Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Best on the LPGA: The Winless, May 2011 Edition

With Sun Young Yoo, Beatriz Recari, Sandra Gal, and Stacy Lewis graduating from last January's edition of this list of future LPGA stars who haven't yet won on tour, it's time to update and re-rank it by the likelihood of each player's breakthrough coming this season.

Most Likely to Win in 2011

1. Song-Hee Kim: She woke up on the wrong side of bed for much of 2011, but her runner-up finish at the Avnet gives her 11 top 3s in 97 starts as an LPGA member. That's as many as Seon Hwa Lee (4 wins in 138 starts) and Morgan Pressel (2 wins, including 1 major, in 127 starts) have. Yup, she's as due as she ever was.

2. Amy Yang: To score and finish as well as she has this season with a seriously cold putter shows how well she's been striking the ball since last season. If she can get her putts per green in regulation average down from 1.83, where it is this year, close to 1.77, where it was last year, watch out for her!

3. Mika Miyazato: A missed cut at the Avnet snapped her 7-event top-20 and 12-event top-25 streak on the LPGA, but look for her to come back from Japan refreshed and fired up. She's only finished 1-2 in her last 2 JLPGA majors!

4. Jennifer Song: Even with a slow start in her rookie season, she's averaging 3.23 birdies per round, she's 4-for-4 in made cuts, and she just got her 1st top 20 as an LPGA member at the Avnet. I have a feeling she's going to prove me right very soon for making her my top pick for Rookie of the Year in 2011.

The Contenders

5. Brittany Lang: The good news is that she hasn't missed a cut all season. The bad news is she has only 1 top 20 in her 6 starts in 2011. Is she coming out of the 2nd major slump of her short career or still in the thick of it? Either way, I have to demote her from the top rank of the LPGA's winless.

6. Kristy McPherson: Since her off-season surgery, she's gained a lot of distance while improving her accuracy off the tee, but that 1.88 PPGIR rate has limited her to 1 top 20 in her 6 starts thus far this season.

7. Shanshan Feng: Her top 10 at the Avnet brought her within $43K of cracking the $1M mark in career winnings as an LPGA member and gave her her 2nd top-20 finish in 6 starts this season, which is pretty impressive when you realize she's averaging 1.86 PPGIR!

8. Hee Young Park: The Rocket is playing terribly by her standards this season, much more like Seon Hwa Lee or Teresa Lu in their 1st attempts to navigate dual LPGA-JLPGA membership than Inbee Park. But she still hasn't missed a cut on the LPGA, even though she's averaging 1.93 PPGIR!

9. Vicky Hurst: She's been a little shorter and less accurate off the tee thus far this season, but the reason she has 1 missed cut to go with her 1 top 20 in her 6 starts is her 1.85 PPGIR rate.

10. Azahara Munoz: Last year's ROY hasn't missed a cut in 6 starts, but only has 1 top 25 thus far in 2011, and as with many on this list, the problem is directly traceable to her putter (1.89 PPGIR is offsetting some fantastic driving stats).

Quantum Leap Candidates

11. Mindy Kim: Her 2 top 10s and 3 top 20s in her 4 starts have been accompanied by some very solid performance stats, so unlike many around her on this list, she's got off on the right foot in 2011. If she can keep making birdies at the 3.53 per round rate she's established thus far this season, I have little doubt she can keep this up!

12. Mina Harigae: She's done everything pretty well thus far this season except get the ball in the hole (as evidenced by her 1.87 PPGIR rate), which may help explain why she has 1 top 20 and 1 missed cut in 4 starts.

13. Amanda Blumenherst: Like many on this list, she's got 1 top 20 and 1 missed cut in her 6 2011 starts, due mainly to her putting (1.88 PPGIR).

14. Chella Choi: She got her 3rd top 25 in 4 starts (the other was a MC) at the Avnet and has solid performance stats in 2011, which is more than most of her peers on this list can say. Let's see how she does at the Sybase.

15. Shiho Oyama: It's only a matter of time before she fully comes back from last year's surgery and gets accustomed to greens outside her native Japan.

16. Lindsey Wright: She's been driving the ball just fine thus far this season on the LPGA, but her iron play and putting have been terrible. The results: 1 missed cut and only 1 top 25 in her 5 starts.

17. Kyeong Bae: She's got 1 top 20 and 1 missed cut in her 1st 6 starts of 2011, but her putting hasn't been quite as bad as others on this list (1.84 PPGIR).

18. Karine Icher: She joined the LPGA in 2003 and in 2010 had her best season since 2005, when she had 8 top 10s and finished 2nd at the Corona. Last year, her ballstriking stats improved so much from the 2007-2009 period that she almost earned the title of "precision player" again. She's backslid a little to start off this season, but even so she hasn't missed a cut and has 1 top 20 in 6 starts.

19. Amy Hung: This member of the rookie class of '04 played solidly but not brilliantly last season, but despite missing her past 2 cuts in a row this season, she's driving the ball the best of her career.

20. Guilia Sergas: Don't let her awful start to 2011 fool you. This member of the rookie class of '02 has got serious game. I'm curious to see how she plays on the LET this month--she's in the field at Turkey.

The Watch List

21. Jessica Korda: She got her 1st top 20 in her 5th start as an LPGA member at the Avnet. Despite 2 missed cuts and some shaky iron play, this rookie is putting up some pretty impressive performance numbers and is averaging 3.38 birdies per round

22. Christel Boeljon: With her strong putting thus far in 2011, she's one of the few rookies to be making birdies at a fairly impressive rate (3.30 per round). With 2 top 25s in 3 starts, she's 2nd in this year's ROY race, but wasn't able to get into the Avnet and as a result missed a chance to sneak into the Sybase, so she'll have a little ground to make up when she finally gets to play again on the LPGA.

23. Pornanong Phatlum: She's got 2 top 15s and 3 top 25s in 5 starts and hasn't missed any cuts despite averaging 1.92 PPGIR, so you know she's hitting the ball well in 2011.

24. Paige Mackenzie: A top 10 at the Avnet and 2 top 20s in her 4 starts this season are undergirded by solid performance stats. Let's see how she fares at the Sybase.

25. Haeji Kang: She broke a 3-event missed-cut streak with her 1st top 25 in her 5th start of the year at the Avnet. Great timing: it got her into the Sybase.

26. Maria Hernandez: She's driving the ball solidly but isn't putting herself in good position with her irons and as a result has only a 1.86 PPGIR average. Still, she's broken a 2-event missed-cut streak with 2 made cuts in a row and can tune up further on the LET if she chooses to this month (although she's not playing in Turkey this week).

27. Jenny Shin: She's driving the ball fantastically and got a top 20 at the Founders Cup, but has since missed her last 2 cuts. Blame it on her 1.94 PPGIR rate!

28. Na On Min: Yeah, she's missed 4 cuts in a row and nothing's going right with her game at the moment, but she's got the experience to pull through this mini-slump.

29. Pernilla Lindberg: An unfortunate DQ for signing the wrong score at the Avnet derailed a pretty decent start to her sophomore campaign, but she gets to prepare for takeoff this week on the LET.

30. Belen Mozo: Yes, she hasn't yet made a cut as an LPGA member, but give the rookie a little time. Let's see how she plays on her sponsor exemption into the Sybase.

31. Mariajo Uribe: Yeah, she's off to a pretty bad start in 2011, but I have high hopes for her.

32. Tiffany Joh: Too bad for her the Futures Tour lost their only previously-scheduled event in May. Unless she wants to play the SunCoast Series or the Cactus Tour, she's got the month off to get ready for U.S. Women's Open qualifying. If she doesn't get into that tournament, it's off to the FT for 5 weeks in a row in June!

33. Cindy LaCrosse: Nothing to write home about so far from the 2010 Futures Tour money-list title-holder, but if she can start hitting her irons as well as she's been driving the ball, watch out for her in Open qualifying and after.

34. Gwladys Nocera: Shockingly awful start to 2011 for this Euro star. Wonder what it is that makes it so hard for established LET leaders to make the transition to the LPGA! Let's see if she can get her groove back in Turkey.

35. Katie Futcher: She's been riding a hot putter in 2011, but she followed up her surprise T3 at the Kraft Nabisco with a missed cut at the Avnet. Still, she has a 2nd top 20 in only 4 starts this season and will be playing at the Sybase.

Injured Reserve

36. Jane Park: I'm still waiting for her to play like she's capable of!

37. Irene Cho: Despite sitting pretty at #98 on the priority status list, she hasn't teed it up all season. I suppose she's injured....

Wait and See

38. Ryann O'Toole: She's got impressive wins on developmental tours and a T32 at the Avnet, but at #157 on the priority status list may not get into any more LPGA events for awhile. I guess that's why she's playing in Turkey this week and leading the Futures Tour money list thus far in 2011!

39. Jennifer Johnson: She's #5 on the FT money list and has a T43 at the Founders Cup under her belt on the LPGA.

40. Caroline Hedwall: Low LPGA status means she'll be spending most of her time on the LET this season. Let's see if she can make the most of it. Right now she's #25 on their money list and playing in Turkey.


Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

I agree with most of your rankings here. I only thing I question is the big gap between Song (4) and Korda (21). I give Song a slight edge because of age and experience but not 17 places.

The Constructivist said...

The highest I can see Korda going is #15 right now; if all the contenders hadn't gotten off to such slow starts this season, I could easily have put Song at #11, so, yeah, what I eventually decided on probably overstates the differences between them.

In my defense, however, a Song win would not surprise me at all--much less so than a Brittany Lang win, for that matter--while a Korda win would shock me. Plus, it makes more sense for me to put most rookies on the watch list, as I don't know enough about them to say whether they're on the verge of making a quantum leap.

Frankly, outside the top 3, it's hard to say anyone on this list is "due" for an LPGA win any time soon. So I thought I'd make a statement by putting Song so high. Let's see if I'm way out in left field on this or not!

pearshapedhuman said...

A note on Icher, she's due to give birth in August, so she better hurry if she wants a W in 2011!