Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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

I'm still in serious catch-up mode when it comes to my ongoing series on how the careers of members of recent LPGA rookie classes are shaping up and stacking up. With the start of the 2011 LPGA season only days away, it's high time I updated the Class of 2007's career ranking.

Simply the Best

1. In-Kyung Kim: She was 1 of the hottest players on tour in the 2nd half of 2010 and got her 3rd career LPGA victory plus the LET's Rookie of the Year honors at season's end. I'm looking for her to have a breakout 2011.
2. Song-Hee Kim: This straight shooter (think Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, and Sun Young Yoo) can drive for show and putt for dough, but she became a regular contender on tour when she improved her iron play. Now all she needs to do to get that elusive 1st LPGA victory is put together 4 great rounds in a row in the same week. It's not a matter of if or when, but "how soon?"
3. Eun-Hee Ji: After winning the U.S. Women's Open a couple of years ago, she decided to change her swing and finally began seeing positive results late last season. Well, after very good showings Down Under already in this young season, I'm predicting a return to the top 20 on the LPGA for her in 2011.
4. Inbee Park: The best player on the LPGA with 1 career victory (like Ji, it came in a U.S. Women's Open) is also the most due for win #2. It's going to be difficult to improve on last season's #11 ranking on the LPGA and #4 ranking on the JLPGA, but if she can augment her consistent distance gains each season with more accuracy off the tee and to the pins, she'll exceed my expectations for her on the LPGA in 2011.

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 ball-striker. But unlike Kim, she's a precision player, not a straight shooter. And when health problems affected her iron play, she almost closed down her season early for surgery. Good thing for her she kept plugging away, as she had some of her best results toward the end of last season. On the comeback trail from off-season elbow surgery, she's hoping to qualify for and be healthy by the Solheim Cup. I'm very curious to see what kind of start she gets off to in 2011.
6. Ji Young Oh: Last year was a huge step backward for the 2-time LPGA winner in every aspect of her game. Let's see if she can turn the tide this season.
7. Jane Park: Although I still believe she can be a top player in her class and on the LPGA, I'm worried that her back problems are so chronic and severe that she'll never realize her potential. Here's hoping for a helthy 2011 and a serious Solheim Cup run!

Quantum Leap Candidates

8. Na On Min: She's back from the medical problems that sidelined her for most of 2009 and in 2010 went back to making cuts with regularity again. In 2011, it's time for her to improve her ball-striking yet further and start collecting top 20s and better finishes.

On the Bottom Looking Up

9. Irene Cho: Even with bad driving and putting last season, she still finished high enough on the money list to make the top 100 on this year's priority status list, which means that she has every opportunity to break into the top 50 and qualify for the limited-field events at the end of the season.
10. Paige Mackenzie: In December '09, 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 had a terrible 2010 but will still get into every full-field event she wants to from the #117 position on the priority status list.

On the Outside Looking In

11. Jin Joo Hong: She's decided to concentrate on the KLPGA full-time in 2011.
12. Sophie Giquel: After finishing #71 on the LET money list
in 19 starts last season, she's back in action there full-time again this season and tied for 35th thus far.
13. Angela Park: From Rookie of the Year to no LPGA status in only 4 years is a very sad story. Here's hoping she's got a comeback in the cards! It doesn't appear it will start from the Futures Tour this season, however.
14. Charlotte Mayorkas: Another promising player who's pulled a disappearing act, she's not on either the LPGA's or Futures Tour's membership lists for 2011. [Update (2/17/11, 4:00 am): But she is on twitter and says she's still recovering from a wrist injury and playing professionally in Canada.]
15. Seo-Jae Lee: Is she back on the KLPGA or out of professional golf? I didn't know last year and I don't know this year.
16. Su A Kim: I believe she's back on the KLPGA, but I could be wrong.
17. Becky Lucidi: Don't know what she's up to.
18. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke: Ditto.
19. Sarah Lynn Sargent: Ditto.
20. Cindy Pasechnik: She should be finishing up her MBA at the University of Calgary pretty soon.

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the February 2011 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 was playing last season--how much money they made, how they scored, how many birdies they averaged per round, and how many greens they hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category (except for birdies, which LPGA.com 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, particularly when my favorite golfer won 3 times abroad last year!).

1. In-Kyung Kim, $1.21M (#7), 70.51 (#6), 3.82 (#7), 72.9% (#3)
2. Song-Hee Kim, $1.21M (#8), 70.21 (#4), 3.92 (#3), 73.3% (#2)
3. Inbee Park, $825.5K (#11), 70.83 (#9), 3.46 (#23), 68.6% (#32)
4. Kristy McPherson, $418.2K (#27), 72.26 (#40), 3.03 (#38), 68.8% (#28)
5. Na On Min, $172.9K (#55), 72.46 (#50), 3.08 (#46), 64.4% (#71)
6. Eun-Hee Ji, $168.1K (#57), 72.63 (#57), 2.98 (#42), 64.4% (#70)
7. Ji Young Oh, $98.4K (#72), 73.42 (#90), 2.68 (#68), 66.2% (#50)
8. Irene Cho, $79.6K (#82), 73.23 (#83), 2.91 (#76), 64.4% (#73)
9. Jane Park, $78.6K (#83), 72.89 (#66), 2.96 (#70), 63.4% (#81)
10. Paige Mackenzie, $59.0K (#93), 73.54 (#98), 2.81 (#67), 62.2% (#97)
11. Angela Park, $9.0K (#144), 77.25 (#136), 2.08 (#134), 42.6% (#136)

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 Best of All Time ranking over at Hound Dog LPGA). 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! But I have to join Hound Dog in disagreeing with their listing as a missed cut those who didn't make it to the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship after making the 2nd-round cut. By that logic, anyone who doesn't win the Sybase Match Play event should be given an MC, as well!

1. In-Kyung Kim, $3.68M (#47), 98/0/3/11/34/47/0/0/14/84 (.857)
2. Song-Hee Kim, $3.30M (#58), 91/0/0/10/34/50/0/0/15/76 (.835)
3. Inbee Park, $2.62M (#84), 95/1/1/5/22/31/1/1/19/74 (.779)
4. Eun-Hee Ji, $2.27M (#94), 77/1/2/5/15/25/0/3/10/64 (.831)
5. Angela Park, $2.12M (#99), 84/0/0/8/18/25/5/0/18/61 (.726)
6. Kristy McPherson, $1.72M (#117), 90/0/0/4/16/29/0/0/21/69 (.767)
7. Ji Young Oh, $1.49M (#126), 95/0/2/2/8/18/1/0/29/65 (.684)
8. Jane Park, $.97M (#191), 72/0/0/3/6/11/4/0/16/52 (.722)
9. Na On Min, $.67M (#244), 72/0/0/1/3/9/1/0/22/49 (.681)
10. Jin Joo Hong, $.58M (#261), 60/0/0/0/2/7/6/0/17/37 (.617)
11. Irene Cho, $.44M (#293), 77/0/0/0/3/6/4/0/31/42 (.545)
12. Paige Mackenzie, $.33M (#324), 68/0/0/0/1/2/0/0/32/36 (.529)
13. Charlotte Mayorkas, $.28M (#349), 56/0/0/0/0/4/1/0/22/33 (.589)
14. Sophie Giquel, $.12M (#460), 39/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/21/17 (.436)
15. Becky Lucidi $.10M (#477), 35/0/0/0/0/2/0/1/25/9 (.257)
16. Su A Kim, $.07M (#517), 26/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/13/12 (.462)
17. Seo-Jae Lee, $.07M (#521), 25/0/0/0/0/0/2/0/13/10 (.400)
18. Sarah Lynn Sargent, $.05M (#557), 26/0/0/0/0/0/14/12 (.462)
19. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, $.02M (#617), 34/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/29/4 (.118)
20. Cindy Pasechnik, $.02M (#642), 19/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/14/5 (.263)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 2/14/11) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 2/13/11) 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. In-Kyung Kim, 7.38 (#7), 69.37 (#7); 1
2. Song-Hee Kim, 6.39 (#9), 68.95 (#4); 0
3. Inbee Park, 6.08 (#12), 69.84 (#13); 2
4. Kristy McPherson, 2.98 (#35), 71.47 (#50); 0
5. Eun-Hee Ji, 2.17 (#63), 71.57 (#55); 4
6. Ji Young Oh, 1.20 (#109), 73.14 (#138); 0
7. Na On Min, .96 (#139), 71.60 (#58); 0
8. Jin Joo Hong, .82 (#164), 73.69 (n.r. [too few events]); 2
9. Irene Cho, .74 (#182), 73.29 (#147); 0
10. Paige Mackenzie, .64 (#201), 73.06 (#134); 0
11. Jane Park, .63 (#205), 72.67 (#111); 0
12. Angela Park, .22 (#328), 76.45 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
13. Sophie Giquel, .16 (#363), 75.35 (#296); 1
14. Becky Lucidi, .02 (#643), n.a. (n.r. [too few events]); 0
15. Charlotte Mayorkas, .01 (#698), 76.49 (n.r. [too few events]); 0
16. Seo-Jae Lee, .01 (#712), n.a. (n.r. [too few events]); 0
17. Sarah Lynn Sargent, .00 (#732), 74.42 (n.r. [too few events]); 0


This group is starting to look like the incredible shrinking rookie class of the LPGA. It's striking that 40% of the class is no longer playing on major professional or developmental women's tours and only 50% are still on the LPGA as they start their 5th season since their rookie year.

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