Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best on the LPGA: 3-to-6-Time Winners, July 2013 Edition

It was only March when I wondered who would be the next player to graduate from the group of 3-to-6-time winners on the LPGA to the 7-Up Club and said of Inbee Park that "She can win any event she enters."  Well, for awhile there it looked like she was going to win every event she entered.  Although her winning streak ended at 3 tournaments in a row, it was enough for her to graduate from Club 36.  And yesterday Beatriz Recari joined the club, moving from the head of the class of 2-time winners on tour to...well, I'll let you find out where she ranks in this group!  [Note: The numbers in parentheses following each player's name represent LPGA wins and majors.]

Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2013

1. In-Kyung Kim (3/0):  In March, I wrote, "Her playoff loss to Beatriz Recari...had to hurt, but at least it signalled that she's ready to win again, after dealing with injuries most of 2012 (not to mention the psychological and emotional fallout of her everything-but-the-tap-in performance at last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship)."  In fact, since the Kia, she's finished in the top 6 5 times.  She's more due than ever for that next win.

2. Beatriz Recari (3/0):  If she can keep her putter hot, there's no reason she can't keep contending.  And if she does that, given that 3 of her 4 top 3s in her LPGA career are wins, I wouldn't put another victory past her before the summer is out.

3. Angela Stanford (5/0):  In March, I wrote, "She's the kind of player who can contend any time her putter heats up."  And she did exactly that in Waterloo, going 64-64 over the weekend and -26 in all yet still not prevailing over an equally-hot Hee Young Park.  That was her 4th top 5 of the season.  Wonder how many more are coming?

4. Catriona Matthew (4/1):  In March, I wrote, "don't be surprised if she starts contending soon."  Well, a playoff loss to Inbee Park at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and a hot start to the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic later and she's making me look pretty good!  And guess which major she's already won at?  Yup, the Women's British Open--and it's on her home turf this year.

The Contender

5. Brittany Lincicome (5/1):  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I'm still waiting for her to go on a real run and put herself in contention over several events in a row.  At this point in her career, I'm starting to seriously doubt whether she has the desire, the temperament, and the work ethic to do any of that.  And that's not just because she only has 1 top 10 in 2013 and 7 MCs.  But that isn't helping, either.  Still, she's the kind of golfer who can contend out of the blue and it's time she started getting up for the Solheim Cup.  Maybe at the WBO?

Quantum Leap Candidates

6. Candie Kung (4/0):  She was looking good at the start of the season, with an early 2-event top-10 streak.  But she hasn't gotten a top 25 since and has not only missed the cut 3 times but also withdrawn from 2 events in that span.  Her ball-striking stats are still pretty solid, but her putting is really letting her down. 2.47 birdies per round will not cut it on the LPGA for long.

7. Hee-Won Han (6/0):  She's also slowed down of late, with only 1 top 25 finish since a decent start to the season when she had 2 top 25s.  In that span, she's missed the cut 7 times, withdrawn once, and failed to break into the top 50 every start except that lone T25 in NW Arkansas.  All she needs is 1 win to join Club 7-Up, but that's looking less and less likely each year.  The key to her turnaround is to hit more greens and give herself better birdie chances.

8. Maria Hjorth (5/0):  With 5 missed cuts, her best finish a T42 in the waterlogged Bahamas, and her next-best finish a T54 in the 1st event on U.S. soil of the season, her 2013 is shaping up to be the worst year of her career.  She must be getting a fair amount of her approach shots close to the hole, as she's hitting 69% of her greens in regulation, averaging a horrific 1.876 putts per green in regulation, but still averaging 2.95 birdies per round.  So maybe there's a glimmer of hope she can turn things around soon?

9. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0):  As long as her slump has been and as bad as she's been playing this season, she's still doing better than everyone else in the next category (which probably isn't saying much).  She's driving the ball as accurately as ever, roughly speaking, but she's having trouble hitting greens (as attested to by her 60% GIR rate) and making putts when she does (her PPGIR rate is better than the others' in this category, but she's averaging only 2.23 birdies per round).  With 8 MCs, 1 WD, and only 2 finishes in the top 40, she's running out of chances to get into the top 100 on the money list and is in danger of dropping out of the top 125, which would leave Q-School as her only option to return to the LPGA in 2014.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

10. Lorie Kane (4/0):  With 9 missed cuts and no top 40s thus far this season, she's also fighting to keep her LPGA career alive.  Can she kickstart her putter before the clock runs out?

11. Pat Hurst (6/1):  Despite having the worst putting stats of anyone on this list, with 1.905 putts per green in regulation, 31.58 putts per round, and only 2.21 birdies per round, she's gotten a top 30 to go with her 8 MCs.

12. Sophie Gustafson (5/0):  I'm guessing she's injured, as she's finished exactly 1 event, a T63 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, withdrawn from 2, and missed the cut every other time (9 in all) in 2013.  She's skipped the past 2 events to regroup and prepare for the Women's British Open.

13. Wendy Ward (4/0):  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  unless she does something about her putting, her days on the LPGA are numbered.  She's certainly not getting it done this year, as she's averaging 1.898 putts per green in regulation, 31.45 putts per round, and only 2.31 birdies per round.  Her best finish is a T52 in North Texas, but she's not going to get many chances to improve on it, as she hasn't qualified for the WBO and there are only 2 North American full-field events on the LPGA schedule left this season.

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