Monday, May 21, 2012

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Year 2012 "Vol 1"

Before I get to the matter at hand, let me tell you what a great time I had at the Sybase Match Play Championship. The tournament was filled with excitement, upsets, and controversy. Who would have thought that Suzann Petterson, Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Hee Kyung Seo, and Michelle Wie would all get eliminated in the first round? A big congratulations goes out to Azahara Munoz for winning her first LPGA tournament. She joins Jessica Korda as first-time winners this year.

Now to the controversy. I thought very long and hard about even mentioning this in my blog. My main purpose here is to  promote the LPGA. I try to make everyone aware of what tournaments are coming up, and give you statistics that I think are important and interesting to people following the tour. I try not to get too involved in my own personal opinions. I am going to make an exception now. I don't want to take anything away from Munoz's victory, she is an outstanding young lady who played great golf for four days, but Morgan Pressel got robbed. As some of you might know by now, the Munoz, Pressel pairing was put on the clock for slow play. Azahara is known for being the slowest player on the entire tour and was showing why again. Unfortunately both people are warned, even though only one player may be at fault.

On the 12th tee Morgan (who is faster than most players), stepped up to the tee and was ready to hit her drive. Out of nowhere came this very strong gust of wind, and she went back to her bag to change her club.

What should she do, use the wrong club? She would go on to win the hole and go 3 up with just 6 holes to play. She was then notified that she took 29 seconds too long, and the hole was awarded to Munoz. Instead of being up 3 holes, Morgan was now up only one. She was clearly upset, and went on to lose the match.

Let me tell you, slow play is a major problem on both the LPGA and PGA tours. Something has to be done about it to keep play moving and more interesting to watch. Morgan Pressel had never received a penalty for slow play in her entire career. In this case there were only four golfers playing, and no one in back of them. I am all for handing out penalties for slow players, but I don't think any discretion was used in this case. Morgan was penalized, what amounted to 2  holes, for taking 29 seconds too long. The officials held up play at least ten times that long by doing what they did. Plenty has been written about slow play in recent weeks, and I think Morgan became the scapegoat.

Now that I got that off my chest, let me get on to what I came here to write about. The LPGA has now completed the first third of the 2012 season. I would like to look at which players have made the biggest moves in the Rolex Rankings this year.

Rolex ranks the ladies based on average points per event, on a rolling 2 year calendar. For example, Yani Tseng the # 1 player in the world, has accumulated 849.91 points playing in 48 tournaments over that period, for an average 17.71 points per tournament. I have gone back to the first published rankings of the year and compared them to the rankings released today. The only requirement for my list is that a player must have been ranked in the top 100 at the start of the year, or be in the top 100 now.

The Year's Biggest Winners:

1- Sun Young Yoo - 3.06 - 5.31 = Gain of  2.25 (moved from #44 to #14)
2- Jessica Korda - 0.31 to 1.67 = Gain of 1.36 (move 314-76)
3- Azahara Munoz - 3.29 to 4.51 = Gain of 1.22 (move 40 to 19)
4- Jenny Shin - 1.07 to 2.22 = Gain of 1.15 (move 147-52)
5- Ai Miyazato - 6.60 to 7.29 = Gain of  0.69 (move from 9 to 4)
6- Lindsey Wright - 0.92 to 1.49 = Gain of  0.57 (move from 164-89)
7- Haeji Kang - 0.95 to 1.49 = Gain of  0.54 (move from 162-88)
8- Julieta Granada - 1.33 to 1.77 = Gain of  0.44 (move from 121-72)
9- Caroline Hedwall - 3.41 to 3.83 = Gain of  0.42 (move 37-24)
10- So Yeon Ryu - 4.15 to 4.56 = Gain  of 0.41 (move 27-18)
11- Lexi Thompson - 3.38 to 3.78 = Gain of 0.40 (move 39-25)
12- Vicky Hurst - 1.65 to 1.97 = Gain of  0.32 (move 91-64)
13- Natalie Gulbis - 1.34 to 1.65 = Gain of 0.31 (move 118-77)
14- Yani Tseng - 17.46 to 17.71 = Gain of 0.25 (move 1-1)
15- Candie Kung - 1.78 to 1.98 = Gain of 0.20 (move 81-63)

The Year's Biggest Losers:

1- Suzann Pettersen - 10.12 to 7.42 = Loss of 2.70 (move 2 to 3)
2- Cristie Kerr - 9.74 - 7.07 = Loss of 2.67 (move 4-5)
3- Paula Creamer - 7.97 to 5.39 = Loss of 2.58 (move from 5-13)
4- Song-Hee Kim - 4.00 to 2.25 = Loss of 1.75 (move 30 to 51)
5- Michelle Wie - 5.08 - 3.41 = Loss of 1.67 (move 17-31)
6- Na Yeon Choi - 9.78 to 8.34 = Loss of 1.44 (move 3 to 2)
7- Maria Hjorth - 5.08 to 3.41 = Loss of 1.24 (move from 22-30)
8- Jiyai Shin - 7.45 to 6.22 = Loss of 1.23 (move 7-9)
9- Yuri Fudoh - 4.34 to 3.15 = Loss of 1.19 ( move 25-39)
10- Sun Ju Ahn - 7.83 to 6.67 = Loss of 1.16 (move 6-7)
11- Brittany Lincicome - 6.57 to 5.42 = Loss of 1.15 (move 11-12)
12- Yukari Baba - 4.29 to 3.16 = Loss of 1.13 (move 26-38)
13- Mika Miyazato - 4.37 to 3.29 = Loss of 1.08 (move 24-36)
14- Sakura Yokomine - 4.83 to 3.85 = Loss of 0.98 (move 20-23)
15- Inbee Park - 4.57 to 3.64 = Loss of 0.93 (move 23-27)

This certainly looks like a breakout year for Yoo, Ryu, and Munoz.

On the other side of the coin, some of Yani Tseng's biggest challengers, Pettersen, kerr, Choi, Jiyai Shin, Creamer, and Lincicome, are all going in the wrong direction. I will review this again after the 18th tournament of the year, and again at the completion of the season.

Other Tidbits:
  • With their top-5 finish at the Sybase Match Play Championship, Stacy Lewis and So Yeon Ryu, join Yani Tseng as the only players that have done that 5 times.
  • This was the final year of the 3 year Sybase Match Play contract. Let us all hope that it will be renewed.

Titleholders Update:
Candie Kung, Morgan Pressel, and Vicky Hurst are the latest to qualify. Suzann Pettersen remains the highest ranked player not yet to qualify.

Rolex Ranking Mover of the Week:
Azahara Munoz, winner of the Sybase Match Play Championship, moves from #27 to #18.


Awsi Dooger said...

"Plenty has been written about slow play in recent weeks, and I think Morgan became the scapegoat."

Exactly, Tony. It was a 100% gutless decision by the LPGA official. He knew there was no risk, that in fact he'd be heralded by tons of simplistic fans, since slow play is the golf water cooler obsession of the moment. Twenty-nine seconds tardy -- Burn the witch! Burn her! Burn her!

Borrowed from Monty Python.

Golf doesn't fit into shot clock conformity. Too many natural variables, like the ones you described. Morgan hardly took absurdly long to change clubs. Once she sensed the wind she went to the bag and grabbed it herself, minus conversation with her caddie. The second shot was a blind pitch out of heavy rough, requiring plenty of testing of the nearby grass to gauge the required weight. It's obscene that the rules official said his only leeway was crowd noise at the tee. Imagine if Candie Kung had been on the clock when her ball bounced off the sprinkler head and into deep growth in front of the electrical box? Sorry, 30 seconds per shot. I'd argue that the Golf Channel cameramen who idiotically lined up directly across from Kung's pitch, and their equipment stopped her ball from crashing into the bunker, committed a more outrageous act than anything Morgan did. Yet not a peep.

Nobody has done a competent job in detailing the altered math. Morgan was a 10/13 favorite (-130) over Munoz. With a 1 hole lead after 12, the theoretical edge is 4/9 (-225). That's nothing remarkable, roughly the equivalent to a 5 point chalk in a football game. But a small favorite holding a 3 hole lead with 6 to play is literally in the 1/20 range (-2000). A switch from Even to 2 or flopped 1 up wouldn't have changed the math nearly as dramatically. Morgan was robbed of a commanding position.

The LPGA has made so many high profile screw ups, like the Q School playoff that wasn't necessary, and the Stephanie Kono situation last year, that I'm not willing to extend any benefit of a doubt here. It's the second most disgusting move of the year, behind only the blinding blue new website.

The Constructivist said...

I guess I'm one of those simplistic fans who believes that if you want to alter the usual rules, like not applying the usual slow play conditions or penalties to the championship match, you have to do so before the tournament starts so all competitors understand that this is a one-time waiver. As someone who DVRs his LPGA-watching, I missed what looked to be shaping up to be a dramatic last few holes in the Munoz-Kung match (it cut off right when Munoz missed the green badly after Kung missed it terribly--and unfortunately--on that last par 3), most likely because even with nobody on the freaking course the players still went well over the allotted time Golf Channel gave my DVR instructions for, plus 30 minutes....

As a golfer, the biggest thing that keeps me from playing more is slow play. I hate that Morgan was the victim this time, but let's spread it around and apply the rules consistently, so she doesn't end up being singled out (especially when she's usually a fast player).

Bottom line is, Morgan still had the lead, and both players were visibly shaken by the ruling, but Aza was able to sink her pressure putts and Morgan couldn't. No matter how unfair a ruling may be, you still have to gather yourself and bounce back. Munoz did it after Morgan's challenge on 15. It just took Morgan a little longer to recover. Glad to see she beat Hurst, at least. I feel awful for Morgan and I'm really proud of her demeanor and attitude following the ruling, but she couldn't talk back with her clubs in the end, and that's what I feel the worst for her about, because I have a feeling how badly she wanted to.

IceCat said...

TC, the telecast went past the time it was originally scheduled for because you may also have noticed that it was not live: when the Nationwide Tour event preceding it ran over because of a playoff The Golf Channel made the decision to tape-delay the Sybase. The same amount of coverage we would have seen live was instead delayed half an hour and Golf Central, which normally runs a full hour on Sunday evenings, was cut to half an hour to allow them to get the rest of the evening back on schedule.

WooIsMe said...

If the officiating becomes the story, your sport either has a problem with the rules, the officials, or both. The outcome looks tainted, illegitimate, or worse. I present the following examples (in brief):

1) The NFL Tuck Rule: Tom Brady and the Patriots, your 2002 Super Bowl champions.
2) USA Women 2 - Brazil 2, if not for Abby Wambach's OT heroic header, we'd be complaining about the retaken Penalty Kick that Hope Solo initially saved. Or the Brazilian player who faked an injury to run time off the clock and give her team a timeout. (For which she received a meaningless yellow card.)
3) The Armando Galarraga "perfect game": blown by umpire Jim Joyce
4), 5), and on until infinity

The Tuck rule still exists. There is very limited instant replay in baseball. Blown calls are featured on SportsCenter several times a week.

Golf needs to fix this rule. You know that something's not right when Morgan Pressel gets penalized before Kevin Na does. (And yes, I am actually very sympathetic towards Na. He clearly has some form of OCD, and I personally know good people who have this terrible problem.)

The rule needs to be applied fairly and consistently in men's & women's golf, professional and amateur. In this case, players need to be explicitly told when the clock has started on every stroke. It has to be fair to all players in the group.

Fix this NOW. There's no reason we should still be talking about the Tuck Rule either.

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