Sunday, September 30, 2012

Japan Women's Open Sunday: Shanshan Feng Goes Wire-to-Wire for 2nd Major of 2012

With a once-Super Typhoon bearing down on Yokohama, the final round of the Japan Women's Open kicked off at 7 am today.  By the time the leaders made the turn about 6 hours later, only 4 golfers had a real chance to win. 

Shanshan Feng, who held the lead or a share of the lead after each of the 1st 3 rounds, bounced back from an opening bogey with 3 birdies over her last 6 holes on the front to get back to -1 for the week.  Although she had gone 24 holes without making a birdie, she never panicked and kept her damage to a minimum during her rough patch, then exploded out to a big lead on her playing partner and co-leader at the start of the day.  Megumi Kido suffered a triple bogey on the very same hole Feng broke out of her birdie-less run, and she never recovered.

Playing 1 pairing ahead of Feng and Kido, Inbee Park opened with a 34 that extended her bogey-free run to 14 holes in which she made 3 birdies.  But she could only make up 1 shot on Feng during that stretch and ended the front 9 where she started--2 shots back.  Still, she hadn't shot herself out of contention, as her playing partner Ayako Uehara did with a birdie-less 39 on the front.

Playing another pairing ahead of the final group, Rui Kitada was making the biggest move of the week, firing a bogey-free 32 to move from +4 to E.  That was part of a 21-hole bogey-free run in which she had made 6 birdies in all!  Unfortunately for her playing partner Ai Miyazato, Kitada was the only one making birdies in that pairing on Sunday, as Ai-sama dropped out of contention with a birdie-less 38.

Finally, playing yet another pairing ahead of the leaders, 2010 champion Mika Miyazato was making a run of her own, with a 3-birdie 33 that made up for her disappointing 3-bogey 39 the afternoon before and pulled her within 2 of the lead.  Things went from bad to worse for her playing partner, living legend Yuri Fudoh, who had doubled the long par-4 17th on Saturday and followed up an early birdie with back-to-back bogeys on the front on Sunday.

But almost as soon as the field narrowed down to 4 players with a real chance to win, 2 of them ran into trouble on the back.  First Mikan bogeyed the 295-yard par-4 12th to fall to +3.  Then Kitada bogeyed both the 160-yard par-3 11th and the 12th to drop back to +2.  When they bogeyed the 200-yard par-3 14th in turn, their chances were pretty much down to zero.

That's because Feng kept making par after par to stay under par for the week and Park kept her hot play going with birdies on the 375-yard 10th and 365-yard 13th to make it 5 birdies in her last 18 holes of bogey-free golf and catch Feng at -1.  So it was down to 2 of the hottest golfers in the world of women's golf over the last 5 holes.  Yes, Ji-Hee Lee had made 4 birdies in a 9-hole stretch midway through her round Sunday and hung tough at the end to finish the week at +2 on the strength of a fine 69, but even a Park bogey on the 515-yard par-5 15th left Lee 2 shots out of 2nd place.  And even though Feng joined Park at E with a bogey of her own on the 430-yard 17th, the 18th was a 575-yard par 5, so it was highly unlikely that 1st Park and then Feng would double it.

But Park bogeyed it, taking the pressure off Feng, who made the par for her 3rd win in her last 4 starts on the JLPGA and 5th of her career.

E Shanshan Feng (68-75-74-71)
+1 Inbee Park (73-76-70-70)
+2 Ji-Hee Lee (73-77-71-69)
+3 Mika Miyazato (72-75-73-71)
+4 Ah-Reum Hwang (76-77-68-71), Rui Kitada (77-73-70-72)
+5 Ayako Uehara (72-74-72-75)
+6 Akane Iijima (75-77-71-71), Hiromi Takesue (78-74-71-72), Jeong Jang (74-73-74-73)
+7 Chie Arimura (76-75-71-73), Hiromi Mogi (75-75-71-74), Teresa Lu (72-74-75-74), Ai Miyazato (72-77-70-76)
+8 Maiko Wakabayashi (75-72-78-71), Na Yeon Choi (77-76-70-73), Na-Ri Lee (74-75-74-73), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-77-71-74), Soo-Yun Kang (71-80-71-74), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-76-72-74), Miki Sakai (73-77-72-74), Megumi Kido (70-74-73-80)
+9 Sakura Yokomine (79-75-71-72), In-Kyung Kim (74-74-75-74), Yuri Fudoh (71-79-70-77), Megumi Kido (70-74-73-80)
+10 Miki Saiki (74-78-71-75), Na-Ri Kim (70-75-76-77)
+11 Ji-Yai Shin (81-74-72-72)
+12 Momoko Ueda (72-81-73-74) 
+14 Hyun-Ju Shin (77-77-73-75), Mayu Hattori (76-77-74-75)
+15 Kumiko Kaneda (74-79-74-76), Young Kim (75-76-73-79)
+16 Shinobu Moromizato (78-76-76-74)
+17 Erina Hara (73-79-77-76), Bo-Bae Song (75-77-76-77)
+18 Rikako Morita (72-75-82-77), Ya Ni Tseng (73-75-77-81) 
+20 Maria Iida (78-73-77-80)
With Rolex Rankings #1 Ya Ni Tseng closing out her week with a back-9 44 (consisting of a birdie, 3 pars, 2 bogeys, 2 doubles, and a triple) and Women's British Open champion Ji-Yai Shin unable to go low after opening with an 81, it's looking like Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park, and last week's LPGA winner Stacy Lewis have the most serious mo' heading into the LPGA's fall Asian Swing.  If Feng and Park weren't in the thick of things on the LPGA, they'd certainly be tempted to try to take the JLPGA money-list lead away from Mi-Jeong Jeon!

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥108.69M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥93.22M
3. Chie Arimura ¥91.38M
4. Shanshan Feng ¥71.28M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥64.72M
6. Rikako Morita ¥64.03M
7. Mayu Hattori ¥63.28M
8. Ritsuko Ryu ¥61.86M
9. Miki Saiki ¥59.47M
10. Inbee Park ¥57.34M
11. Bo-Mee Lee ¥56.15M
12. Sakura Yokomine ¥46.03M
13. Yumiko Yoshida ¥43.64M
14. Hiromi Mogi ¥40.22M
15. Soo-Yun Kang ¥37.93M
16. Esther Lee ¥36.40M
17. Mihoko Iseri ¥33.65M
18. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥31.50M
19. Yuri Fudoh ¥30.12M
20. Kaori Ohe ¥28.90M
21. Natsu Nagai ¥27.41M
22. Megumi Kido ¥27.16M
23. Rui Kitada ¥26.10M
24. Ayako Uehara ¥24.81M
25. Kumiko Kaneda ¥24.10M
26. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥23.52M
27. Akane Iijima ¥23.48M
28. Na-Ri Lee¥22.83M
29. Yuki Ichinose ¥22.79M
30. Miki Sakai ¥22.57M
31. Na-Ri Kim ¥22.22M
32. Junko Omote ¥21.92M
33. Yukari Baba ¥21.78M
34. So-Hee Kim ¥21.75M
35. Shinobu Moromizato ¥21.02M
36. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥20.83M
37. Erina Hara ¥19.86M
38. Young Kim¥19.20M
39. Airi Saitoh ¥19.12M
40. Teresa Lu ¥18.95M
41. Ji-Yai Shin ¥18.68M
42. Erika Kikuchi ¥18.53M
43. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.31M
44. Bo-Bae Song ¥16.26M
45. Saiki Fujita¥15.78M
46. Yuko Fukuda ¥15.60M
47. Harukyo Nomura ¥14.48M
48. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥13.85M
49. Da-Ye Na ¥13.66M
50. Asako Fujimoto ¥12.23M

So, to recap, Shanshan Feng now has 5 worldwide wins in 2012.  Everyone who joined her on the JLPGA from the LPGA will be returning to the top tour in women's golf on the planet in 2 weeks in Malaysia.  The JLPGA returns to action in a couple of weeks, as well, at the Fujitsu Ladies.  Take a deep breath, folks!  The home stretch on both tours is shaping up to be fantastic.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Japan Women's Open Saturday: Shanshan Feng and Megumi Kido Hold Onto Slim Lead

Scores continue to creep higher at the Japan Women's Open.  With 1st- and 2nd-round leader Shanshan Feng enduring a birdie-less 74 to drop to +1, we now not only have no players under par through 54 holes, we now have no players at par, either!

That's not to say that several golfers didn't move up the leaderboard in a big way on moving day.  Ah-Reum Hwang fired a 5-birdie 68 to move within 4 shots of Feng and her co-leader Megumi Kido.  Ai Miyazato finished birdie-birdie to match 70s by Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, Yuri Fudoh, Rui Kitada, and Hiromi Takesue that brought all of them within that magic "5 shots of the lead" margin that gives them a shot at victory tomorrow.  And we saw a passel of 71s from such top JLPGAers as money-list leader Mi-Jeong Jeon, her closest pursuer in the field Chie Arimura, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, Soo-Yun Kang, Miki Saiki, and Hiromi Mogi.  With dark horse Ayako Uehara only 1 back, 2010 champion Mika Miyazato lurking 3 off the pace, and the LPGA's Jeong Jang right in the mix at +5, just about anything can happen tomorrow.

Here's how everyone stood once the smoke settled:

+1 Megumi Kido (70-74-73), Shanshan Feng (68-75-74)
+2 Ayako Uehara (72-74-72)
+3 Inbee Park (73-76-70), Ai Miyazato (72-77-70)
+4 Rui Kitada (77-73-70), Yuri Fudoh (71-79-70), Mika Miyazato (72-75-73)
+5 Ah-Reum Hwang (76-77-68), Hiromi Mogi (75-75-71), Ji-Hee Lee (73-76-71), Jeong Jang (74-73-74), Teresa Lu (72-74-75), Na-Ri Kim (70-75-76)
+6 Hiromi Takesue (78-74-71), Chie Arimura (76-75-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-77-71), Soo-Yun Kang (71-80-71), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-76-72), Miki Sakai (73-77-72)
+7 Na Yeon Choi (77-76-70), Akane Iijima (75-77-71), Miki Saiki (74-78-71), Na-Ri Lee (74-75-74), In-Kyung Kim (74-74-75)
+8 Young Kim (75-76-73)
+9 Sakura Yokomine (79-75-71), Ya Ni Tseng (73-75-77), Maiko Wakabayashi (75-72-78)
+10 Momoko Ueda (72-81-73)
+11 Ji-Yai Shin (81-74-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-77-73), Mayu Hattori (76-77-74), Kumiko Kaneda (74-79-74)
+12 Bo-Bae Song (75-77-76), Maria Iida (78-73-77)
+13 Erina Hara (73-79-77), Rikako Morita (72-75-82)
+14 Shinobu Moromizato (78-76-76)

With 20 players within 5 shots of the lead, tomorrow should be a very tense and  volatile day!  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Japan Women's Open Friday: Shanshan Feng Only Player Under Par at Halfway Point

Wow, the scoring is even higher after 36 holes of the Japan Women's Open!  Check out how the leaders and big names are doing:

-1 Shanshan Feng (68-75)
E Megumi Kido (70-74)
+1 Na-Ri Kim (70-75)
+2 Ayako Uehara (72-74), Teresa Lu (72-74)
+3 Maiko Wakabayashi (75-72), Jeong Jang (74-73), Mika Miyazato (72-75), Rikako Morita (72-75)
+4 In-Kyung Kim (74-74), Ya Ni Tseng (73-75)
+5 Na-Ri Lee (74-75), Inbee Park (73-76), Ai Miyazato (72-77)
+6 Ji-Hee Lee (73-76), Yuri Fudoh (71-79)
+7 Maria Iida (78-73), Chie Arimura (76-75), Young Kim (75-76), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-77), Soo-Yun Kang (71-80)
+8 Bo-Bae Song (75-77), Miki Saiki (74-78), Erina Hara (73-79)
+9 Na Yeon Choi (77-76), Mayu Hattori (76-77), Kumiko Kaneda (74-79), Momoko Ueda (72-81)
+10 Sakura Yokomine (79-75), Shinobu Moromizato (78-76), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-77)
+11 Ji-Yai Shin (81-74)
+12 Bo-Mee Lee (80-76), Ritsuko Ryu (76-80)
+13 Shiho Oyama (78-77), Yuki Sakurai (78-77)

And the cut line came in at +11.  So Ji-Yai Shin squeaked into the top 60 and ties.  And given how many people you can pass just by staying near par, I wouldn't say anyone playing tomorrow is out of it!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Japan Women's Open Thursday: Shanshan Feng Breaks 70, Takes 2-Shot Lead

The stars are out at the Japan Women's OpenShanshan Feng has jumped out to an early lead on the strength of a 5-birdie 68.  Only 4 other players went under par, including Na-Ri Kim and Megumi Kido at -2 and Yuri Fudoh and Soo-Yun Kang at -1.  But check out who's lurking--or struggling--as the case may be....

E Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, Rikako Morita, Ayako Uehara, Teresa Lu
+1 Inbee Park, Ya Ni Tseng, Ji-Hee Lee, Erina Hara
+2 In-Kyung Kim, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Jeong Jang, Kumiko Kaneda
+3 Maiko Wakabayashi, Young Kim, Bo-Bae Song
+4 Chie Arimura, Ritsuko Ryu
+5 Na Yeon Choi, Hyun-Ju Shin
+6 Shiho Oyama, Yuki Sakurai, Maria Iida
+7 Sakura Yokomine
+8 Bo-Mee Lee
+9 Ji-Yai Shin
WD Sun-Ju Ahn

Scores are always high at this event and the weather doesn't always cooperate, but for so many great golfers to be unable to break 75, you have to wonder what happened....  Check out this version of the leaderboard that allows you to see exactly how many bogeys and worse players were making at a glance!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Year 2012 "Vol 2"

Before I get to today's subject, let me give a big congratulations to Stacy Lewis for winning the Navistar Classic. It breaks a dry spell for American players and gets them back into the winner's circle. It was only the sixth victory for an American player this year, but that number does tie South Korea for first place.

With Stacy receiving 30 Player of the Year points for the victory, she now has a huge 56-point lead. With only 6 tournaments to go, she will be next to impossible to catch. With her ability to finish in the top 10 every week--she leads the tour with 14--she just has to play what is average golf for her, to be the first American Player of the Year winner since 1994.

It has been 4 months since I last looked at the biggest winners and losers in the Rolex Rankings for the 2012 season. A lot has changed since then.

Rolex ranks the ladies based on average points per tournament, on a rolling 2-year calender. For example, Yani Tseng, the #1 player in the world, has accumulated 639.58 points playing in 48 tournaments over that period, for an average of 13.32 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 in the top 100 at the start of the year, or be in the top 100 now.

The Year's Biggest Winners:

1- Inbee Park - 4.57 to 7.17 = Gain of 2.60 (moved from #23 to #7)
2- Shanshan Feng - 5.61 to 7.94 = Gain of 2.33 (move 13-4)
3- Lydia Ko - 0.36 to 2.69 = Gain of 2.33 (move 295-42)
4- Stacy Lewis - 6.59 to 8.77 = Gain of 2.18 (move 10-2)
5- So Yeon Ryu - 4.15 to 6.10 = Gain of 1.95 (move 27-12)
6- Mika Miyazato - 4.37 to 6.31 = Gain of 1.94 (move 24-10)
7- Azahara Munoz - 3.29 to 5.12 = Gain of 1.83 (move 40-17)
8- Sun Young Yoo - 3.06 to 4.80 = Gain of 1.74 (move 44-21)
9- Jenny Shin - 1.07 to 2.74 = Gain of 1.67 (move 147-40)
10- Hyo-Joo Kim - 0.38 to 1.95 = Gain of 1.57 (move 289-62)
11- Jessica Korda - 0.31 to 1.73 = Gain of 1.42 (move 314-74)
12- Karen Sjodin - 0.48 to 1.78 = Gain of 1.30 (move 258-73)
13- Haeji Kang - 0.95 to 2.22 = Gain of 1.28 (move 162-53)
14- Lexi Thompson - 3.38 to 4.61 = Gain of 1.23 (move 39-22)
15- Chella Choi - 2.07 to 3.14 = Gain of 1.07 (move 70-35)
16- Karine Icher - 1.71 to 2.74 = Gain of 1.03 (move 85-39)

The Year's Biggest Losers:

1- Yani Tseng - 17.46 - 13.32 = Loss of 4.14 (move 1-1)
2- Cristie Kerr - 9.74 to 5.80 = Loss of 3.94 (move 4-14)
3- Suzann Pettersen - 10.12 to 6.69 = Loss of 3.43 (move 2-8)
4- Michelle Wie - 5.08 to 2.32 = Loss of 2.76 (move 17-49)
5- Song-Hee Kim - 4.00 to 1.32 = Loss of 2.68 (move 30-104)
6- Maria Hjorth - 4.65 to 2.52 = Loss of 2.13 (move 22-45)
7-Morgan Pressel - 5.34 to 3.26 = Loss of 2.08 (move 16-32)
8- Paula Creamer - 7.97 to 5.99 = Loss of 1.98 (move 5-13)
9- Yukari Baba - 4.29 to 2.42 = Loss of 1.87 (move 26-48)
10- Sun Ju Ahn - 7.83 to 6.14 = Loss of 1.69 (move 6-10)
11- Brittany Lincicome - 6.57 to 4.95 = Loss of 1.62 (move 11-19)
12- Shiho Oyama - 3.61 to 2.08 = Loss of 1.53 (move 34-58)
13- Sakura Yokomine - 4.83 to 3.25 = Loss of 1.48 (move 20-33)
14- Yuri Fudoh - 4.34 to 2.89 = Loss of 1.45 (move 25-38)
15- I.K. Kim - 6.76 to 5.33 = Loss of 1.43 (move 8 to 15)

Yani Tseng on top of this chart is probably a surprise to most people. The fact remains that she has not had a top ten in stroke play since the Lotte Championship in April. The LPGA has played 14 tournaments since then, and over that period Yani is ranked the 74th-best player. Let 's take a closer look:

First Rolex Ranking of the Year:
1- Yani Tseng - 17.46
2- Suzann Pettersen - 10.12
Yani's Lead = 7.34 points

April 2, 2012 Rolex Rankings:
1- Yani Tseng - 18.64
2- Na Yeon Choi - 9.17
Yani's Lead = 9.47 points 

Current Rolex Rankings:
1- Yani Tseng - 13.32
2- Stacy Lewis - 8.77
Yani's Lead = 4.55 points

As you can see, Yani's lead is shrinking faster than we ever thought possible. In fact she has lost about 55% of her lead since April. I don't think she is intimidating anyone anymore. I look for either Stacy, Shanshan, or Inbee to challenge her number one ranking in 2013.

Other Tidbits:

Rolex Movers of the week:
Stacy Lewis moves from #3 to #2. Lexi Thompson moves from #25 to #22.

Titleholders Update:
M.J. Hur, Sarah Jane Smith, and Pernilla Lindberg are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest-ranked player on the LPGA Priority List yet to qualify.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Overview: Rikako Morita Outlasts Hiromi Mogi and Esther Lee

Hiromi Mogi held a slim 1-shot lead on Esther Lee and Rikako Morita heading into the final round of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, and Sunday's final threesome didn't disappoint.  After a series of thrills and spills, the 22-year-old Morita emerged victorious, capturing her 2nd career JLPGA win.  But it wasn't easy.

Lee struck 1st with a bogey-free 33 on the front to leap into 1st at -12, but Morita's birdies on the par-3 7th and par-5 8th enabled her to catch Mogi at -11 when the 2nd-round leader bogeyed the par-4 9th.  A Morita birdie and Lee bogey on 10 reversed their positions, but then Mogi birdied 11 to join Morita at -12.  There was another 2-shot swing on 12, where a Morita birdie and Mogi bogey gave the former her 1st 2-shot lead of the day.  But after trading birdies with Mogi on 13 and witnessing Lee make a birdie on 14 to join Mogi at -12, Morita saw her lead evaporate when she bogeyed and Mogi birdied 15.  Undaunted, Morita responded with a birdie on the 386-yard par-4 16th to return to -14, and when Mogi bogeyed it and Lee bogeyed the 372-yard par-4 17th, Morita's chasers needed miracles on the short par-5 closing hole.  When all 3 players ended up parring it, Morita had secured her 1st win on tour since 2010.

Even though Chie Arimura, Ji-Hee Lee, and Kumiko Kaneda matched Morita's 67 for co-low rounds of the day, they couldn't keep up with her 2nd-round 64 and had to settle for top 10s.  The visiting Shanshan Feng shot 3 under-par rounds in a row but could never go low enough to be a factor, finishing 6 shots behind Morita and 2 behind Arimura at -8.  Still, she beat Lee, Kaneda, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and Mayu Hattori by 2 shots, Sakura Yokomine and Yuri Fudoh by 4, Shiho Oyama by 5, Sun-Ju Ahn by 8, and Bo-Mee Lee by 9.  I'd say she's in good shape heading into next week's Japan Women's Open.

Speaking of good shape, Morita is now within shouting distance of the JLPGA's Big 3, having moved up to 4th on the money list:

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥107.37M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥93.22M
3. Chie Arimura ¥89.38M
4. Rikako Morita ¥63.42M
5. Mayu Hattori ¥62.48M
6. Ritsuko Ryu ¥61.86M
7. Miki Saiki ¥58.52M
8. Bo-Mee Lee ¥56.15M
9. Ji-Hee Lee ¥53.94M
10. Sakura Yokomine ¥44.95M
11. Yumiko Yoshida ¥43.64M
12. Shanshan Feng ¥43.28M
13. Inbee Park ¥41.94M
14. Hiromi Mogi ¥38.22M
15. Soo-Yun Kang ¥36.61M
16. Esther Lee ¥35.08M
17. Mihoko Iseri ¥32.70M
18. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥30.18M
19. Yuri Fudoh ¥29.04M
20. Kaori Ohe ¥28.30M
21. Megumi Kido ¥26.08M
22. Natsu Nagai ¥25.41M
23. Kumiko Kaneda ¥23.38M
24. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥22.72M
25. Yuki Ichinose ¥22.00M
26. So-Hee Kim ¥21.75M
27. Na-Ri Lee¥21.51M
28. Na-Ri Kim ¥21.27M
29. Miki Sakai ¥21.25M
30. Junko Omote ¥21.05M
31. Yukari Baba ¥20.95M
32. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥20.83M
33. Rui Kitada ¥20.71M
34. Ayako Uehara ¥20.61M
35. Shinobu Moromizato ¥20.35M
36. Akane Iijima ¥20.35M
37. Erina Hara ¥19.22M
38. Airi Saitoh ¥19.12M
39. Young Kim¥18.48M
40. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.78M
41. Erika Kikuchi ¥17.66M
42. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.31M
43. Teresa Lu ¥16.95M
44. Bo-Bae Song ¥15.63M
45. Saiki Fujita¥15.00M
46. Yuko Fukuda ¥14.82M
47. Harukyo Nomura ¥14.48M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥13.00M
49. Hsuan-Yu Yao ¥12.15M
50. Nikki Campbell ¥11.90M

So the showdown I was drooling over last Tuesday is finally almost here.  The JWO is easily the biggest tournament on the JLPGA and it's got the cast to prove it again this year:  Tseng, Choi, Shin, Park, Feng, and the Miyazatos will be testing themselves against the JLPGA's finest as well as the top teenagers in Japan.  Sweet!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spoiler Alert: __x_'s Going Low!!

Hey folks, a certain defending champion is putting together a fantastic opening round at the Navistar LPGA Classic!  Don't click on the links unless my (rather obvious) clues have already given it away....

Ricoh Women's British Open Recap: Ji-Yai Shin Rocks Royal Liverpool

Neither howling wind nor driving rain nor lengthy weather delays at the 2012 Ricoh Women's British Open could delay Ji-Yai Shin from her appointment with history.  As is well-known by now, she beat Paula Creamer by the largest margin in the history of the WBO to capture her 10th career LPGA victory and her 2nd major (both WBOs), joining Se Ri Pak as the only South Koreans (and Asians) to have won more than 1 major on the world's best professional tour for women.

What seems to be less well-known, at least going by the many excellent posts and articles I have read on Shin, is how hot many of Shin's closest chasers were coming into this event, which makes her dominating win even more impressive.  Looking at those who fell by the wayside and how they did it really puts the Final Round Queen's Sunday play in perspective.  It's not just that she was solid and steady and unflappable while the hope of those around were being blown away by those two huge squalls that blew in as the leaders started each side.  It's that Shin kept attacking Royal Liverpool while others were just trying to survive.

Take Ai Miyazato, who I still believe is the best player in the world without an LPGA major to her name.  She took a 9 on the 4th hole of the final round mere minutes after Shin's only big mistake of the week, a triple on the 1st, seemed to open the door to those like Ai-sama who had been hanging around E all week.  Just like Karrie Webb, a Hall of Famer with 7 majors to her name whose game and experience seemed perfect for last week--and whose 3rd-round 68 gave her loads of momentum and only a 3-shot deficit heading into the final round--Ai-sama failed to break 80 after starting so disastrously.  That's 2 rivals down.

How about Paula Creamer, who had taken Shin to the 9th playoff hole just 6 days earlier?  Well, she would have been a factor if her Achilles heel from Kingsmill hadn't joined her on the transatlantic voyage.  She simply missed too many short putts to take advantage of her excellent ball-striking and fantastic mid-length putting during WBO week.  That final burst where she went birdie-eagle-par-birdie to battle back to +1 for the week showed that she had the firepower to again make this a photo finish with Shin.  She just couldn't sustain those kinds of runs or avoid the mistakes that end them.  (Plus she was +4 with no birdies over her 1st 14 holes in that final round.)

What about So Yeon Ryu, who was coming off a big win in Korea, where she beat Na Yeon Choi by 4 shots?  Well, she fought back from a disastrous stretch on Saturday where she went bogey-par-triple-bogey as she made the turn from the back to the front to salvage a 74 and stay at E after 2 rounds, but she just couldn't bounce back enough from a double on the 8th in her 3rd round and a triple bogey-bogey start to her final round.  So the presumptive Rookie of the Year ended up 12 shots behind Shin.

Now let's turn to the 2 hottest golfers in the world of women's golf, Mika Miyazato and Inbee Park, who played their last 36 holes with Shin and could have put a lot of pressure on her. 

Park was coming off an amazing Sunday charge on the JLPGA the previous week, where she birdied her last 5 holes in a row to miss a playoff with Chie Arimura by a single shot.  WBO Sunday, though, was another story.  After getting to 6-under through 52 holes, she faltered big-time, making 4 bogeys, 2 doubles, and no birdies over her next 17 holes.  In a nutshell, she couldn't handle the squalls as well as Shin did.  Yes, she birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to end up E for the week, but this normally great accomplishment was only good enough to prevent Shin from winning by double digits.  Still, her silver medal was her her 4th in her last 8 starts (to go with a gold and a bronze and a 4th!).  Even more impressively, she has 9 top 10s in a row and hasn't finished outside the top 26 since her 1st LPGA event of the year in Thailand.  In her 17 starts this year, she has 14 top 25s, 13 top 20s (and 12 in a row and counting!), 9 top 10s, and 7 top 5s.  That's why she leads the LPGA money list by $266K (more than most players make in a year!).  But she lost ground to Shin when it counted most last Sunday.

Mikan also had a great chance to win last week.  She was -6 through 51 holes, thanks to a stretch from the 7th through 15th holes where she made 5 birdies.  But, she, too, faltered at the end of her third round, like Park doubling the tough 17th and failing to birdie the par-5 18th (but topped her by bogeying the 16th, too).  And even though she survived the 1st squall, limiting her damage to a single bogey on the 1st hole and hanging tough with 8 straight pars, she was totally blown away by the 2nd, going bogey-bogey-double when she needed to be bearing down and putting pressure on Shin.  She played great from then on and can be forgiven for missing 2 short putts on the last 2 holes, but she still shot a 41 on the back 9 on Sunday despite playing fantastic golf the previous 63 holes and despite extending her streak on the LPGA to 9 top-16 finishes in a row, during which she has earned 1 win, 2 silvers, a bronze, and a 4th at the WBO.  Yes, she reached the $1M mark last week for the 1st time in her short professional career and remains the most accurate off the tee on tour.  But she lost to Shin by 11 shots.

So forget that Ya Ni Tseng couldn't 3-peat or that Stacy Lewis and Na Yeon Choi had bad tournaments by their world-class standards.  Shin faced down the hottest players in the world of women's golf and made them wonder what course she was playing.  You think her front-row seat to Lydia Ko's history-making win at the Canadian Open didn't light a fire under her?  She only beat the 15-year-old by 18 shots last week!  How tough is she?  She made 5 birdies after opening with that shocking triple, bouncing back from 2 bogeys midway through her round with her last 3 the second the winds slowed even slightly.  Shin attacked Royal Liverpool while everyone else was trying to keep from being blown away by the conditions.  And in the end she was the one who blew them away.

So now Shin has moved up to #5 on the money list with $1.17M and #2 in the Player of the Year race, as well as extended her lead in the race for the Vare Trophy to over a third of a stroke (although she needs 19 more rounds to meet the minimum eligibility requirement).  She's heading into the Asian swing with all kinds of momentum and has all kinds of motivation to take the title of top Korean golfer in the world away from Na Yeon Choi, Sun-Ju Ahn, Inbee Park, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and her other rivals who she'll be facing in both the Japan Women's Open and the LPGA's Korea event (I'm hoping Ahn and Jeon show up for it, that is!).  A return to #1 in the Rolex Rankings is probably too much to ask in 2012, but the way she won her last 2 events in a row is certainly reminding me of the phenom who dominated the KLPGA and burst onto the LPGA with a Hall of Fame-type pace.  She beat Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato to 10 LPGA victories and is now only 5 behind Tseng.

Talk about the Return of the (Final Round) Queen!  My apologies to those starting the Navistar in a few hours, but I'm still looking backwards, not ahead!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Overview: Huge Upset for Natsu Nagai

Natsu Nagai birdied 5 of her last 10 holes and 3 of her last 5 last Sunday at the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic to blast past some of the JLPGA's biggest names and capture her 1st career victory in 9 years of trying.

Money-list leader Mi-Jeong Jeon had opened with a 64 and got to -12 for the week with a birdie on the 1st hole of her final round, but lost all her momentum after bogeying the par-5 3rd hole and found herself on the 18th tee 1 shot behind Nagai, needing a birdie on the 367-yard par-4 to force a playoff.  Instead, she doubled it to fall back to 4th place, 1 shot behind Miki Saiki and Bo-Mee Lee.  Saiki birdied 3 of her last 4 holes to pull within 2 shots of Nagai, but it was Lee who had the best chance to win--at least until a double on the 383-yard par-4 14th dropped her back to -9.  Playing with Lee, Nagai took advantage with a birdie, engineering a 3-shot swing on a hole she moved to -10 on.  From there, she outbirdied Lee 2 to 1 to secure the victory.

Other players shot themselves out of the running on the front 9.  Chie Arimura posted a birdie-less 38 that made her closing 33 moot.  Da-Ye Na squandered her 71-65 start to the week with a triple and 2 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes that dug way too big a hole for her to climb out of, even with a 4-birdie 33 on the back.  Similarly, Misuzu Narita opened bogey-par-triple to make her closing heroics--6 birdies in her last 12 holes--too little and far too late.

True, all of them needed perfect rounds to have a chance of chasing down Nagai, who opened and closed her week with 66s.  But let's face it, when a veteran who's never won more than 16 million yen in a single season walks away with a win, it's got to make more players than usual be thinking "coulda woulda shoulda" and wondering why they couldn't find their way to the winner's circle.  Certainly defending champion Mayu Hattori and perennial star Sakura Yokomine, who couldn't seem to get it out of neutral this week, would have loved to be in the mix instead of the middle of the pack.

Nagai's win means that Jeon failed to extend her money-list lead significantly on either Sun-Ju Ahn or Arimura.  But the JLPGA's Big 3 still have a huge lead on the rest of the top 10....

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥105.82M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥92.89M
3. Chie Arimura ¥85.18M
4. Ritsuko Ryu ¥61.50M
5. Mayu Hattori ¥60.93M
6. Miki Saiki ¥57.98M
7. Bo-Mee Lee ¥55.84M
8. Ji-Hee Lee ¥52.40M
9. Rikako Morita ¥50.82M
10. Sakura Yokomine ¥44.18M
11. Yumiko Yoshida ¥43.64M
12. Inbee Park ¥41.94M
13. Shanshan Feng ¥40.48M
14. Soo-Yun Kang ¥35.84M
15. Hiromi Mogi ¥32.06M
16. Esther Lee ¥30.18M
17. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥29.64M
18. Mihoko Iseri ¥29.20M
19. Yuri Fudoh ¥28.27M
20. Kaori Ohe ¥28.01M
21. Megumi Kido ¥25.86M
22. Natsu Nagai ¥25.41M
23. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥22.41M
24. Yuki Ichinose ¥22.00M
25. Kumiko Kaneda ¥21.83M
26. So-Hee Kim ¥21.75M
27. Na-Ri Lee¥21.09M
28. Na-Ri Kim ¥21.01M
29. Yukari Baba ¥20.58M
30. Miki Sakai ¥20.48M
31. Shinobu Moromizato ¥20.35M
32. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥20.29M
33. Rui Kitada ¥20.17M
34. Ayako Uehara ¥19.51M
35. Akane Iijima ¥18.81M
36. Erina Hara ¥18.68M
37. Junko Omote ¥18.60M
38. Airi Saitoh ¥18.35M
39. Young Kim¥18.05M
40. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.78M
41. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.31M
42. Erika Kikuchi ¥17.12M
43. Teresa Lu ¥16.95M
44. Bo-Bae Song ¥15.63M
45. Saiki Fujita¥15.00M
46. Harukyo Nomura ¥14.48M
47. Yuko Fukuda ¥14.28M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥13.00M
49. Hsuan-Yu Yao ¥11.79M
50. Nikki Campbell ¥11.61M

If Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng weren't playing so great on the LPGA this year, you might have seen them focusing more on moving up the JLPGA money list the rest of the season.  Jeon, after all, could have won at least half a dozen more events if she were a better closer, Ahn and Arimura are having good but not great seasons, and no one else has been as consistently strong as the dual LPGA-JLPGA members.  I'm not saying Park has a legitimate shot at taking both the LPGA and JLPGA money titles this year, but if she hadn't caught fire on the LPGA I wouldn't put it past her to have taken a serious run at the JLPGA's Big 3.

As it is, what's next for the JLPGA is the 40th playing of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open this week.  And, yes, Virginia, Feng will be there to defend her title against the likes of, oh, everyone ahead of her on the money list except Park.  A successful title defense would most likely return her squarely into the top 10.  Let's see if she can do it!  It would give her some serious momentum heading into the Japan Women's Open the following week, which will feature the likes of Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Park, and the rest of the JLPGA's finest, along with the typical bumper crop of teenage amateurs:  14-year-olds Minami Katsu and Rei Matsuda, 15-year-olds Kana Nagai, Maria Shinohara, and Moeno Tan, 16-year-olds Mayu Hosaka, Aya Ishikawa, Asuka Kashiwabara, and Haruka Morita, 17-year-old Akane Saeki, and 18-year-olds Hikari Fujita, Yuri Matsuda, Aoi Onishi, and Ai Suzuki.  Highly doubtful any of them will pull a Lydia Ko against a field like that, but we'll see!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Navistar LPGA Classic Preview & Pairings

The LPGA moves back to the United States this week with the playing of the Navistar LPGA Classic. Although there will still be 6 more events, this will be the last full-field event of the 2012 season. Four events in Asia, followed by one in Mexico, and capped off by the season ending Titleholders Championship will follow. All are limited-field events. 

This will be the 21st of 27 tournaments scheduled this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  RTJ Golf Trail, Capitol Hill, The Senator
Where:  Prattville, Alabama
Defending Champion:  Lexi Thompson
Winning Score:  66-68-67-70= 268 (-17)

Final Field:  144 players
Par:  72
Yardage:  6,460 yards
Purse:  $1,300,000

Here are the pairings for the first two rounds.

My strength of field rating is 47%, making it the second-weakest field of the year. Some of the big names that will not be teeing it up include: Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, I.K. Kim, Morgan Pressel, Karrie Webb, Jiyai Shin, Catriona Matthew, Mika Miyazato, Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng, Momoko Ueda, Juli Inkster, Jodi Ewart, Giulia Sergas, and Jessica Korda.

With this being the final full-field event, and so many stars not playing, it will give those players fighting to keep their playing cards a better chance for a higher finish.

Predicting my top 12 this week is really a challenge, but here goes:

1-  So Yeon Ryu
2-  Stacy Lewis
3-  Lexi Thompson
4-  Angela Stanford
5-  Michelle Wie
6-  Suzann Pettersen
7-  Amy Yang
8-  Azahara Munoz
9-  Yani Tseng
10-Anna Nordqvist
11-Sydnee Michaels
12-Brittany Lang

Here are television times:
Sep 20 - GC 6:30 PM-8:30 PM EST
Sep 21 - GC 6:30 PM-8:30 PM EST
Sep 22 - GC 2:00 PM-5:00 PM EST
Sep 23 - GC 2:00 PM-5:00 PM EST

Other Tidbits:
Stacy Lewis, who has teed it up in all 20 tournaments this year, now has a tour-leading 13 top-ten finishes.

Inbee Park has played in 18 LPGA events this year. She did not have a top ten in her first 9 tournaments. She has finished in the top ten in each of the last 9 she has played. The last 5 times she has teed it up, she has finished no worse than 3rd.

Brittany Lang missed the cut for the first time in her last 32 tournaments. Karrie Webb (41) and Paula Creamer (40) have the longest current streaks.

Hard-to-Believe Fact of the Week:
Ai Miyazato continues to be the best player on the planet to have not won a major championship. She has now gone 31 majors without a victory. She was hardly a factor this year, finishing 56th, 6th, 28th, and 26th in the four majors. Hurry up and place your bet for 2013 as this can not continue.

Titleholders Update:
Julieta Granada, Katie Futcher, and Cindy LaCrosse are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest-ranked player on the priority list yet to qualify.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Domination--Jiyai Shin wins the Women's British Open

The golfer nicknamed the 'Final Round Queen' lived up to her nickname today. She won the last LPGA Major Championship of 2012 by 9 shots over Inbee Park. Just six days ago Shin defeated Paula Creamer in a nine-hole sudden-death playoff at the Kingsmill Championship. Shin shot a 71 to open the tournament, then followed it with a course record 64 to open up a five-shot lead going into the final day of play. Due to inclement weather on Friday, players who made the tournament cut had to play 36 holes today. No South Korean golfer other than Se Ri Pak has won more than one LPGA major. Another tidbit--no South Korean golfer other than Pak has won a double digit amount of LPGA tournaments. As I've written a few times, there has been a large number of South Korean golfers who started strongly on the LPGA Tour and then went into decline. Jiyai Shin, winner of the 2008 Women's British Open, came into today with one LPGA major championship triumph and nine LPGA wins respectively. So she was looking to join Pak.

Karrie Webb shot a third round 68 to pull within 3 shots of Shin with 18 holes to go. The weather turned horrible in the short period of time between Webb and Shin finishing their 3rd rounds and teeing it up for the 4th round. Rain and gusting strong winds. The final round was going to be a matter of survival. Shin makes a triple bogey on the opening round of her 4th round. Webb made double bogey but Shin's lead was down to two. That is as close as it came. Shin played the final 17 holes of her 4th round in 2 under par. Webb, Inbee Park, and Mika Miyazato all faded. The weather was bad for most of the day; in fact, there was a 15-minute stoppage as the winds were just gusting too strongly. It was just incredible how Shin played after the 1st hole. She never came close to another disaster. Her final-round 73 may have been just as good as her course-record 64 in the second round. Only two golfers, Creamer and Alexis Thompson, shot better rounds than Shin and they each came in with 72s. I think it's safe to say Shin is back. The last few weeks look to me look like her making another run at #1 in the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Best on the LPGA without a Major: 2012 Women's British Open Edition

So far in 2012 we've had 3 1st-timers win LPGA majors:  Sun Young Yoo, Shanshan Feng, and Na Yeon Choi.  Can someone still left on my list of the best on the LPGA without a major join them by winning the Ricoh Women's British Open?  Looking at the patterns, I'd say it's either going to be one of the players below who's been knocking on the door for some time now or a young phenom like Lydia Ko. Unfortunately, I don't have time to back up my ranking of who's most likely to win this week with a lot of stats like I did, for instance, in my U.S. Women's Open predictions, in which I cleverly put Choi 7th.  So, yes, what follows is not even an imperfect science--it's more like an educated guess.

Oh, and the numbers in parentheses following the players' names are for LPGA wins and international wins (but only from the other major tours: JLPGA, KLPGA, LET).

Most Likely to Break through at Royal Liverpool
1. Ai Miyazato (9/17)
2. Mika Miyazato (1/1)
3. Amy Yang (0/4)
4. Brittany Lang (1/0)
5. Azahara Munoz (1/1)
6. Hee Kyung Seo (1/11)
7. In-Kyung Kim (3/1):

The Contenders

8. Angela Stanford (5/0) 
9. Sandra Gal (1/0)
10. Lexi Thompson (1/1)

Quantum Leap Candidates
11. Chella Choi (0/0)
12. Karine Icher (0/5)
13. Haeji Kang (0/0)
14. Momoko Ueda (2/9)
15. Hee Young Park (1/4)

Like I said, no time to justify the order of the above list or who's not on it, but here are some other players I've been keeping an eye on lately.

Watch Lists

Most wins/longest careers without a major: Mi Hyun Kim (8), Hee-Won Han (6), Sophie Gustafson (5), Maria Hjorth (5), Lorie Kane (4), Wendy Ward (4)

Slumping stars: Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Sun Young Yoo, Cristie Kerr (if 2 bad starts in a row counts!)

Rising stars: Carlota Ciganda, Danielle Kang, Caroline Hedwall, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Beatriz Recari, Ilhee Lee, Belen Mozo, Jessica Korda, Gerina Piller, Lizette Salas, Jenny Shin, Mo Martin, Mina Harigae, Pornanong Phatlum, Pernilla Lindberg

Possible non-LPGA winners: Lydia Ko, Melissa Reid, Carly Booth

OK, time to check the leaderboard.  Don't forget ESPN coverage starts at 9 (it's on ESPN2 on DirectTV)!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ricoh Women's British Open Preview & Pairings

Following the 9-hole playoff between Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin, the tour moves to the United Kingdom, for the playing of the Ricoh Women's British Open.

This will be the 20th of 27 tournaments, and the fourth and final major championship of the season.

Here are some key details:

Course:  Royal Liverpool Golf Club
Where:  Wirral, United Kingdom
Defending Champion:  Yani Tseng
Winning Score: 71-66-66-69=272

Final Field:  144 players
Par:  35/37=72
Yardage:  (Information not yet available)
Purse:  $2,750,000

My strength of field rating is 72%, making it the third strongest field of the year, behind the United States Open and The Kraft Nabisco Championship. The only notable players not teeing it up this week are Jennifer Johnson and the injured Se Ri Pak.

Here are the pairings for the first 2 rounds.

Here are the television times:
Sep 13 - ESPN 9:00 AM-12:00 PM EST
Sep 14 - ESPN 9:00 AM-12:00 PM EST
Sep 15 - ESPN 9:00 AM-12:00 PM EST
Sep 16 - ESPN 9:00 AM-12:00 PM EST

Predicting the top 12 for the British Open, in my opinion, is the toughest of all the tournaments. With all the best European players in the field, it makes it that much harder. Here are my picks:

1- Catriona Matthew
2- Stacy Lewis
3- Shanshan Feng
4- Inbee Park
5- Paula Creamer
6- Na Yeon Choi
7- Suzann Pettersen
8- Sophie Gustafson
9- Melissa Reid
10-Yani Tseng
11-Jiyai Shin
12-So Yeon Ryu 

Other Tidbits:
Morgan Pressel, who had averaged about 2.5 missed cuts per season in her career coming into this year, has now missed 7 consecutive cuts.

Lexi Thompson must love the number fourteen, as she has finished in 14th place 4 times this year.

Titleholders Update:
Danielle Kang, Dewi Claire Schreefel, and Maria Hjorth are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest-ranked player on the priority list yet to get in.

Rolex Movers of the Week:
Paula Creamer moves up 4 spots, from #18 to #14. Jiyai Shin moves up 3 spots, from #13 to #10.

Who's Hot:
Stacy Lewis's 9th place finish at the Kingsmill Championship was her 12th top ten finish of the year. No one else has more than nine.
Taylor Coutu has three top-25 finishes in her last four starts, which has saved her season, resulting in her retaining full-time status next year.

Who's Not:
Sun Young Yoo has failed to finish in the top 30 in her last 5 starts.
Katie Futcher has not finished better than 50th in her last 5 starts.

Kingsmill Championship Finale: Ji-Yai Shin Outlasts Paula Creamer for 1st LPGA Win since 2010 in Record-Breaking 9-Hole Playoff

Wow, what is there to add to that amazing 9-hole, 2-day playoff between a pair of players hungry for their 1st win in 2 seasons that extended the Kingsmill Championship to 81 holes?  Onechan's favorite golfer, Paula Creamer, did just about everything she could to secure her 10th career LPGA victory, but in the end it was imoto's favorite golfer, Ji-Yai Shin, who got LPGA win #9, crossed the $5 million mark in career earnings, and moved to the top spot in the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on tour.

So many golfers actually had a chance to win on Sunday, from relative unknowns like Karine Icher, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Danielle Kang, and Gerina Piller to veterans like Angela Stanford, Catriona Matthew, and Maria Hjorth to players in the prime of their careers like Ai Miyazato, Stacy Lewis, Mika Miyazato, and Azahara Munoz.  But they either started the day too far behind Creamer and Shin or succumbed to the pressure of getting close to them.  It was particularly painful for me to see my own favorite golfer Ai-sama finish so weakly after twice getting to -14 on the back.  Hey, but 3 rounds in the 60s and all 4 under par is a great way to head into the Ricoh Women's British Open, which is probably her strongest major.

Really, though, nobody could keep pace with Shin and Creamer, who played really gritty golf down the stretch despite making uncharacteristic mistakes that opened the door momentarily to their lead chase pack.  For Creamer, it was an air-mailed approach shot on the 6th hole that ended an amazing run of 38 holes dating back to Friday during which she made 13 birdies and no bogeys.  But just as Shin suffered a bad stretch after her own 13-birdies-in-30-holes start--going +3 and birdieless in a 13-hole stretch from Friday to Saturday before getting it back in gear--Creamer had to suffer through an 8-hole stretch in which she went +3 and birdieless.  She bounced back with 2 birdies in a 4-hole stretch that brought her back to -17, but Shin showed her own resilience, as she recovered from back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11 with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 (and a near-miss for her 3rd in a row on 17).  Despite her heroics, she was still 1 shot behind Creamer as they stood on the 18th green.  It's a cruel twist of fate that Creamer burned the cup on both her 72nd and 81st holes, coming in so hot both times that her ball actually slingshotted further away from each hole than it otherwise would have.

But you know what?  Given Creamer's putting problems all season, I love that she had the confidence to take a run at both those 30-foot-plus putts.  Yes, she missed both comebackers and that was the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Still, for her to trade blows with a former world #1 for 45 holes-plus and nearly come out on top in the game of "anything you can do I can do better" showed me that "the old Paula" is back.

And just like we witnessed the return of the Pink Panther the last few days, we saw the Final Round Queen win her crown back.  She didn't make it look easy like she did in the past, and her driver and putter weren't as reliable during the playoff as we've come to expect from her.  But, man, what a display of mid-iron, hybrid, and fairway wood accuracy and distance control!  I know many are questioning the decision to play 18 over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, but it must have been amazing to watch the quintessential precision players fight a battle of attrition to a dangerous pin on a back-left shelf.  While it didn't have the fireworks and eagle opportunities of the Manulife playoff that repeated on a short par-5 with an accessible but tricky pin position, what it did have was a total battle of nerves between 2 evenly-matched golfers.  I'm just sad 1 of them had to lose.

So this week's WBO is shaping up to be an epic confrontation.  Along with Creamer, Inbee Park came within a shot of a JLPGA win, Na Yeon Choi finished a few shots behind KLPGA winner So Yeon Ryu, and Caroline Hedwall came back from injuries of her own to defend her LET title in Austria.  Looks like Lydia Ko's impressive Canadian Open victory a little while back has lit a fire under the world's best golfers.  Mika Miyazato continues to impress, Stacy Lewis is brilliant in stretches, Ai Miyazato seems close to putting it all together, and there are a bunch of Europeans, from major winners like Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist, and Catriona Matthew to up-and-comers or late bloomers like Azahara Munoz, Sandra Gal, Karine Icher, Beatriz Recari, Karin Sjodin, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Belen Mozo, and Pernilla Lindberg, who can take a lot of positives away from not only their most recent outing.  I can't wait for this thing to start!

Konica Minolta Cup Finale: Chie Arimura Holds Off Charging Inbee Park for 1st JLPGA Major, 3rd Win of 2012, and 13th Career Victory

Chie Arimura won the Konica Minolta Cup on Sunday for her 1st JLPGA major, 3rd win of 2012, and 13th career victory.  But she had to withstand a furious charge from then-LPGA money-list leader Inbee Park, who nearly stole her 5th career JLPGA victory out of Arimura's hands. 

Park was 8 shots behind 1st-round leader Yumiko Yoshida Thursday after opening with an even-par 72.  She was still 6 shots behind 2nd-round leader Arimura, whose 65 overshadowed her 68.  And Park fell 8 shots behind Arimura by the end of the 3rd round, when her 71 was simply outclassed by Arimura's 3rd-straight round in the 60s and 2nd 69 of the week.  The gap between them was epitomized--and extended--by Arimura's birdieing her last 2 holes while Park finished bogey-par for a flat finish after having birdied 4 of her previous 7 holes.  In fact, Park actually fell 9 shots behind Arimura after 4 holes of the 4th round, when she negated her opening birdie with a bogey on the 536-yard par 5.

It would have been easy for Park to give up at that point or give in to frustration.  After all, the Women's British Open is this week and nobody would have blamed her if she coasted in, conserving her energy in the JLPGA major for the LPGA/LET major to come.  Instead, Park responded with 2 birdies in her next 4 holes.  But when she cooled off with 5 pars in a row, she was still 7 shots behind Arimura, who was locked in a duel with playing partner Yoshida.  The 1st-round leader twice got to -12 on the front to keep the pressure on Arimura.  Still, when Arimura birdied the 533-yard par-5 10th to return to -14 and Yoshida responded with a bogey there and on the 396-yard par-4 11th to drop back to -10, it was most definitely Arimura's tournament to lose.  Even as Yoshida birdied the 167-yard par-3 12th and kept making par after par afterwards, Arimura held steady with 4 pars in a row.  But maybe she started hearing roars from 2 groups ahead of her, because Park was embarking on an amazing birdie barrage with just 5 holes left to play.  She birdied the 406-yard par-4 14th to get to -8.  She birdied the 382-yard par-4 15th to get to -9.  She birdied the 500-yard-par-5 16th to get to -10.  She birdied the 185-yard par-3 17th to get to -11 (and catch Yoshida).  When Arimura bogeyed the 15th, her once-9-shot lead on Park had dwindled to 2.  And then Park birdied the 400-yard par-4 18th to finish at -12 and pull within a single shot of Arimura.

But Arimura held steady over her final 3 holes, parring out to post a -13 total for the week and secure her 13th career JLPGA victory.  It was a great win for a player who admitted after her round she was so worried by the wrist injury that delayed the start of her 2012 season that she wondered whether she'd have to give up the game.  She didn't, and now she's 3rd on the JLPGA money list, only about 20 million yen behind leader Mi-Jeong Jeon, who had a tough week, and about 10 million yen behind Sun-Ju Ahn, who couldn't come closing to making it 3 wins in a row on the JLPGA.  Nobody else is very close to the JLPGA's Big 3 of 2012, although Park moved up to #12 in only 8 JLPGA starts this season (passing Shanshan Feng, who must have decided not to play this week after all), Yoshida bumped Sakura Yokomine out of the top 10, Ritsuko Ryu dropped Mayu Hattori to the #5 spot, and Kumiko Kaneda jumped 20 spots and Na-Ri Kim 10 thanks to their strong finishes.

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥101.02M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥92.89M
3. Chie Arimura ¥81.18M
4. Ritsuko Ryu ¥60.88M
5. Mayu Hattori ¥60.01M
6. Ji-Hee Lee ¥51.91M
7. Miki Saiki ¥51.66M
8. Rikako Morita ¥49.54M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ¥49.52M
10. Yumiko Yoshida ¥43.30M
11. Sakura Yokomine ¥43.26M
12. Inbee Park ¥41.94M
13. Shanshan Feng ¥40.48M
14. Soo-Yun Kang ¥35.14M
15. Hiromi Mogi ¥32.06M
16. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥29.64M
17. Mihoko Iseri ¥28.43M
18. Yuri Fudoh ¥28.27M
19. Kaori Ohe ¥28.01M
20. Esther Lee ¥27.38M
21. Megumi Kido ¥25.86M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥22.41M
23. Yuki Ichinose ¥22.00M
24. Kumiko Kaneda ¥21.83M
25. So-Hee Kim ¥21.05M
26. Yukari Baba ¥20.58M
27. Shinobu Moromizato ¥20.35M
28. Miki Sakai ¥19.78M
29. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥19.67M
30. Ayako Uehara ¥19.51M
31. Na-Ri Kim ¥19.30M
32. Rui Kitada ¥18.89M
33. Erina Hara ¥18.68M
34. Airi Saitoh ¥18.35M
35. Na-Ri Lee¥18.29M
36. Akane Iijima ¥18.25
37. Young Kim¥18.05M
38. Junko Omote ¥17.83M
39. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.78M
40. Erika Kikuchi ¥17.12M
41. Teresa Lu ¥16.95M
42. Eun-Bi Jang ¥16.03M
43. Bo-Bae Song ¥15.63M
44. Harukyo Nomura ¥14.48M
45. Yuko Fukuda ¥13.72M
46. Saiki Fujita¥12.20M
47. Da-Ye Na ¥11.29M
48. Lala Anai ¥11.08M
49. Natsu Nagai ¥11.01M
50. Nikki Campbell ¥10.85M

Arimura is in the field list for the 43rd Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, where Mayu Hattori will attempt to defend her title, but it's looking like Ahn and Jeon will be competing in the KLPGA major across the pond instead (even as lower-tier Japanese players like Wakabayashi, Ohe, Kido, Ichinose, Hara, and even Aiko Ueno will be playing at Royal Liverpool).  With So Yeon Ryu coming off her 8th career KLPGA victory on Sunday and Na Yeon Choi finishing 4th there, Park will be the hottest player from the JLPGA but maybe not the hottest Korean in the field--although we'll have to see how Ji-Yai Shin handles getting to Hoylake late after her 81-hole victory at Kingsmill!  With all that moving around, the JLPGA might actually end up having the weakest field of any of the 4 major women's tours competing this week--very rare for a tour that usually has the 2nd-strongest behind the LPGA.  Let's see if Arimura can take advantage of it or if Yokomine can jump-start her season.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Update

Yes, yes, I know Chie Arimura held off a charging Inbee Park--who birdied a bazillion holes in a row down the stretch to force Arimura to par the last hole of the Konica Minolta Cup (the JLPGA Championship)--for a major win with major repercussions.

And, yes, I know that 80 holes haven't yet been enough to decide the Kingsmill Championship and that Paula Creamer and Ji-Yai Shin are starting their 9th playoff hole (the 16th instead of the 18th, which they parred 8 times each and 23 out of 24 times for the week--the lone bogey being Creamer's 72nd-hole 3-putt that caused the playoff in the 1st place) right about now.

But it's work time!  Back tonight!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Konica Minolta Cup Set-Up: Chie Arimura and Yumiko Yoshida Set the Pace through 36 Holes

Yumiko Yoshida opened the JLPGA's 2nd major with a 64 yesterday and Chie Arimura answered with a 65 today as they leapt out to -9 and -10 starts, respectively, at the Konica Minolta Cup.  With Kaori Ohe (-6) and Na-Ri Kim (-5) the only players within 5 shots of Arimura's lead, and big names like Mi Jeong Jeon (-4), Inbee Park (-4), Bo-Mee Lee (-3), Sakura Yokomine (-1), Sun-Ju Ahn (E), Yuri Fudoh (E), and Shiho Oyama (E) well off the pace after 2 rounds, a lot hangs on tomorrow's moving day results.  If Arimura and Yoshida can keep the pedal to the metal, they can turn Sunday into a 2-player showdown.  But with nobody currently on the course (it's tomorrow already in Japan!) making a big move--the best rounds thus far are only -2--with Ritsuko Ryu, Rikako Morita, and Miki Saiki missing the cut, and with Ji-Hee Lee withdrawing before today's round with shoulder soreness, this is a fantastic opportunity for Arimura to make a major statement.  Let's see if she can do it--she's just about to tee off!

Kingsmill Championship Friday: Ji-Yai Shin Opens Door a Crack with 68

It's always tough to follow up a super-low round with another great round, but former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin looked like she was going to do it today at the Kingsmill Championship.  After breaking the 18-hole tournament record yesterday with a bogey-free 62, she added 4 more birdies over her 1st 12 holes today, bringing her grand total to 13 birdies over her 1st 30 holes.  But when her bogey-free run ended 4 holes later and she ended up playing her last 6 holes in +1, she opened the door to the rest of the field just a crack.  And, boy, did they take advantage!

Rookie and 2-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang fired a bogey-free 29 on the par-35 back 9 and extended her bogey-free run to 29 holes before bogeying the par-5 3rd.  But she bounced back by going -2 over her last 6 holes to post a 64 that brought her to -11, 1 shot behind Shin.  Current money-list leader Stacy Lewis put on one of her patented charges, as well.  After a blah-for-her opening 22 holes (4 birdies, 2 bogeys, actually near the cut line, which ended up being at -1), Lewis exploded with 5 birdies and an eagle between the 5th and 15th holes today.  Even though she suffered a walkoff bogey to post a "mere" 65, she moved to -8, only 4 shots behind Shin.  Of course, when Dewi Claire Schreefel and Lexi Thompson serve up a pair of 66s to move to -10 and -9, respectively, Paula Creamer keeps firing on all cylinders and posts a 67 to join Schreefel at -10, and Azahara Munoz backs up her opening 65 with a 68, Lewis still has many players to pass over the weekend.  But she still has a great chance to extend her lead in all the LPGA's major season-long races (money list, Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average).

Of course, an impressive mix of LPGA newbies and vets behind Lewis are itching to make up ground on her, instead.  A resurgent Maria Hjorth (69, -8) and Candie Kung (67, -7) are leading the way, while Chella Choi (68, -7) continues to roll and Ai Miyazato (68, -7) continues to lurk as she tries to put together a great ballstriking day and a great putting day in the same round.  And there are plenty of people in the prime of their careers, from Angela Stanford to Natalie Gulbis to Mika Miyazato hanging around at -6.  But just look at how many rookies and youngsters have either joined Kang and Schreefel in making big moves thus far this week or played pretty close to that well:  Jodi Ewart (68-67), Jennifer Johnson (66-69), Jennifer Song (66-69), Victoria Tanco (70-66), Gerina Piller (67-69), Belen Mozo (71-66), Angela Oh (69-68), Thidapa Suwannapura (71-67), Mariajo Uribe (70-68), Pornanong Phatlum (69-69), Amelia Lewis (67-71), Pernilla Lindberg (71-68), Ilhee Lee (68-71), Mo Martin (70-69), Hannah Yun (72-68), Lizette Salas (70-70), Alison Walshe (70-70), Numa Gulyanamitta (70-70), Mi Hyang Lee (72-69), Jacqui Concolino (72-69), and Jane Rah (70-71).  Here's hoping they keep it rolling all week!  Some of them are fighting for a ticket into the Asian swing (top 50 on the money list), some for a berth on the U.S. Women's Open (top 70 on the season-ending money list), and some for a "Get Out of Q-School Free" card (top 100).  But this is a big weekend for all of them.

Which makes the missed cut by 2-time Kingsmill champion Cristie Kerr all the more mystifying.  I mean, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Ryann O'Toole, Tiffany Joh, and Amanda Blumenherst have been playing badly enough for some time now that it's no longer a surprise when they miss a cut.  Brittany Lincicome, Vicky Hurst, and Sydnee Michaels are all bombers, so it's not that surprising that when they're a little off they can make some big numbers and end up on the wrong side of the cut line (although actually Hurst and Michaels were bunting it around by their standards, at least on the holes they were being measured).  And although they've been playing pretty well lately, it's not a huge surprise that Momoko Ueda, Jee Young Lee, Mina Harigae, and Moira Dunn would suffer a few hiccups on the River Course and play below their expectations.  But the determined, focused, driven Kerr?  To not even come close?  To hit 75% of her greens in regulation but make only 3 birdies in 36 holes?  That is just inexplicable.  Only bright side for her, I guess, is that she gets to the Women's British Open early....

My darn DVR failed to tape the 2nd round, but it'll be neat to see how Kang and Schreefel handle playing with Shin in the final group off the front.  I guess we'll find out tomorrow what kind of fire Lydia Ko lit under which golfers!

[Update 1 (11:55 pm):  Check out for a great tribute to Leta Lindley, who planned to retire after this week and missed the cut, as well as for details on Schreefel's 2-stroke penalty early today (but late in her 1st round) and other goodies.  Should have known Inbee Park was #1 on the money list, but needed a reminder from them.  Since she's playing in Japan, she won't be #1 after this week....]

Kingsmill Championship Thursday: Ji-Yai Shin Breaks Tournament Record with Bogey-Free 62 did a great job of putting Ji-Yai Shin's tournament-record, bogey-free 62 in the 1st round of the Kingsmill Championship in perspective as well as introducing fans to the 4 golfers 3 shots behind her (Paula Creamer, Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, and Maria Hjorth).  It's not just because I don't have much time to write this that I strongly urge you to check out their 1st-round notes and interviews!

Of course, I was also pleased to see Mika Miyazato, Jennifer Rosales, and Jennifer Song open with 66s, Ai Miyazato, Hee Kyung Seo, Danielle Kang, and Lexi Thompson with 67s, Jane Park and Mitsuki Katahira with 68s, and Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford, Nicole Castrale, and Laura Diaz with 69s, among the many other players who broke 70 yesterday.

Looks like we've got a real shootout shaping up in Williamsburg!  Nice to see a lot of the rookies Tony Jesselli just rated and LPGA members without a win on tour that I just ranked in the hunt early on!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Here's My Problem with the Cut at LPGA Q-School's First Stage

As Tony Jesselli has already noted, Cheyenne Woods and 2007 LPGA Rookie of the Year Angela Park missed the 36-hole cut at the 1st stage of LPGA Q-School today.  Other players I'm following to fall on the wrong side of the +4 cut line included Lee Lopez, Moah Chang, and Susan Choi at +5, Tiffany Lua, Maria Laura Elvira, and Jillian Fraccola at +6, Rui Yokomine, Elena Robles, Keiko Kubo, and Maiya Tanaka with Woods at +7, Sally Watson at +10, Keiko Kiyomoto at +11, Kristina Wong at +12, and Violeta Retamozo at +32.  Now obviously those in double digits under par didn't have a real chance to get into the top 60 after 72 holes.  But why cut a field of 240 down to 70 and ties after only 2 rounds?  Wouldn't it have been better to go down to 120 and ties after 36 holes, 90 and ties after 54, and 60 and ties after 72?

Right now we have 80 golfers playing for 60 spots over 36 holes.  That's a lot of holes to eliminate at most 20 golfers.  And imagine if it had been exactly 70 players on the dot who made the cut!  36 holes to eliminate at most 10 golfers doesn't make much sense to me--especially considering that in that scenario 170 were cut over the 1st 36 holes.

Let's face it:  probably only 10% of the original Stage I field has a real chance to contend in the final stage of Q-School.  Even the top third are entirely capable of blowing up over 9 or 18 holes.  If they do worse than that, fine, try again next year.  But with such a draconian halfway point cut, the LPGA ran a real risk of losing some top-notch golfers.  And they did.  A more gradual series of cuts wouldn't have ruled out losing some big names at some point.  But it would have been nice to see if at least some of them could have turned things around tomorrow!

What's more, everyone paid a lot of money for the chance to compete.  Allowing half the field to at least play 54 holes seems fairer to everyone.

[Update 1 (11:47 pm):  Here's Brent Kelley's take.]

Q-School Shocker! Cheyenne Woods Missed Cut

In the first real shocker at  phase one of Q-School, Cheyenne Woods has missed the cut. This means she has failed in her attempt to get a 2013 LPGA card, and will have to settle for playing on the Symetra Tour next year. Other notable scores after the completion of the second round include:

Moriya Jutanugarn 69-66=135 -9 (1st place)
Jaye Marie Green 70-66=136 -8 (2nd Place)
Brooke Pancake 71-67 = 138 -6 (5th place)
Emily Talley 72-70=142 -2 (10th place)
Austin Ernst 72-70=142 -2 (10th place)

The cut was at +4

2007 Rookie of the Year Angela Park Shot a 76-85=161 +17

Here is the full leaderboard.

The field was made up of 240 players, with the top 70 and ties making the cut. The top 60 players at the completion of round 4 will go on to phase 2.

Rating the Rookies 2012 - "Part 2"

Three months have passed since I last did a report card on this year's rookies.

I would like to change this up a bit this time, by strictly rating these girls on their chances of retaining LPGA cards for the 2013 season. Any successes or failures on other tours are not considered here. My only concern here is, are they safe for the upcoming season, or will they have to go back to qualifying school?

For those of you who might need some information on how the LPGA "Priority List" works, here is a brief explanation:

If you finish in the top 80 on the 2012 money list, that will be your priority rating for 2012. In other words, if a player finishes #45 on the money list this year, she will be #45 on the priority list next year. That also means she will be eligible for all tournaments, since even limited fields have more than 45 players.

It starts to get real tricky after that, as players finishing 81-100 on the money list and 1-20 in 2012 qualifying school, then alternate onto the priority list. The top 5 players from the Symetra Tour get ranked higher than this group.

If you finish outside the top 100 on the money list, your priority ranking will be so poor that you will not get into many events, or even lose your card. Many of these players will choose to go back to qualifying school to try to improve their ranking or even choose to play on another tour.

The above is a general explanation, as trying to list all the categories on the priority list is too time-consuming and potentially confusing. The official LPGA website explains it in more detail. [As do I at the start of every season! --TC]

I have broken down the rookies into 5 categories, based on their chances of retaining cards, and/or a chance at a good priority rating, for next year.

Very Secure1- So Yeon Ryu - Runaway leader in the rookie of the year race, she has already reached elite status. Her missed cut in last week's Canadian Open was the first of her career. Her eight top-5 finishes are second only to Stacy Lewis. Already number 12 in the Rolex Rankings and climbing, she is #9 on the money list.
2- Lexi Thompson - Currently in the first mini-slump of her career, Lexi is still having a fine rookie season.
This young 17 year old has made 11 of 15 cuts this year. She has 2 top-5 finishes, including a second place.
Currently ranked number 26 in the world, that ranking would qualify her for next year's Solheim Cup. She is currently #29 on the money list.
3- Sydnee Michaels - After just a so-so start, Sydnee has been the hottest rookie on tour the past month. Her seventh-place finish at The Safeway Classic was her first career top ten. She was in contention last week, playing in the next-to-last pairing in Vancouver, before a triple bogey on the 70th hole resulted in a 15th-place finish.  She has rocketed all the way up to #62 on the money list and is looking good for next year's U.S. Open, which takes the top 70. One of the longest hitters on tour, she has all the tools to be a star. For now it is nice to know that her card is secure for 2013.
4- Lizette Salas - I have to admit I had no idea who she was at the start of the year. I know who she is now. Although she has never been in contention this year, her best finish being 12th place, she has secured her card by making 10 of 12 cuts.
5- Mo Martin - Another pleasant surprise, Mo will be around next year because she has made 8 cuts in 12 attempts. Her 14th-place finish at the Walmart Classic is her best to date. Currently resides at #63 on this year's money list.
6- Danielle Kang - It has been an interesting year for Danielle. Her poor performance in Q-School last year gave her a priority ranking of #263, which was the worst ranking of any active player.  She made the most of  her few opportunities early in the year and, when the priority rankings reshuffles were complete, improved to #135. That allowed her to enter all full-field events where she has made 7 of 11 cuts. Her best finish was 14th at the U.S. Open. We will be seeing plenty more of her next year as she is currently #66 on the money list.
7- Veronica Felibert - Veronica has proved this year that you can have a very poor season, but because of one good finish, still retain your card. She has made only 3 cuts in 9 attempts, but a 4th-place finish at the Walmart Classic earned her enough money to be out there again next year. Oddly enough, her second-best finish is 50th place. She is currently #69 on the money list.

Looking Very Good
8- Numa Gulyanamita - In an up and down year so far, Numa has made 7 of 14 cuts. Her best finish is 21st at the U.S. Open. At #82 on the money list, Numa has more work to do to achieve full-time status.
9- Maude-Aimee Leblanc - Maude-Aimee was having a fine year, missing only 3 cuts, when a serious back injury ended her season. Maude leads the LPGA in driving distance, averaging 280 yards. She was #68 on the money list when the injury occurred, but has now dropped to #95. It shouldn't matter, as she should receive a medical exemption that will allow her to retain her full time playing privileges next season. Watch out for her; she could be a real sleeper.
10- Carlota Ciganda - Will be the rookie of the year this year, just not on this tour. Playing mostly on the L.E.T., Carlota has only 2 starts this year. She played well enough in both to be #94 on the money list. A good finish in the British Open, which counts on both tour's money lists, would elevate her LPGA status, and maybe we will see more of her next year.

On the Borderline
11- Jane Rah - Jane has made just 3 of 13 cuts this year, but a 9th-place finish at last week's CN Open has saved her. Currently #91 on the money list, she will be playing next year.  How much she will be playing still has to be determined. Only 2 of the remaining 9 LPGA tournaments are full field, so she will not get many opportunities. Her CN Open finish qualified her for the Titleholders Championship, which could be the difference.
12- Jacqui Concolino -  It has been all or nothing for Jacqui this year. She has made only 3 of 8 cuts, but has 2 top-15 finishes. Currently #96 on the money list she still has work to do and very little time to do it.
13- Sandra Changkija - Her 10th-place finish at the Manulife Classic seems like years ago. She has made only 3 of 12 cuts this year. Currently #110 on the money list, she will probably need a top-20 finish to avoid going to Q-School.

Not Looking Good
14- Cydney Clanton - Cydney started well, finishing in 19th place at the Australian Open. She hasn't come close to that finish since. She has made only 4 of 13 cuts and with only 2 starts left needs a big finish. She is currently #118 on the money list.
15- Victoria Tanco - I, for one, expected better from her this season. Victoria has made just 4 of 13 cuts, and her #121 money list ranking tells me she needs a quick top 10 to avoid Q-School again.
16- Hannah Yun - Her best finish this year was a 30th place at the Kia Classic. Hannah has made just 3 of 12 cuts and her #122 money list ranking has her in trouble.
17- Rebecca Lee Bentham - Rebecca hasn't had a good tournament all year. She not only has missed 8 of 12 cuts, but her best finish is 47th place. At #131 on the money list, she needs a miracle.
18- Kathleen Ekey - Kathleen has not gotten it together all year. She has missed 9 of 12 cuts, with 45th place her best finish. She is currently #140 on the money list. One of my favorite players, it looks like I will be watching her Q-School results this December.

Looking Dismal

The following rookies have little or no chance of retaining their playing cards for next year. Qualifying school is definitely in their future.

Min Seo Kwak - Missed 4 of 5 cuts. 144th on money list.
Karlin Beck -  Missed 10 of 12 cuts. 147th on money list.
P.K. Kongkraphan - Tied for 67th in her only start. 148th on money list.
Elisa Serramia - Missed 11 of 12 cuts. 152nd on money list.
Valentine Derrey - Missed 1 of 2 cuts. 156th on money list.
Lacey Agnew - Missed 4 of 5 cuts. 157th on money list
Tze-Chi Lin - Missed 1 of 2 cuts. 158th on money list.
Stephanie Kono - Totally overmatched, missing all 12 cuts.
Hanna Kang - Missed all 6 cuts.
Katy Harris - Missed all 4 cuts.
Mi Hyang Lee - Missed all 3 cuts.
Kirby Dreher - Missed all 3 cuts.
Mitsuki Katahira - Missed both her cuts.
Thidapa Suwannapura - Never teed it up. Will play this week for first time.
Julia Murcia Ortiz - Will tee it up this week for first time.