Tuesday, June 14, 2011

LPGA 2011 Rookie Report Card - Part 1

The LPGA has now completed about 40% of its schedule. I would now like to grade the results of this year's rookie players. I realize that it is still very early in the year so I will be grading them again in September, and again at the end of the year. This will give us a chance to monitor the progress and development of these players.

In Priority List Order:

Hee Kyung Seo - As was supposed to be the case, Seo is leading the Rookie of the Year Race. She has made 8 starts this year, missing only 1 cut. She has the only rookie top-10 finish, along with finishes of T17, T20 and T21. GRADE A

Jennifer Song - Has played well most of the time this year. Her 6 starts include only 2 missed cuts. Her best finish is a T16. Grade B-

Jenny Shin - Has shown flashes of very good play this year, but has missed 3 of 5 cuts. A strong T13 tells me she is a player to watch. Grade C

Jessica Korda - Labeled a "can't miss" player, Jessica has made 4 cuts in 7 starts this year. Her best finish was a very good T19 at the Avnet Classic. A future star, but not yet. Grade C+

Danah Bordner - Has made 3 of 5 cuts but hasn't finished better than T53. Grade C-

Belen Mozo - Her first 3 tournaments resulted in missed cuts, but she seems to be getting better. A solid showing at State Farm this week and a T17 at Sybase has her going in the right direction. Qualified for the U.S. Women's Open. Grade C

Dori Carter - Dori has made only 2 cuts this year out of 5 starts. Her best finish was a T47. Grade D

Kimberly Kim - Has missed the cut in all 3 of her starts this year. Maybe more future opportunities will raise her level of play. Grade F

Stephanie Sherlock - Has made 3 cuts in 6 starts this year. Has played very well at times as shown by her T16 at the Avnet Classic. Grade C+

Jennie Lee - Has looked overmatched so far this year, missing 4 of 5 cuts. Her best and only finish was a T59. Grade D-

Christel Boeljon - Very pleasant surprise. Runner-up in the Rookie of the Year race so far this year. Christel has played mostly on the European tour this year, though those stats will not count here. On the LPGA she has made 2 of 3 cuts and has finishes of T24 and T15. Grade B

Sara Brown - This former Big Break contestant is off to a horrible start. She has teed it up 5 times and has yet to make a cut. Grade F

Allison Whitaker - 4 starts, 4 Missed cuts. Grade F

Tiffany Joh - Has struggled mightily. Although she has made the cut in 2 of her 4 starts, her best finish to date is a not-so-impressive T63. Grade D

Jenny Suh - Jenny has played in 5 tournaments this year, making 3 cuts. Her best finish was a solid T17. Grade C+

Shasta Averyhardt - Has failed to make the cut in all 4 starts. Grade F

Ryann O'Toole - One of the longest drivers on the tour, Ryann has only missed one cut in 3 events this year. She has finished T32 twice this year. Grade C+

Stephanie Kim - Missed the cut in her only start this year. Grade Incomplete

Jodi Ewart - She also has only 1 start this year, failing to make the cut. Grade Incomplete

Amelia Lewis - Has played well at times this year. Has made 2 of 3 cuts with T29 her best finish. Grade C+

Caroline Hedwall - This rookie has already won on the L.E.T. Unfortunately she has not played here yet although she was eligible 3 times. Grade Incomplete

Haru Nomura - Has made the cut in 2 of her 4 starts. Her best finish to date was a T37. Grade C

Many of you may be thinking that some of these grades are very harsh considering the lack of opportunities most of these girls have had to get into events. That may be true, but with over 60% of the schedule remaining they will have ample opportunities to improve the above grades.

I will follow up in September.


Glen said...

I find your grades to be tough, but fair. Thanks for keeping an eye on the entire class for us, Tony.

Mike said...

Tony, I'm not sure it's fair to grade them only on their LPGA play, given how few opportunities these players are getting compared to players in years past.

Take Cristel Boeljen, for instance. You said "Cristel has played mostly on the European tour this year, though those stats will not count here." However, Christel (spelled with an 'h' on the LET site) has played 8 tournaments there (she made the cut in 7) vs. 3 in America -- nearly 3 times as many! She's won once, has a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and she leads the LET Order of Merit. And she's entered in 11 more LET tournaments. She's clearly playing very well, but not committed to playing a minor schedule on the LPGA when she can get more starts on the LET -- an understandable decision.

Or Caroline Hedwell. She's been eligible here for 3 events but hasn't played. Why should she? She's been able to play 9 events in Europe and is #4 on the Order of Merit.

Or Belen and Sara, who've each played 4 times on the LET and are in the Top 60 on the Order of Merit.

My point is simply this: It's hard enough for a rookie to get used to Tour life, let alone having to do it on two different continents. With the short schedule, I think some of these girls with dual membership are starting to focus on the LET... which takes a toll on their LPGA play.

As an example, I suspect Sara Brown will end up playing more over there simply because she's playing better there. Her average is nearly a full stroke better on the LET. In fact, she had her best finish there in her last tournament, and the LET site shows that she's entered in 2 more LET tournaments this month. So she may have reached the same conclusion.

And given that there's less competition on the LET since the big names tend to dominate the LPGA events, don't you think it makes sense for the rookies to guarantee a card somewhere so they can keep improving?

So maybe it's not fair to grade them solely on their LPGA performance, since the schedule doesn't give them the luxury of focusing their efforts here. Even Cristie Kerr has struggled to find a rhythm this year. If even she's having trouble, maybe the rookies should be graded on a curve of some sort.

Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

Everything you say is absolutly true and I don't disagree with any of it. The reason I only take LPGA stats for my study is that no matter how well they do on the European tour, they will not retain their LPGA cards unless they play well here. If I give someone like Sara Brown an F grade, it is telling us that the chances of her retaining her LPGA card next year is slim to none unless she starts making cuts which will lead to earning dollars.
My Blog has always focused on the ladies of the LPGA tour not LET.

Mike said...

Understood. I was just thinking in terms of how they're playing overall, since I tend to look at the womens game in general.

I'll be really surprised if many of the rookies manage to keep their LPGA cards this year. This is a tough one for them.

The Constructivist said...

Tony, I like most of your grades but think you're giving Seo too high a one. If you compare her rookie season so far with the best in LPGA history according to Hound Dog, I don't see how she gets in the A-range. Maybe a B or B+ from me.

I think Mike's points about quality of international play (oh, and I'd add that Harukyo Nomura has won on both the Futures Tour and JLPGA this year) are relevant to projections of how much we can expect from the rookies the rest of the LPGA season. Some may decide not to play on the LPGA much at all because of LET success, others may try to bring that success across the pond back to the LPGA.... But since these are basically "mid-term grades" without any future-oriented component, I totally see why you did it the way you did it!