Monday, July 30, 2012

Surprises & Disappointments 2012 - "Part 2"

It has been more than three months since I last took a look at the surprises and disappointments on this year's LPGA Tour. Many things have changed since then, so I think it is time to take another look.

Biggest Surprises:

1- So Yeon Ryu - She was my Rookie of the Year pick before the season started. I think we all expected her to have a good year, but even I didn't think it would be this good. She currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings by quite a big margin and shows no signs of letting up. Although she has not won this year, she has six top-five finishes and seven top tens. She has yet to miss a cut in her 19 career starts.

2- Stacy Lewis - She was ranked #10 in the Rolex Rankings at the start of the year, so I expected more progress from her as she gained more experience. This much progress I didn't expect. She has moved all the way up to #2 in the official world rankings. She is currently #1 on the money list and #1 on the Rolex Player of the Year standings. She not only has won twice this year, but has 3 second-place finishes, nine top fives, and ten top tens. With Yani Tseng in the midst of a horrific slump, Stacy has taken over as the tour's most dominant player.

3- Azahara Munoz - The 2010 Rolex Rookie of the Year winner just keeps getting better and better. She won her first tournament this year, at the Sybase Match Play Championship. Azahara has showed no signs of slowing down as she now has five top-five finishes this year. She started the year #40 in the Rolex Rankings; she is now #14.

4- Natalie Gulbis - Back problems the last few years had derailed her career. Now healthy, Natalie has come up big in some very big golf tournaments. Her eighth-place finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year's first major, was her first top ten in quite awhile. She followed that up with a ninth-place finish, and finished fourth at the Evian Masters this past weekend.

5- Jenny Shin - Has cooled a bit after her strong start, but her top-five finish and four top tens tell me she has a bright future.

6- Karin Sjodin - This is Karin's 7th year on tour and she has never done anything to get excited about. That has changed this year as she has finished in the top ten in three tournaments.

7- Jodi Ewart - Jodi has only missed 2 cuts this entire season. Two top-ten finishes tell me she is someone to watch. Let's see if she can maintain her improved play and make my year-end list.

8- Giulia Sergas - Giulia fell off the end of the earth last year, missing seven consecutive cuts at one point. This year she has played her best in big tournaments. She finished 9th at the Kraft Nabisco, 4th at the U.S. Open, and 12th this past weekend at the Evian Masters.

9- Se-Ri Pak - Why do I have a Hall of Famer on here? She has been playing hurt almost all year. She announced she is shutting it down for what could be the rest of the season. Why is she a surprise? She has made all 8 cuts this year (she did have one withdrawal due to injury), and has four top tens. Her worst finish was 25th. Imagine if she were healthy.

10- Hyo-Joo Kim - Yes, I know she is an amateur and also know this 17-year-old is not an LPGA member. But how can I leave her off this list? She has only 2 starts on the LPGA this year, finishing 12th at the Lotte LPGA Championship, and 4th this past weekend at Evian. She became Japan's youngest winner when she won the Suntory Ladies Open at 16 years old. She also has a victory on the Korean Tour. The next superstar? Sure looks that way.

Biggest Disappointments:

1- Song-Hee Kim - She has owned this spot for 2 years in a row. She will not be on it next year as I have no more expectations for her whatsoever. How quickly she has fallen is totally unexplainable. She has only made 3 cuts the entire season. Her best finish this year is 33rd place. Her 76.86 scoring average ranks her 144 of 146 players ranked. She currently is #135 on the money list and retaining her LPGA card for next year is looking bleak.

2- Christina Kim - She has been just plain awful for the better part of two years now. Christina has made only 5 of 14 cuts, with her best finish 49th. Her 74.54 scoring average ranks her 120th. She is currently #106 on the money list. She must turn it around quickly or we won't be seeing much of her at all next year.

3- Michelle Wie - I am through making excuses for her. I have used youth, school, and anything else I could come up with to defend her. I give up. It has all unraveled this season. She is having trouble with every phase of her game. Her best finish in a stroke-play event was 35th place at the U.S. Open. Her per round average last year was a solid 71.96, ranking her 24th. This year it is 74.81, ranking her 126th. The only thing she has going for her is that she has earned six paychecks this year, and her current #86 spot on the money list shouldn't put her playing time in jeopardy.

4- Mindy Kim - It has all gone wrong for Mindy this year. She has missed her last 3 cuts, 4 of the last 5, and 9 in all this year. Her scoring average of nearly 74 is by far the worst in her career. She needs to step it up some to maintain her full playing privileges for next year.

5- Tiffany Joh - Her successful rookie season last year led us to expect some good things from Tiffany this year. That has been far from the case. She has missed the cut in 5 of the last 6 tournaments and 8 times already this year. Her best finish this year is 43rd. Her 74.38 scoring average ranks 116th on tour and she is currently #96 on the money list. She better step it up very quickly, or playing time will be an issue next year.

6- Morgan Pressel - Morgan has slipped out of the top 20 in the Rolex Rankings for the first time in quite awhile. Although she finished third at the Sybase Match Play Championship, her best stroke-play finish is 20th place. She is not having a terrible season, but her 50th-ranked 72.62 scoring average is not what we are accustomed to seeing. With her upcoming wedding, maybe her concentration is divided.

7- Amanda Blumenherst - Amanda started the year with a bang, finishing 5th at the Honda Classic. Her entire game seems to have fallen apart since. In her last 13 tournaments she has failed to finish higher than 31st. She has also missed the cut in 7 of the last 9 events she has played in. Her 74.18 scoring average ranks her 107th. Fortunately for her, that early top 5 finish assures her full-time status next year. Like Pressel, she is also getting married at the end of the year and her attention may be divided.

T8 - Sophie Gustafson and Maria Hjorth - No playing cards in danger here, but wouldn't you expect that one of these veteran stars would have at least one top ten? Neither has been in contention all season.

10- Ryann O'Toole - As is the case with Tiffany Joh, you have to question whether last year was a fluke. Ryann has missed the cut in 8 of her 15 tournaments this season. Though her numbers are much better than Tiffany's, her 73.57 scoring average could be better. She has made enough money to retain her card, but her inconsistent play leads me to question her long-term future.

I will review this again at the season's end.

Other Tidbits:
Stacy Lewis's eagle on the final hole of the Evian Masters this past weekend was her 7th of the season, which leads the tour.

Stacy Lewis's 2nd-place finish this past weekend was her 9th top-5 finish this year. No other player has more than 6.

Titleholders Update:
Natalie Gulbis, Beatriz Recari, and Paula Creamer are the latest to qualify. Catriona Matthew is now the highest-ranked player on the LPGA priority list yet to get in.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Inbee Park moves from #21 to #15. Hyo-Joo Kim (a) moves from # 83 to #60. Natalie Gulbis moves from #88 to #69.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're not a believer in the Sophomore Jinx. Has to be even tougher for players like Joh and O'Toole when they can't play more than two or three weeks in a row. Even Yani Tseng had a horrible 2nd year on Tour.

Speaking of Yani, are you holding off on commenting after the last couple of months ? This is shocking.

Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

I am not holding back on Yani. Check back here at end of week for more on that subject.

smithmagic said...

I am surprised anyone is following the LPGA. I guess it's good that someone is tracking it. I think once the Korean's took over ownership, most American's have tuned into something else.

Anonymous said...

Sergas is the biggest surprise to me.