We are just a few days away from the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the year's first major. Included in the field will be 14 players that were given sponsor exemptions. I am thinking that most of these names are unfamiliar to most people (including yours truly), so I did some digging and I hope this will help.
Lisa McCloskey (a) - Just 19 years of age she is a junior transfer from Pepperdine University and is now attending USC. In two seasons at Pepperdine she competed in 22 tournaments in which she posted 3 wins and 6 top 10s. She made news last June while playing in the US Open at Oakmont where she was in contention in the second round (+2) when she was informed of a two-stroke penalty because her caddie rode to the bathroom in a golf cart.
Danielle Kang (a) – Still a baby at 17 years of age she doesn’t play like one. An attendee of Pepperdine University she became the reigning USGA Amateur champion when she defeated Jessica Korda in the 2010 finale.
Yuri Fudoh – At 34 years of age she is a legend on the JLPGA tour. Her amazing career includes 48 victories. She headed the money list in Japan for 6 consecutive years (2000-2005) and rose as high as #4 in the Rolex world rankings in 2006. She has slipped a bit in recent years but is still the world's #29 ranked player.
Lee-Anne Pace – A former LPGA player (she lost her card in 2007), she was the Player of the Year on the European tour in 2010 when she won a total of 5 tournaments. She is 30 years old and hails from South Africa.
Chie Arimura – Plays mainly on the JLPGA tour. Just 23 years old, she is the #16-ranked player in the world. You might remember her for finishing in second place last month to Karrie Webb at the HSBC tournament in Singapore.
Melissa Reid – She was born in Derby, England, 23 years ago. She has quickly become one of the top players on the LET tour. Melissa finished in 3rd place last year (behind Pace and Laura Davies) for Player of the Year. She is currently the #42-ranked player in the world.
Ariya Jutanugarn (a) – A native of Thailand ,she is only 15 years of age. She was given a sponsors exemption earlier this year at the Honda Classic and shocked us all by finishing in a tie for 8th place.
Shin-Ae Ahn – The 20-year-old was a rookie on the Korean tour in 2009. 2010 was a breakout season for her as she won 3 times and had 8 top tens on the KLPGA.
Yukari Baba – A star on the JLPGA, she is ranked 27th in the world in the latest Rolex Rankings. She played in just 2 LPGA events last year finishing tied for 8th at the Mizuno Classic and tied for 9th at the Evian Masters.
Mi-Jeong Jeon – This 28-year-old was Rookie of the Year on the KLPGA in 2002. She then moved to the more lucrative JLPGA tour. She won 3 consecutive events during the 2007 season and shot to #1 on the JLPGA for a short time. She is currently ranked #17 in the world.
Cydney Clayton (a) – This 21-year-old was picked to represent the USA in the 2010 Curtis Cup. That same year she set a new Auburn record for lowest single season per round average of 71.45.
Kristen Park (a) – 17 years old and just a senior in high school, she was the 2010 Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
Meghan Stasi – At 32 she is the oldest amateur in the group by a wide margin. A former coach at the University of Mississippi, she is currently tied for 2nd in the Women’s Amateur Rankings.
So Yeon Ryu - This 20-year-old is one of Korea's top players. She was KLPGA rookie of the year in 2008 and is currently ranked #46 in the world. [Note: She's now a JLPGA member! --TC]
This is going to be one of the strongest fields that you will ever see at an LPGA event. As of this writing it will feature 41 of the top 50 players in the world (the previous high this year was 34 of 50 at last week's Kia Classic) giving it an 82% strength of field rating for my Player of the Year rankings. The points will be doubled since this is a major, making this tournament better than double in importance than any other thus far this year.
The Tony Jesselli Player of the Year Rankings so far this year look like this:
- Karrie Webb - 57.34
- Yani Tseng - 50.88
- I.K. Kim - 34.98
- Sandra Gal - 32.48
- Cristie Kerr - 32.32
- Sun Young Yoo - 30.26
- Na Yeon Choi - 27.06
- Michelle Wie - 23.40
- Suzann Petterson - 21.48
- Jiyai Shin - 21.08
- Paula Creamer - 20.02
- Juli Inkster - 18.72
- Catriona Matthew - 18.66
- Morgan Pressel - 18.16
- Amy Yang - 17.38
- Mindy Kim - 17.24
- Brittany Lincicome - 16.88
- Mika Miyazato - 14.10
- Chie Arimura - 13.60
- Stacy Lewis - 11.48