Monday, August 2, 2010

Who's First? Let the Debates Begin!

Whatever the Rolex Rankings say later today, the debate over who's the best female golfer in the world just got a lot more intense yesterday when Ya Ni Tseng held on for an emotional win over a game Katherine Hull at the Women's British Open. It was Tseng's 2nd LPGA victory, 2nd LET victory, and 2nd major of the year, her 3rd worldwide win of the season, and it brings her career victory total to 4 and puts her 3/4 of the way to a career Grand Slam. And it makes the races for top of the money list, Player of the Year, and lowest scoring average even more wide open. Here's where the leaders stood last week and here's how they stand now.

Money List

1. Ji-Yai Shin $1.21M (1 win in 12 starts)
2. Na Yeon Choi $1.18M (1 win in 14 starts)
3. Ya Ni Tseng $1.12M (2 wins in 12 starts, 2 majors)
4. Suzann Pettersen $1.09M (0 wins in 12 starts)
5. Ai Miyazato $1.09M (4 wins in 13 starts)
6. Cristie Kerr $1.08M (2 wins in 12 starts, 1 major)
7. Song-Hee Kim $.88M (0 wins in 14 starts)
8. Paula Creamer $.68M (1 win in 7 starts, 1 major)
9. In-Kyung Kim $.65M (0 wins in 13 starts)
10. Inbee Park $.61M (0 wins in 13 starts)

Player of the Year

1. Ya Ni Tseng 146
2. Ai Miyazato 142
2. Cristie Kerr 133
4. Na Yeon Choi 111
5. Ji-Yai Shin 105
6. Suzann Pettersen 96
7. Song-Hee Kim 84
8. In-Kyung Kim 67
9. Paula Creamer 64
10. Inbee Park 48

Vare Trophy

1. Song-Hee Kim 69.98
2. Suzann Pettersen 70.05
3. Cristie Kerr 70.07
4. Na Yeon Choi 70.10
5. Ya Ni Tseng 70.36
6. Ji-Yai Shin 70.41
7. Ai Miyazato 70.67
8. In-Kyung Kim 70.80
9. Azahara Munoz 70.87
10. Inbee Park 70.91

Rookie of the Year

Seeing Munoz's name there reminds me that she has a chance to make history by being the Rookie of the Year on 2 tours in the same year. She already has the LPGA ROY race virtually sewn up, with more points than her 2 nearest competitors combined. And here's where she stands in the LET race:

1. In-Kyung Kim (2 events) €134.0K
2. Maria Hernandez (4) €91.3K
3. Azahara Munoz (5) €81.8K
4. Kristie Smith (11) €80.6K
5. Ai Miyazato (2) €77.9K
6. Christina Kim (4) €50.3K
7. Pernilla Lindberg (5) €32.4K
8. Caroline Masson (9) €32.0K
9. Mollie Fankhauser (9) €30.6K
10. Rebecca Flood (11) €23.7K
11. Jeehae Lee (7) €19.4K
12. Mariajo Uribe (2) €15.5K
13. Kim Welch (8) €14.3K
14. Diana D'Alessio (4) €10.5K

And guess who's playing in the LET's Ladies Irish Open this week? You guessed it: In-Kyung Kim! In fact, all the ROY race leaders except Ai Miyazato and Mariajo Uribe will be trying their luck at the site of next year's Solheim Cup. That's why Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson, and the Brittanys Lang and Lincicome have joined the many Americans with LET membership this season at Killeen Castle. With no LPGA events until the 3rd week of August, it'll be interesting to see how many extend their time in the British Isles by yet another week next 1 in the Wales Ladies Championship and how many decide to skip the Safeway Classic for the Ladies Scottish Open.

OK, that digression aside, I'm curious about your thoughts on how you'd identify the best woman golfer in the world right now.

[Update 1 (4:28 pm): Hound Dog wonders who has a better shot of reaching the Hall of Fame, Tseng or Shin? I would expect both to make it, but Shin to get there 1st.]

[Update 2 (4:58 pm): Here's the LPGA's breakdown of the Rolex Rankings race, which is a virtual dead heat between the top 4.]

[Update 3 (10:32 pm): Here's Stina Sternberg on how closely bunched the top 6 on the Rolex Rankings are!]

[Update 4 (8/3/10, 6:55 am): Great post by Mike Southern expanding on a comment here!]

[Update 5 (7:07 am): Here's something I didn't realize until pointed it out: Inbee Park is the only player to finish in the top 10 in all 4 majors! I only wish they had mentioned she's been tearing it up on the JLPGA this season, too, but I guess they don't want to be advertizing that little fact.]


diane said...

The best woman golfer in the world right now is Yani Tseng because she won yesterday. Last week Jiyai Shin claimed the title.

The top of the world rankings are fluid. You have to go all the way back to the Sybase in May to find a winner who wasn't in the Top 10 (Creamer, who is usually in the top 10, was outside because of injury when she won the US Women's Open.)

Mike said...

I have to agree with Diane. "Parity" isn't the right word, because this is a very different situation from the PGA.

On the PGA, we seem to see a different winner every week. It's a truism that the fields are so deep that anyone is capable... but there's simply no dominant player, despite what the rankings say. The top-ranked players haven't won in weeks or months.

But on the LPGA, the top players are the ones who are winning. Most of your winners this year have come from the Top 10 in the rankings (except Creamer, who as Diane pointed out, would have been, but for her surgery). The best player on any given week is that week's winner, simply because that player was already fighting for the #1 slot in the rankings.

The Constructivist said...

I agree with both of you. Plus when you consider how well non-winners have been doing this year--Pettersen, SH Kim, IK Kim, IB Park, Pressel, and Yang, in particular--there's a big chase group right behind that gang of 6 who have racked up most of the wins on tour this year. So a dozen players are pretty consistently dominating the rest of the LPGA right now! You have to get down to pretty fine distinctions to rank the top dozen. And I don't expect that to change for years. It's a perpetual pennant race with relatively arbitrary (but still meaningful) endings each season!