The LPGA's rookie class of 2006 was the 1st that I started paying really close attention to as a group, at first because of the way in which Ai Miyazato dominated Q-School in late 2005 but over time because I became interested in the different kinds of career paths the various players followed. Given that I started blogging here at Mostly Harmless not long after the '06ers started on the LPGA, it was a pretty obvious move to start tracking how each member of the class was doing, both season-by-season and from season to season. By looking at key performance stats on an annual basis, from winnings and scoring average to birdies per round and greens in regulation, and combining those snapshots with an examination of career winnings, majors, wins, top 3s, top 10s, and top 20s, I developed a system for dividing the '06ers--and later rookie classes--into tiers and then ranking each player within her tier. Before I knew it, I had a career ranking system for immediate cohorts and for recent LPGA generations.
The last time I did this for the Class of 2006 was at the end of the 2011 season, so let's see what's changed in the last year and a half!
Simply the Best
1. Ai Miyazato: By just about every measure, she's light-years beyond of the rest of her class. Ai-sama not only has 5 more wins than her nearest classmate (Seon Hwa Lee, who's been in a huge multi-year slump and shows no signs of coming out of it), she's got the highest rate in top-3 finishes (almost 13%), top 10s (almost 35%), and top 20s (over 53%). On top of that, she's the best at finishing tournaments (without missing a cut, withdrawing, or getting disqualified, that is), doing it almost 86% of the time. So of course she's earning the most per start ($44.6K) and finish ($52.1K). Sure, her 2013 hasn't yet been as amazing as her last several seasons, but she's got a 5-event top-20 streak going and is gearing up for perhaps her 2 best chances to get her 1st major, the Women's British Open and the Evian Championship (where she got her breakthrough LPGA victory and last won in 2011).
2. Morgan Pressel: The clear #2 in her class, she's tied with Sun Young Yoo for the most major victories (1), tied with Yoo for 3rd-most wins (2), and 2nd in top-3 rate (at about 7%), top 10s (almost 25%), top 20s (almost 42%), finishes (over 84%), and winnings per start ($27.4K) and finish ($32.5K). Things really fell apart for her in the 2nd half of 2012, but she now has 4 top 25s in her last 5 starts and seems to be getting over both physical ailments (from the rough at the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship) and emotional scars (from her slow-play penalty in the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship) just in time for the Solheim Cup.
The Next Best
3. Sun Young Yoo: Ranking the next set of players is a little bit tougher, as they each have different strengths in different areas. I decided to put Yoo at the head of this subclass, despite the fact that her overall performance stats aren't all that fantastic by comparison with those ranked right around her--top-3 rate (almost 4%), top 10s (almost 15%), top 20s (about 33%), finishes (81%), $20.3K per start, and $25.1K per finish--mostly because 1 of her 2 victories came in a major. Of course, this late bloomer hasn't been as hot as she was in the 1st half of 2012 over the past year, but she hasn't fallen far from those peak performances and is the most likely among those in this group to start playing better golf soon.
4. Seon Hwa Lee: The former #1 in the class is falling fast. Some would argue that she should maintain her #3 ranking, what with her 4 wins, strong finishes--she's especially good at top 3s (almost 7%) and top 10s (almost 18%), but is almost as impressive when it comes to top 20s (about 36%) and finishes (about 81%)--and solid winnings of about $24K per start and $29.6K per finish. Still, given how horribly she's been playing for so long and how few glimmers of better play she's shown in the last year and a half, I'm actually tempted to move her even lower.
5. Jee Young Lee: By contrast, Jelly seems to be coming out of her own multi-year slump. Although she still hasn't backed up her non-member win, she's put up fairly impressive numbers across the board: top-3 rate (almost 6%), top 10s (about 22%), top 20s (about 41%), finishes (just under 80%), and winnings of $21.4K per start and $27.1K per finish. I might be making too much of her top-5 finish at the RR Donnelley, but I'm also impressed with her overall scoring average this season.
6. Brittany Lang: If I had done this ranking at the end of last season, Brittany would probably be #5 or better, but she's struggled this season with a swing change and only just started to play like she's capable of (that top 10 at Sebonack rocked!). Still, on the anniversary of her lone LPGA victory, her performance stats--top-3 rate (just over 4%), top 10s (almost 20%), top 20s (about 37%), finishes (about 82%), and winnings of $20.3K per start and $24.8K per finish--aren't quite good enough to move her any higher.
Quantum Leap Candidate
7. Julieta Granada: She may well be the most-improved golfer in the entire class over the last year and a half. Back to the LPGA full-time after splitting her time in previous years between the LPGA and LET, Granada has not only gotten to the point where it's rare for her to miss a cut, she's also started finishing higher up the leaderboard again. In fact, she's finished in the top 25 in 5 of her last 6 starts! Given how long and deep her slump had been, she's still well behind the golfers ahead of her. But she's also well ahead of the golfers behind her.
On the Bottom Looking Up
8. Katie Futcher: Things had been looking up for this Penn State product until recently, when she missed 8 of her last 9 cuts and generally made that top 10 in the waterlogged Bahamas event look like a fluke.
9. Karin Sjodin: After a really good 2012, she got off to a bad start this season and hasn't played since Hawaii in the spring, due to a pretty severe back injury.
10. Meaghan Francella: She's had a pretty horrid season and a half, but nobody can take that playoff victory over an injured Annika Sorenstam away from her!
11. Sarah Jane Smith: She hasn't been playing awful in the past calendar year, but she hasn't been playing all that well, either. Still, she's on track to keep her LPGA card for next season, so let's hope her persistence starts leading to better payoffs.
On the Outside Looking In
12. Kyeong Bae: She's playing full-time on the KLPGA now. Having finished 23rd on their 2012 money list last season in a limited schedule, she doesn't seem too be doing all that great this season, but did just snag a top 10.
13. Teresa Lu: She decided to play full-time on the JLPGA in 2011, finishing #33 on their money list that year and #39 in 2012. So far this season, she's at #14 and has already given herself multiple chances for that 1st win on tour.
14. Hye Jung Choi: She played full-time on the KLPGA in 2011 and won in late September, but basically took a maternity leave in 2012 and I haven't seen her name much on Seoul Sisters.com this season.
15. Linda Wessberg: She ended up 14th on the LET's 2011 money list, 43rd in 2012, and is now 30th in 9 starts.
16. Na Ri Kim: Another '06er flourishing on the JLPGA, she finished #11 on their money list in 2010, #23 in 2011, and #28 in 2012. Currently, she's #27, thanks mostly to getting her 2nd career win on tour in mid-April.
17. Allison Fouch Duncan: She made 8 of 13 cuts on the Symetra Tour in 2012, but hasn't teed it up there this year.
18. Minea Blomqvist: She hasn't been the same golfer since becoming a mom, and her 2012 on the LPGA is best forgotten, but she's 21st on this year's LET money list in only 6 starts after finishing 89th there in 2012.
19. Louise Stahle: She finished #64 on the 2011 LET money list in 13 starts, but I haven't seen her on a money list anywhere in the world of women's golf since then.
20. Veronica Zorzi: She's been a full-time LETer for years now. In 2009, she finished 29th on the LET money list in 14 starts; in 2010, she ended up 31st in 21 starts; in 2011, she dropped all the way to #55 in 19 starts; in 2012, she fought back to 34th; and this season, she's currently 23rd.
Over and Out
21. Nina Reis: I haven't seen her name on a money list in the last 3 seasons and she doesn't appear in any world rankings, so I'm assuming she's done with professional golf. Could this be her?
22. Virada Nirapathpongporn: Retired in 2011. Last event: Kapalua Classic in October 2008.
23. Kim Hall: Retired in 2010. Last event: LPGA Tour Championship in November 2009. Now VP of the LPGA's Board of Directors.
24. Ashley Hoagland Johnston: Retired in 2009. Last event: sometime in 2007 season.
25. Danielle Downey: I seem to recall reading somewhere that she took a coaching position. If she's retired from professional golf, her last LPGA event will have been the P&G NW Arkansas Championship in September 2010.
26. Libby Smith: She lost trust in her driver in 2011 and had trouble breaking 80 far too often to get it back. She's now a teaching professional in VT.
For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the July 2013 ranking.
2013 LPGA Money List (rank), scoring average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I focus on four key indicators of how well someone has been playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, and how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category (except for birdies, which LPGA.com ranks by total and not by average). I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I don't include putts per green in regulation here. Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.
NAME/$$/SCORING AVE./BIRDIES PER ROUND/GREENS IN REGULATION
1. Ai Miyazato, $402.8K (#17), 71.175 (#15), 4.67 (#27), 66.3% (#50)
2. Morgan Pressel, $248.7K (#29), 72.811 (#65), 3.77 (#57), 58.0% (#135)
3. Brittany Lang, $181.4K (#40), 72.696 (#64), 3.41 (#44), 65.9% (#57)
4. Julieta Granada, $171.2K (#42), 71.979 (#41), 3.49 (#36), 67.6% (#40)
5. Sun Young Yoo, $155.5K (#44), 72.317 (#52), 3.64 (#47), 64.1% (#90)
6. Jee Young Lee, $110.3K (#57), 71.733 (#32), 3.67 (#75), 64.6% (#79)
7. Sarah Jane Smith, $69.6K (#74), 73.175 (#89), 3.36 (#60), 60.7% (#122)
8. Katie Futcher, $55.2K (#84), 73.735 (#111), 3.23 (#79), 66.2% (#53)
9. Karin Sjodin, $22.7K (#110), 73.000 (#80), 3.10 (#122), 69.4% (#28)
10. Seon Hwa Lee, $19.3K (#115), 73.167 (#88), 2.82 (#122), 60.4% (#124)
11. Meaghan Francella, $7.8K (#139), 74.560 (#137), 2.91 (#115), 54.9% (#145)
Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events started/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/withdrawals/disqualifications/missed cuts/finished events (rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately, the members of the Class of 2006 started at the same time, even if some of them have not had full status every season (although that in itself is an indication of how someone's career has been going!). What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now--although Thomas Atkins posted an inflation-adjusted LPGA Career Top 50 as of the end of the 2008 season and a Best of All Time ranking over at Hound Dog LPGA. In any case, I include the other ways of seeing how the '06ers finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. Many thanks to the LPGA for updating their 2013 Performance Chart after every event! [Note: *=non-member win]
1. Ai Miyazato, $7.45M (#19), 167/0/9/21/58/89/2/0/22/143 (.856)
2. Morgan Pressel, $4.91M (#45), 179/1/2/13/44/75/3/0/25/151 (.844)
3. Seon Hwa Lee, $4.06M (#51), 169/0/4/11/30/61/4/0/28/137 (.811)
4. Brittany Lang, $3.87M (#54), 191/0/1/8/38/71/0/0/35/156 (.817)
5. Sun Young Yoo, $3.74M (#56), 184/1/2/7/27/61/1/0/34/149 (.810)
6. Jee Young Lee, $3.49M (#63), 163/0/1*/9/36/67/6/0/28/129 (.791)
7. Julieta Granada, $3.02M (#77), 175/0/1/6/18/35/0/1/64/110 (.629)
8. Kyeong Bae, $1.44M (#146), 140/0/0/2/10/23/5/0/41/94 (.671)
9. Katie Futcher, $1.32M (#154), 158/0/0/1/10/22/1/1/50/106 (.671)
10. Meaghan Francella, $1.19M (#171), 137/0/1/1/7/15/0/0/57/80 (.584)
11. Teresa Lu, $1.13M (#178), 107/0/0/1/8/23/2/0/25/80 (.748)
12. Karin Sjodin, $.99M (#196), 138/0/0/0/6/20/0/0/52/86 (.623)
13. Hye Jung Choi, $.73M (#238), 84/0/0/0/8/12/2/0/26/56 (.667)
14. Minea Blomqvist, $.69M (#245), 105/0/0/1/3/8/3/1/49/52 (.495)
15. Allison Fouch Duncan, $.60M (#266), 78/0/0/1/4/8/1/0/36/41 (.526)
16. Sarah Jane Smith, $.55M (#269), 92/0/0/0/4/11/0/0/38/54 (.587)
17. Kim Hall, $.35M (#324), 75/0/0/1/3/4/0/0/45/30 (.400)
18. Linda Wessberg, $.34M (#?), 43/0/0/0/5/6/0/0/17/26 (.605)
19. Louise Stahle, $.23M (#378), 59/0/0/0/1/2/1/0/30/28 (.475)
20. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.23M (#379), 56/0/0/0/1/4/0/0/28/28 (.500)
21. Nina Reis, $.23M (#381), 51/0/0/0/3/4/0/0/23/28 (.549)
22. Danielle Downey, $.15M (#414), 49/0/0/0/1/2/0/0/34/15 (.306)
23. Na Ri Kim, $.15M (#?), 50/0/0/0/0/0/3/0/24/23 (.460)
24. Veronica Zorzi, $.09M (#?), 16/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/3/13 (.813)
25. Libby Smith, $.05M (#535), 36/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/27/8 (.222)
26. Ashley Hoagland Johnston, $.05M (#?), 13/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/7/6 (.462)
Other Career Measures: Rolex Rankings points (as of 7/8/13) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index score (as of 7/7/13) and rank, International Wins (on JLPGA, KLPGA, LET as of today): This is a way of seeing how those '06ers who sometimes or regularly or often compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Symetra Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).
1. Ai Miyazato, 5.61 (#11), 70.15 (#17); 17 (15 JLPGA, 2 LET)
2. Sun Young Yoo, 2.92 (#32), 71.56 (#56); 0
3. Brittany Lang, 2.46 (#43), 71.62 (#58); 0
4. Morgan Pressel, 2.14 (#51), 73.44 (#160); 1
5. Julieta Granada, 1.72 (#64), 71.51 (#53); 0
6. Teresa Lu, 1.29 (#92), 72.00 (#83); 0
7. Karin Sjodin, 1.20 (#99), 73.17 (#143); 1
8. Na Ri Kim, 1.19 (#102), 71.91 (#74); 1
9. Jee Young Lee, 1.04 (#121), 71.99 (#82); 1
10. Katie Futcher, 1.00 (#126), 74.02 (#195); 0
11. Sarah Jane Smith, .86 (#146), 72.44 (#105); 0
12. Hye Jung Choi, .78 (#162), ? (n.r.); 2
13. Kyeong Bae, .73 (#165), ? (n.r.); 3
14. Veronica Zorzi, .65 (#179), 73.22 (#147); 2
15. Linda Wessberg, .49 (#223), 73.78 (#182); 3
16. Minea Blomqvist, .39 (#254), 74.98 (n.r.); 5
17. Seon Hwa Lee, .28 (#304), 73.85 (n.r.); 3
18. Louise Stahle, .09 (#449), ? (n.r.); 0
19. Meaghan Francella, .09 (#454), 75.39 (#316); 0
20. Allison Fouch Duncan, .01 (#819), 77.40 (n.r.); 0