Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Best on the LPGA: 3- to 6-Time Winners, February 2011

With Ya Ni Tseng's play in 2011 starting talk of a Tseng Dynasty on the LPGA, it's time to update my November 2010 assessment to focus on who among the LPGA's 3-to-6-time winners is likeliest to add to their victory totals in 2011.

Most Likely to Win in 2011

1. Ya Ni Tseng (6/3): Her victory in Thailand was her 4th worldwide win in 2011. Will she be the 1st to graduate from this list?
2. In-Kyung Kim (3/0): Her opening 63 in Thailand shows what she's capable of, but I was impressed by the way she kept grinding when things weren't going her way over the next 54 holes.
3. Na Yeon Choi (4/0): What will she do for an encore after taking the Vare Trophy and money-list title last season? Except for going in reverse on moving day in Thailand, she played very good golf last week. Her T15 there extends her streak to 14-straight top 20s in LPGA events and was only the 3rd finish in that run outside the top 10.
4. Suzann Pettersen (6 wins/1 major): Look her up in the dictionary under "D-U-E." You know it. I know it. She knows it. And therein lies the problem. I saw a lot of frustration in Thailand on a course she used to own.
5. Ai Miyazato (6/0): Let's see if the 3rd time is the charm when it comes to title defenses for Ai-sama! She underwhelmed at Evian last season and Thailand last week.

The Contenders

6. Angela Stanford (4/0): It's about time for her to rejoin the game's elite.
7. Brittany Lincicome (3/1): She's pretty much convinced me she's for real, but until she overcomes her "onebadrounditis," she won't be contending with any regularity on the LPGA.
8. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): 2011 started the way 2010 ended for this former top-10 player and still #2 in the Class of 2006--on the wrong foot. It's not time to hit the panic button, but she's definitely in an extended slump that she had managed to avoid longer than anyone else in her rookie class.

Quantum Leap Candidates

9. Maria Hjorth (4/0): She got hot at the very end of 2010, but may be too wild to turn that streak into another win in the early-season Asian swing of 2011. But how much better would her T8 in Thailand have been without that 78 in the 2nd round? [Update: Pretty impressive win #5 for Hjorth at the Avnet! Next time I update this, I'd better move her up a category!]
10. Catriona Matthew (3/1): She impressed me in Thailand, joining Pettersen and Hjorth at T8. Maybe 2011 will be a comeback year for her.
11. Candie Kung (4/0): Broke a run of 5-straight top 30s at the end of last season with a T38 in Thailand. Still looking for the game that had her among the world's top 10 for a pretty long time last decade.
12. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): The LET's leading money winner of 2009 continued her 2010 struggles in the 2011 season opener on the LPGA.
13. Hee-Won Han (6/0): She hasn't finished outside the top 40 in last season's year-end Asian swing or this one's early-season one, but she hasn't come close to a top 10, much less to contending.
14. Pat Hurst (6/1): She kicks off 2011 in Singapore.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

15. Wendy Ward (4/0): Just like last season, she's gotten off to a very slow start this one.
16. Grace Park (6/1): Looks like her 1st event will be in Phoenix, thanks to a medical exemption for 2011 that puts her at #84 on the priority status list.
17. Lorie Kane (4/0): At #112 on the priority status list, will get to play pretty much all the full-field events she wants to in 2011. Let's see how she does.
18. Wendy Doolan (3/0): At #100(a) on the priority status list thanks to a medical exemption, she, too, will get another chance to extend her LPGA career yet further.
19. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card from 2006-2008, but she fell off a cliff in 2009, going 0 for 16 in made cuts and even bombing out of Q-School. This season, her only made cut was at the Navistar, bringing her total to 1 for 25 in the last 2 seasons. Her 1st 4 years on tour when she averaged a win a year and was a consistent top 30 threat are a distant memory now. But she's still #184 on the priority status list, which is effectively in the low 160s, so look for her to get in a decent number of events in 2011.


The Florida Masochist said...

Time for Stanford to rejoin the elite? I argue she never was an elite player. A 2-year hot streak, another strong year but in all a 11 year career with just 4 victories. She's one of the successful americans so her achievements are overvalued.

The Constructivist said...

I disagree, Bill. I consider a hot streak something that lasts a month or 2. But 2 years? While everyone deals with off-the-course distractions, I'm sure her mom's bout with cancer has taken a lot out of her the last year-plus. Even so, she's remained a top 25 golfer, which is pretty darn good. Remember, these rankings aren't a career overview; they're all about the very recent past and near future.

Maybe I should be clearer about what I mean by elite, though. I consider the super-elite to be those contending for the #1 ranking, while the elite are those who could join that hunt. Stanford's not in either category yet, but with her distance and accuracy off the tee, I'd never count her out for getting there.