Monday, February 21, 2011

Ya Ni Tseng Has the Biggest Lead in the Rolex Rankings of Any #1 Player in a Year

You have to go back to last year's edition of the Rolex Rankings to find a #1 player with a bigger lead on the #2 player than Ya Ni Tseng has right now. Back then, Lorena Ochoa lead Ji-Yai Shin by 1.73 points; this week, Tseng leads Shin by 1.27 points, a scant .02 larger lead than Ochoa had on Shin on 1 March 2010. The difference, of course, is that Shin was closing fast on Ochoa last year (she'd pass her on 3 May), whereas Tseng is pulling away from her lead chase pack this season.

The other thing worth noting about the early-season Rolex Rankings is that the gap between the top 6 in the world of women's golf and the rest of the best is closing rapidly. #6 Ai Miyazato now leads #7 In-Kyung Kim by only 1.09 points and #8 Michelle Wie by 1.70 points. Back on 6 December 2010 the top 6 in the RR were all averaging over 10 points per tournament; now, only Tseng is, at 11.16 points, only .01 less than Shin was at when play closed on the LPGA last year.

I think it's too soon to start comparing Tseng to Tiger in 2000, as Shane Bacon just did at Devil Ball Golf. After all, her 1st win came against a decidedly minor-league field in Taiwan (even with the occasional LPGAer, JLPGAer, and Futures Tour stalwart rounding it out), her next 2 came against strong-for-the-LET but not LPGA-quality fields, and even her win in the LPGA debut yesterday was against a strong but limited (and, quite frankly, largely rusty) field. If she can keep winning on the LPGA early in the season, I'll give her credit for being as hot as Ai Miyazato was last winter and spring, but until then, I'll simply salute her incandescent play and wish her the best at the Showdown in Singapore this week!

[Update 1 (2/22/11, 2:16 am): See the comments for an interesting exchange between Mike Southern and me; see the HSBC web site for the company Tseng would be keeping with a win this week: Tiger, Annika, and Nancy Lopez!]

[Update 2 (1:10 pm): Stephanie Wei suggests a new nickname for Ya Ni--Queen Bee--and strongly implies she has a profile on her coming out in print pretty soon.]


Mike said...

I don't know about the Tiger comparison... but I'm not sure you're giving Yani enough credit. Let's look at a few facts:

1) You said Yani leads by the largest margin since Ochoa over Shin. Let's not forget that Yani got that margin in only 3 weeks... at which point she was #5 in the world.

2) Her #5 point average on Jan 31 was 9.24, her lowest point average since the end of last year. She's gained nearly 2 points in 3 weeks.

3} Yani's first of four straight wins this year didn't give her any points toward #1 at all.

4) #1 Shin was in 2 of the last 3 fields, so Yani beat the world #1 twice... and badly. Even Shin's T2 (7 strokes back) in one of those events wasn't enough to hold Yani back.

5) Yani also beat Karrie Webb and Katherine Hull twice on their home court. Karrie was defending champion in one of those events, and Hull was coming off two straight wins in ALPG 2-day events in January. (Those were the Moss Vale Golf Club Ladies Classic and the Mount Broughton Classic.)

6) The fact is, Yani isn't squeaking out these wins. Her closest win was by 3 strokes... and that was the Taifong Ladies Open, her first tournament of the year and the weakest field of the bunch. And the least-rusty players (like Shin) are the ones she beat the worst!

As for Ai vs. Yani:

Ai managed 2 wins back-to-back -- the first two LPGA events of the year, against "rusty" competition -- and didn't win again for over two months. She won 5 events in 6 months. In the 12 months before her last win, she had 6 wins (including the 2009 Sankyo Ladies Open).

Yani also has 5 wins in 6 months (the 2010 P&G NW Arkansas Championship counts), 3 of them back-to-back-to-back. In the 12 months before this last win, Yani has 8 wins... 2 of them majors.

Remind me... how many majors did Ai win last year during her 5-run stretch? ;-)

I'm not putting Ai down -- I know you're a big fan -- but Yani's at least as "hot" as Ai was last year. I'm not ready to call her the LPGA's equivalent of Tiger, but she's definitely playing better than anybody since Lorena.

And that comes from the guy who's been singing Cristie Kerr's praises. ;-)

The Constructivist said...

All great points, Mike. My only quibble would be that the thin LPGA schedule had more to do with Ai having to wait so long for win #3 than any lack of hotness in early 2010.

I really wish the LPGA would start keeping performance stats in international events. (Somehow the LET manages to do it!) My guess from watching every round but the last on Golf Channel is that Ya Ni was continuing to hit fairways and greens at a torrid pace on the LPGA, even as she did on the LET. Even with some pretty big mistakes, something she avoided in Australia really well, she still ran away from the field in Thailand. I think in the end it's the high quality of her play and the way she's been winning that have people so excited (myself included). When a bomber starts playing like a straight shooter or precision player, watch out, world!

So, yeah, I didn't give Ya Ni enough credit at the end of my post. I guess part of it comes out of my annoyance that the mainstream golfy media is so excited to roll out their "dominance" meme, which seems to be the only way they're comfortable writing about women's golf at all.

Mike said...

I agree on all points, TC -- even about Ai ;-) -- but especially about the stats. Maybe this sounds silly, but serious sports fans like to argue stats. If you want your sport to be taken seriously, you need to make reasonably thorough stats available to your fans.

Personally, I'd also like to see those "little" tournaments like those on the LPGA Taiwan get at least some recognition on the Rolex. I know the fields aren't the strongest, but players like Yani do play in them sometimes, and some future stars are playing there. Some of these less-known golfers might get a chance to play their way into bigger tournaments sooner.