Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Best on the LPGA: 7-to-10-Time Winners, July 2013 Edition

With so much changed in the last 13 months in women's golf, it's well past time I updated my June 2012 ranking of the active LPGAers with 7 or more wins on tour, splitting it for the 1st time time into those with 7-9 wins and those in the double digits, arranged as usual by their likelihood of winning (again) this season. [Note:  the numbers in parentheses indicate total LPGA wins and majors, respectively.]

Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2013

1. Inbee Park (9/4):  She's going for her 7th win of the season, her 4th major in a row, and is still putting like no one has in recent LPGA history.  If her playing competitors are starting to feel encouraged by her 2 so-so finishes the last 2 weeks, she won each of the 1st 2 majors of the year with similarly rough patches right before them.  The only golfer in this bunch who puts herself in contention more often than Park does over the course of their careers is ranked right below her

2. Na Yeon Choi (7/1):  I'm putting her ahead of the former world #1 because she's so due.  She's the best of this bunch at making cuts, finishing in the top 20, and racking up top 3s.  The only thing she needs to start notching wins again is to heat her putter up just a little bit.  It's shocking to me that she hasn't yet entered the winner's circle in 2013.  This can not last.

3. Stacy Lewis (7/1):  She's coming into St. Andrews with 2 top 10s in a row and 3 in her last 4 starts after going through a little bit of a rough patch by world #1 standards (3 starts in a row outside the top 25).  True, 3 of her worst 4 finishes of 2013 have come in majors thus far, but with the pressure of being #1 off her shoulders, all the media attention on Inbee, and rising confidence (not least from shooting a 64 in the final round of the Marathon Classic to cross the $5M mark in career winnings), I'm thinking her 3rd win of the season isn't that far away.

4. Paula Creamer (9/1):  Having recently crossed the $10M mark in career winnings and just missed getting her 10th career victory last week (snagging her 3rd top 10 in her last 4 starts in the process), she's primed for the WBO, Solheim Cup, and beyond.  I crunched her numbers in my database of the top players from the rookie classes of 2006 to 2012 and, lo and behold, she beats them all out in top 20 rate and is surpassed only by Na Yeon Choi for top 3 rate, top 10 rate, finish rate, and winnings per start (Inbee Park also squeaks ahead of her in winnings per finish).  In my career ranking system, Paula is a mere 2 points ahead of the Queen Bee and over 100 behind NYC.  The only reason she's this low in this ranking is that I'm figuring those who are used to winning have an advantage over someone trying to break through for her 1st win since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open.

5. Ai Miyazato (9/0):  She's just a little off this season, playing well enough to be on a 5-event top-20 run heading into the WBO, but not well enough to have more than 2 top 10s in 2013 or to prevail at the RR Donnelley.  It's been a year since her last victory, so I'd say she's super-due.  To me, the key is for her to hit more greens, so she can give herself more birdie opportunities.  She's not yet having a great putting year by her standards, but many players would kill to be putting as well as she has this season.  With her 2 best shots at getting her 1st LPGA major coming up in the next 2 months and plenty of rest/prep time between them, I expect her to kick it up a notch!

On the Outside, Looking In

6. Helen Alfredsson (7/1):  She's only played once in 2013, missing the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  The only tournament in 2012 that she entered was the Evian and she missed the cut there, too.  I'm thinking her competitive career is just about over.


IceCat said...

Tjoh is in the field out in Syracuse this week. Sounds like an excuse for a family outing!

The Constructivist said...

I'm up for it; got to convince the Full Metal Archivist!

Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

Bruce, these posts are always my favorite posts of yours. That said, I have to disagree quite strongly on your number 2 pick. Since the beginning of the 2012 season Choi has won just twice, both last year. Stacy on the other hand has won 6 times over that same period. Four times last year and twice this year. During that same period Choi has dropped from #3 in the world to her current #4, while Stacy has moved from #10 to #2.

You said you ranked her higher because she is "Due to win". If that was the case Paula should be ahead of both.

Na Yeon Choi is a terrific player, who should have many more wins if she had better final rounds. Stacy has proven in the last year and a half that she knows how to close.
IMO, Stacy is a clear cut second.

The Constructivist said...

Tony, that's why these posts are fun to argue about! Over the course of their careers, Stacy puts herself in contention about 13% of the time and wins about 6% of the time. NYC does the former about 21% of the time and wins about 5% of the time. NYC has only 1 top 3 this season, so she's due to start contending more often. If she can do it 4 more times, the odds are she'll win this year. Stacy's already contended 3 times and won once, which is better than her career average. She's no longer putting the lights out (although she's still putting great) and is unlikely to be walking away with any easy wins.

Both Paula and NYC have to overcome the U.S. Women's Open jinx. Once Inbee did, she won in bunches. I'm comfortable with putting both of them higher than Stacy on that alone, but the jinx weighs on you the longer it's on your back. Right now it's easier for NYC to break it.

And with that mix of stats and superstition, I guessed. Only time will tell who is right.