners' list this season. Will she join the players who have graduated from my February list of 2-time LPGA winners?

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. In-Kyung Kim: Ever since she told me at Locust Hill that her season's been "on and off," she's been on in a big way. Her only finish outside the top 6 since the LPGA Championship was in the Evian Masters and even so she's still leading the LET's Rookie of the Year race. Her near-win in Ireland on the LET the week after the Women's British Open shows how close she is to being the 1st to graduate from this list.
2. Morgan Pressel: She hasn't quite had the "breakout 2010" I called for back in February, but she's very very close.

The Contenders

3. Michelle Wie: Even with her bad back and limited LPGA schedule after her return to Stanford in a few weeks, she proved at the Canadian Women's Open that she can win any week she tees it up.
4. Anna Nordqvist: The LET's '09 ROY hasn't had a bad 2010--in fact, it's been much better than most are giving her credit for--but she's been overshadowed by the fantastic play of the LPGA's super-elite. Hound Dog claims her rookie season last year was the best by anyone in LPGA history who failed to win the Rookie of the Year award and ranks it 8th overall. I'm curious to see if she if she can surpass it this season. Let's see if she heads to Europe in September to get some momentum going for the LPGA's stretch run in October and November.
5. Eun-Hee Ji: She's suffering from a lingering case of the U.S. Women's Open jinx. She's due to come out of it early next season--let's see if she can cut its effects short this one!
6. Christina Kim: She got her putter going for a nice stretch there mid-way through the season, but hasn't been all that sharp of late.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Stacy Prammanasudh: Even though she still hasn't gotten her driving accuracy back to where it was in 2004-2006, when she was hitting the fairway over 70% of the time, her putter's come alive this season and she's poised to start putting herself back in contention if she can just improve her ballstriking.
8. Karen Stupples: So far she hasn't had the "great 2010" I predicted for her. It seems like the 1st full season back from maternity leave is a lot tougher than even an immediate but partial return to competition.
9. Meena Lee: So far her 2010 has been about the same as her previous 3 seasons, which saw her fall from averaging 1 win and 6 top 10s per year to averaging only about 2 top 10s per year. Unfortunately, her approach shots remain her Achilles heel.
10. Jeong Jang: The comeback I predicted for her this season after her wrist surgery was right on schedule until she WDed from the Safeway Classic and didn't start in the Canadian Women's Open. So I have to downgrade her chances of winning again soon here. Good thing for her the LPGA's schedule is so spotty until October--plenty of time for rest and further recovery.
11. Ji Young Oh: Looks like my doubts in February--"Somehow I can't believe that this Junior Mint has as promising a future on the LPGA as the other Young Guns on this list, but she's proven me wrong before and she could well do it again in 2010. She trained with Ji-Yai Shin in Australia over the off-season, so I wouldn't put anything past her."--were right on target. She's been playing so badly this season that making 4 cuts in a row, as she has recently, is its highlight.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

12. Janice Moodie: This 3-time Solheim Cupper has never lost her LPGA tour card, even when she gave birth in 2006 and played only 10 events. But she hasn't won since 2002 and has gotten only 5 of her 45 career top 10s from 2006-up, so it's not like being a mom on tour hasn't taken its toll on her game. And so far this season doesn't seem all that different from her last 4.
13. Jennifer Rosales: She was a top-30 caliber player from 2002-2005, when she notched her 2 wins and 17 of her 19 top 10s, but she hasn't broken into the top 10 since then, making only 42 of 69 cuts from 2006 to 2009 (and that's using the LPGA's generous policy of not usually counting WDs and DQs toward totals on career bio pages). Well, she's made 8 of 11 cuts this season, but only has 1 top 20 to show for her improved consistency. At #69 on the money list, she still has a chance to qualify for the season-ending Asian swing if she can get her putter going.
14. Michele Redman: She hasn't been the top 30 player she was from 2000-2005 for quite some time, but even in that less impressive stretch she's never finished worse than 61st on the money list and ended 2009 ranked #44 on my Best of the LPGA ranking. Back in February, I wrote that "I don't see any signs that she won't continue to add to her total of 76 career top 10s since she joined the LPGA in 1992, but at the slower pace she's set in 2006-2009, when she's averaged just over 1 per season." Well, she'll need to get out of this year's 3-events-and-running missed-cut rut to avoid her worst season in this millennium.
15. Laura Diaz: She suffered easily the worst season of her LPGA career in 2009, when she couldn't find the fairways off the tee or the hole once she got to the green. She'd been a regular in the top 40 and on the Solheim Cup since 2000, and even had 2 consecutive top-10 seasons early last decade, but coming back from the birth of her daughter is still very much a work in progress.
16. Gloria Park: She got a medical exemption after sitting out all of 2009 on a maternity leave, so has stayed at #141 on the priority status list all season. But being one of the newest moms on tour hasn't made her comeback any easier.

On the Outside, Looking In

17. Carin Koch: She notched 56 top 10s between 1995 and 2008, but only 2 wins--and at the Corning Classic and in Mexico (2 warning signs from my 1-time winners' ranking). But 2009 was a disaster whenever she took the driver out of her hands and despite being #155 on the current LPGA priority status list, she has stuck by her decision to move back to Sweden and has played only the 2 dual LPGA-LET events this season.
18. Patricia Meunier-Lebouc: She's made 16 of 42 LPGA cuts over the previous 3 seasons before this one and sits at #221 on the priority status list for 2010. She's also curtailed her LET schedule in that same period and doesn't appear on this year's LET money list, so it's looking my guess in February that "she's almost ready to move on from her professional golf career, which dates back to 1994 on the LET" was pretty dead-on.
19. Heather Daly-Donofrio: She's made 16 of 40 cuts over the previous 4 seasons before this one and joined the LPGA's Communications Department in 2009. Even though her daughter is past the terrible 2s, it looks like she's not going to be entering any events this season from #234 on the current priority status list.

1 comment:

Jim C said...

I question leaving Wie out of the top group even with her limited schedule. She figures to be tough defending at the Lorena--and coming off a win she could be tough in Arkansas. She was only two shots back in Mexico earlier this year to go with her win and a 10T last year.