Since last April's ranking of the Best of the Young Guns generation on the LPGA, a lot has changed, most notably Ya Ni Tseng's achieving escape velocity relative to her peers in the rookie classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008, so much so that it's no exaggeration to speak of this as her generation, the Tseng Dynasty, a la Annika, Se Ri, and Lorena's. Let's take a look at who has the best shot of overthrowing--or at least keeping pace with--Tseng in 2012!
In a Class of Her Own
1. Ya Ni Tseng: Since I last did this ranking, Tseng has added 2 majors, 6 wins, 8 top 3s, 10 top 10s, and 14 top 20s to her already-best-in-class career totals. That's more majors than anyone else in her generation, more wins than anyone except Ai Miyazato, and more top 3s than most in her generation will garner in their entire careers--all in only 17 starts!
Simply the Best
2. Na Yeon Choi: She did her best to keep up with Tseng, with a win, 6 top 3s, 11 top 10s, and 13 top 20s in her 17 starts since the last ranking. Even though she has the most top 10s in her generation, she needs to contend and win more often to even start thinking about catching her Class of '08 rival!
3. Ai Miyazato: She lost a good deal of ground on Tseng and Choi since last April, despite getting career win #7 and adding another top 3, 6 top 10s, and 10 top 20s in her 15 starts.
4. In-Kyung Kim: She matched Miyazato in top 3s and top 10s and actually had 1 more top 20 than her in her 17 starts since the last ranking, but she needs to go off in her next 12 starts, with 4 wins and $1M in winnings, to get to where Miyazato is now.
5. Morgan Pressel: She has the most top 20s in her generation, but her lead on Choi has shrunk to 1 in this category, and Choi has 46 fewer starts as an LPGA member than she does. She's consolidated her position ahead of the players in the next rank since the last ranking, but she's falling behind the best in her generation.
6. Seon Hwa Lee: She's in a real career nosedive, tailspin, free fall--whatever you want to call it. She's young enough to bounce back, but at this point the question is not when but if.
7. Song-Hee Kim: Compared to others in this category, her slump in 2011 was relatively mild. She still made a bunch of cuts and added a lot of top 20s to her career totals, but the clearest indication she's no longer among the game's elite is in how few top 10s and better finishes she could garner since last April.
8. Amy Yang: She's now the best on the LPGA without a win, in my books, but more on that later. It's not just that she's set a good pace early in her career, it's that she's poised to really take off in 2012, whereas most in this category have been struggling of late or just starting to get out from under pretty big slumps.
9. Eun-Hee Ji: Speaking of which, Ji is still not out from under her U.S. Women's Open jinx. I'd say she's stabilized her fall, but she hasn't completely pulled out of it, as I expected her to last season. Maybe this one?
10. Inbee Park: I want to rank her higher than this based on her strong performances on the JLPGA over the last 2 seasons, but the fact is that she just hasn't been as good on the LPGA as she's been in Japan.
11. Jee Young Lee: Something is definitely wrong with her, as she's made only 2 cuts since last April.
12. Hee Young Park: The Rocket finally got her 1st LPGA win, and what a win it was! Let's see if she uses it to really blast off in 2012.
13. Brittany Lang: She played great since the last ranking and her 2nd major career slump is now a distant memory I'd love to see her break through for her 1st LPGA win in 2012!
Quantum Leap Candidates
14. Momoko Ueda: Her strategy of dividing her time almost equally between the LPGA and JLPGA has been netting her diminishing returns the last 2 seasons--but she did win the Mizuno in 2011, which salvaged her year on both tours. If she can get her putter going in 2012, watch out for her!
15. Sun Young Yoo: She's plateaued and will need to get it going to jump another level in 2012.
16. Kristy McPherson: Her recovery from surgery was on the slow side in 2011, but she's too tough a competitor to let missing out on the Solheim Cup get her down for too long. I expect to see her bounce back in 2012.
17. Sandra Gal. I'm still giving the nod to her over Shanshan Feng, even though Feng outplayed her a bit since the last ranking--her win over Ji-Yai Shin at the Kia and better made-cut rate continue to carry the day for her.
18. Shanshan Feng: She's started playing very good golf again and has put her 2nd career slump behind her, but she's another dual LPGA-JLPGA member who's been playing even better in Japan than she has anywhere else in the world.
On the Bottom, Looking Up
If you're struggling to keep your card, you're not going to be moving up this ranking any time soon. The players in this category may be millionaires, but getting to that 2nd million (or, in Granada's case, 3rd) will be difficult for them as the best players from the New Blood and Generation Prodigy rookie classes come more and more into their own.
19. Julieta Granada.
20. Ji Young Oh.
21. Jane Park.
22. Kyeong Bae.
23. Meaghan Francella.
24. Katie Futcher.
On the Outside, Looking In
25. Teresa Lu: A full-time JLPGAer now.
Over and Out
26. Angela Park.
For your reference, here's how the millionaires in the Tseng Dynasty stack up, stats-wise, at the end of the 2011 season.
STARTS/MAJORS/WINS/TOP 3/TOP 10/TOP 20/WD/DQ/MC/FINISHES (RATE)
[Note: *=non-member win (not counted toward other stats).]
1. Ya Ni Tseng (2008), $7.54M (#15), 95/5/12/29/46/68/0/0/4/91 (.958)
2. Ai Miyazato (2006), $5.73M (#31), 131/0/7/16/45/67/1/0/18/112 (.855)
3. Na Yeon
Choi (2008), $5.67M (#32), 97/0/5/22/48/70/0/0/2/95 (.979)
4. In-Kyung Kim (2007), $4.56M (#40), 119/0/3/15/44/63/0/0/16/103 (.866)
5. Morgan Pressel (2006), $4.39M (#44), 143/1/2/12/42/71/0/0/15/128 (.895)
6. Seon Hwa Lee (2006), $4.01M (#49), 150/0/4/11/30/61/2/0/19/129 (.860)
7. Song-Hee Kim (2007), $3.65M (#54), 111/0/0/11/36/54/0/0/18/94 (.849)
8. Jee Young Lee (2006), $3.31M (#62), 139/0/1*/9/35/65/5/0/20/114 (.820)
9. Brittany Lang (2006), $3.12M (#67), 151/0/0/7/34/59/0/0/30/121 (.801)
10. Inbee Park (2007), $2.99M (#72), 111/1/1/5/25/37/1/1/20/89 (.802)
11. Sun Young Yoo (2006), $2.80M (#76), 147/0/1/4/22/48/1/0/29/117 (.796)
12. Eun-Hee Ji (2007), $2.45M (#87), 96/1/2/5/15/26/0/3/14/79 (.823)
13. Julieta Granada (2006), $2.40M (#90), 144/0/1/5/12/24/0/1/55/78 (.542)
14. Hee Young Park (2008), $2.32M
(#96), 96/0/1/4/19/32/0/0/18/78 (.813)
15. Angela Park (2007), $2.12M (#103), 84/0/0/8/18/25/5/0/18/61 (.726)
16. Amy Yang (2008), $2.04M (#108),
17. Kristy McPherson (2007), $1.88M (#117), 111/0/0/4/16/30/0/0/25/86 (.775)
18. Ji Young Oh (2007), $1.49M (#131), 106/0/2/2/8/18/1/0/39/66 (.623)
19. Momoko Ueda (2008), $1.40M (#141),
20. Kyeong Bae, $1.40M (#142), 134/0/0/2/10/22/5/0/39/90 (.672)
21. Shanshan Feng (2008), $1.24M (#160),
22. Sandra Gal (2008), $1.21M (#163),
23. Meaghan Francella (2006), $1.16M (#169),
24. Teresa Lu (2006), $1.13M (#173),
25. Jane Park (2007), $1.01M (#191), 85/0/0/3/6/11/4/1/22/58 (.682)
26. Katie Futcher (2006), $1.00M (#192),