Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ranking the LPGA's Rookie Class of 2010, January 2014 Edition

Azahara Munoz was Rookie of the Year for the Class of 2010, the 2nd of 3 classes in what I'm calling the "New Blood" generation on the LPGA, but Beatriz Recari has finally chased down her fellow Spaniard to take the #1 spot in their class.  Who else is stepping up in this large but so far not very accomplished rookie class?

Simply the Best

1. Beatriz Recari:  Her amazing 46-event made-cut streak came to an end at Sebonack, but she bounced right back with a win at the Marathon Classic for her 2nd of the year and 3rd among her 4 career top 3s!  Which is to say that she still doesn't contend as often as she should but she certainly knows how to close the deal when she gets the chance.  The key in 2013 to her breaking the $1M mark for the 1st time in her career was her putting.  In 2014, I'd like to see her iron play improve to the point where she's giving herself more legitimate birdie chances.
2. Azahara Munoz:  2013 was a little bit of a letdown after a fantastic 2012, but it's pretty clear that only 1 club was really holding her back this past season:  her putter.  If she can heat that club up in 2014, she'l have a good chance to regain the top spot in her class.

The Contenders

3. Ilhee Lee:  She's exploded (briefly) twice in the past 2 seasons, in 2012 going T4 at the U.S. Women's Open and T9 in Evian and in 2013 by following up a T3 at Kingsmill with a win a couple of weeks later in the Bahamas.  At the time, I wasn't convinced she was the real deal, and her struggles in the middle of the season seemed to confirm that she wasn't quite ready for prime time, but, like many in her class, she came on strong down the home stretch, with another top 3 in Malaysia among other good finishes.  So I'd say she's legit for 2014, although she'll need to improve her iron play and putting to threaten the leaders of the Spanish Armada on the LPGA.
4. Gerina Piller:  She's another one who plays very well in bursts, but her average finishes are better and her good runs tend to last for longer than Lee's.  Still, Lee has that win and 3 top 3s and it took Piller until the Titleholders to turn contention into an actual top-3 finish on the LPGA.  If she can improve her putting in 2014, look for her to join Lee on the other side of the career $1M barrier early in the season.

The Next Best

5. Mina Harigae:  She's still not as consistent in hitting greens as I'd like to see, but she's become a full-fledged LPGA regular in the last 2 seasons.  The next step for her is to improve her ballstriking and give herself more birdie chances.  She dominated the then-Futures Tour as thoroughly as Vicky Hurst did before her; it's about time both of them figured how how to translate that early success into better results on the LPGA.

Quantum Leap Candidates

6. Alison Walshe:  She's another one from this class who's made herself into an LPGA regular and is ready to transition to that next stage.  More finishes like that T10 in Malaysia are on the horizon in 2014 if she, too, can improve her iron play and give herself more birdie chances.
7. Mariajo Uribe:  She came back from the brink and proved she belongs on the LPGA.  She had an uncharacteristically bad stretch in the middle of 2013 where it appeared that injuries were bothering her, but she righted the ship and hung in there during the Asian swing.  The newlywed's return to good golf will be marked by a better GIR rate in 2014.
8. Dewi Claire Schreefel:  She's proved she can make her share of cuts, but will need to hit more greens to start racking up more top 20s and heat up her putter to get more top 10s.
9. Cindy LaCrosse:  She, too, needs to improve her ball-striking and putting, as she barely stayed in the top 80 on the LPGA money list in 2013 with very weak performance stats in those areas.
10. Pernilla Lindberg:  She's still the golfer I'm most disappointed in out of everyone in her class (despite finishing #18 on the LET Order of Merit the last 3 seasons in a row), but at least things started moving in the right direction for her on the LPGA over the past couple of years.  What she really needs is to heat up her putter in 2014!

On the Bottom, Looking Up

11. Paola Moreno:  She finished just outside the top 80 on the LPGA money list, but will easily get into as many events as she wants to in 2014.  Let's see what she can do with her starts.
12. Maria Hernandez:  She's been hurt the last few years, but you wouldn't have known it by the way she played at LPGA Q-School.  Despite playing only 1 LPGA event and 2 Symetra Tour events in 2013, and finishing 68th on the 2013 LET Order of Merit, she'll have full status on the LPGA in 2014 thanks to her top-10 finish at Q-School.
13. Christine Song: She came on strong and finished #4 on the 2013 Symetra Tour money list, so she'll have full status on the LPGA in 2014.

On the Outside, Looking In

14. Gwladys Nocera:  She's back on the LET and, with her win at the Slovak Open in late June and the Suzhou Taihu Open in early November, ended up in 4th on their Order of Merit.
15. Marianne Skarpnord:  She slipped to #26 on the LET Order of Merit in 21 starts.
16. Jean Reynolds:  Back on the Symetra Tour again last year, she ended up #34 on their money list but didn't make the 72-hole cut at the final stage of LPGA Q-School.
17. Katie Kempter:  She finished #64 on the Symetra Tour money list last season, but didn't enter LPGA Q-School.
18. Cathryn Bristow:  She finished #83 on the Symetra Tour money list in only 5 starts last season and #146 on the LET's Order of Merit in 12 starts.  After missing the 72-hole cut at LPGA Q-School's final stage, she finished T15 at LET Q-School, so it's looking like she'll be playing a mix of Symetra Tour and LET events in 2014, as well.
19. Misun Cho:  She finished #85 on the Symetra Tour money list in 9 starts last season, but didn't enter LPGA Q-School.
20. Mallory Blackwelder:  She finished #95 on the Symetra Tour in 14 starts last season, then failed to make the 72-hole cut at LPGA Q-School.
21. Tanya Dergal:  She finished #136 on the Symetra Tour money list in 15 starts last season, then missed the cut at Stage II of LPGA Q-School.
22. Nannette Hill:  She finished #106 in 9 starts on the Symetra Tour last year, then failed to make the 72-hole cut at LPGA Q-School.
23. Lisa Meldrum:  She's missed the cut in her 3 starts on the Symetra Tour early last season and didn't tee it up after early May.  I'm guessing she's hurt, as she didn't even enter LPGA Q-School.

Missing in Action

24. Adrienne White:  She's listed as a former player on the Symetra Tour and I can't find out anything else about her with a quick search.
25. Yoo Kyeong Kim:  She lost her card in 2012 and isn't playing on the Symetra Tour this season, either.  Even Seoul doesn't know what she's up to....

Over and Out

26. Amanda Blumenherst:  She announced her retirement last August, although she did leave the door open for a possible return down the road.
27. Whitney Wade:  She was an assistant coach at Coastal Carolina in 2012 and was named assistant coach at the University of Georgia in May 2013.
28. Jane Chin:  Assistant golf coach at University of California, Irvine.

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the January 2014 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 five key indicators of how well someone played last season--how much money they won, how they scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, how many greens they hit in regulation on average per round, and how many putts per green in regulation they took on average, plus how they ranked in each category (except for birdies, which ranks by total and not by average). Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I've incorporated into my career ranking (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the immediate past and future.

1. Beatriz Recari, $1.03M (#8), 70.874 (#17), 3.49 (#16), 69.2% (#31), 1.770 (#7)
2. Ilhee Lee, $595.8K (#24), 71.928 (#43), 3.51 (#21), 68.1% (#41), 1.818 (#46)
3. Gerina Piller, $572.7K (#26), 71.220 (#23), 3.56 (#18), 73.1% (#14), 1.823 (#52)
4. Azahara Munoz, $458.0K (#31), 71.500 (#28), 3.27 (#25), 73.6% (#9), 1.833 (#70)
5. Mina Harigae, $285.2K (#49), 71.976 (#47), 3.10 (#36), 65.0% (#87), 1.822 (#51)
6. Alison Walshe, $245.5K (#53), 71.734 (#37), 3.32 (#33), 65.2% (#86), 1.791 (#21)
7. Pernilla Lindberg, $206.9K (#60), 72.390 (#65), 2.96 (#54), 68.4% (#37), 1.842 (#87)
8. Mariajo Uribe, $197.8K (#62), 72.797 (#84), 3.07 (#51), 62.7% (#113), 1.817 (#45)
9. Dewi Claire Schreefel, $164.8K (#66), 72.766 (#82), 3.09 (#45), 66.5% (#62), 1.834 (#72)
10. Cindy LaCrosse, $121.7K (#79), 73.638 (#122), 2.59 (#73), 64.3% (#98), 1.867 (#120)
11. Paola Moreno, $113.2K (#82), 72.600 (#73), 2.80 (#80), 64.1% (#102), 1.864 (#116)
12. Amanda Blumenherst, $49.2K (#102), 73.718 (#124), 2.74 (#108), 65.5% (#75), 1.907 (#143)
13. Maria Hernandez, $0 (n.r.), 73.500 (n.r.), 2.00 (#182), 69.0% (n.r.), 1.960 (n.r.)

Career Ranking:  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 2010 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, building on an old analysis of finishes, I've developed a career ranking formula (the details you can check out on my spreadsheet), but since that includes only the top 5 players in the class, I'll continue giving the details on the lower-ranked players here, many of whom are off the LPGA.

1. Azahara Munoz, 1181 points.
2. Beatriz Recari, 1164.
3. Ilhee Lee, 726.
4. Gerina Piller, 692.
5. Mina Harigae, 426.
6. Gwladys Nocera, $.61M (#260), 41/0/0/1/2/4/0/0/17/24 (.585)
7. Mariajo Uribe, $.59M (#264), 72/0/0/0/3/11/1/0/25/46 (.639)
8. Alison Walshe, $.57M (#268), 66/0/0/0/3/11/0/0/24/42 (.636)
9. Amanda Blumenherst, $.53M (#274), 82/0/0/0/4/10/0/0/33/49 (.598)
10. Cindy LaCrosse, $.49M (#292), 67/0/0/0/0/6/0/0/23/44 (.657)
11. Dewi Claire Schreefel, $.45M (#300), 58/0/0/0/1/9/0/0/14/44 (.759)
12. Pernilla Lindberg, $.43M (#306), 69/0/0/0/0/6/0/1/29/39 (.565)
13. Maria Hernandez, $.18M (#401), 34/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/21/13 (.382)
14. Paola Moreno, $.15M (#417), 41/0/0/0/0/1/1/0/20/20 (.488)
15. Jean Reynolds, $.08M (#500), 23/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/18/5 (.217)
16. Lisa Meldrum, $.05M (#537), 24/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/13/11 (.458)
17. Yoo Kyeong Kim, $.05M (#538), 26/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/20/6 (.231)
18. Misun Cho, $.04M (#566), 14/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/11/2 (.143)
19. Christine Song, $.04M (#571), 27/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/20/7 (.259)
20. Adrienne White, $.02M (#610), 10/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/4/6 (.600)
21. Marianne Skarpnord, $.02M (#614), 16/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/12/4 (.250)
22. Tanya Dergal, $.01M (#661), 23/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/18/5 (.217)
23. Katie Kempter, $7.3K (#679), 13/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/11/2 (.154)
24. Nannette Hill, $2.2K (#732), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/1 (.250)
25. Whitney Wade, $0 (n.r.), 3/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/0 (.000)
26. Mallory Blackwelder, $0 (n.r.), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/4/0 (.000)
27. Cathryn Bristow, $0 (n.a.), 0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0 (.000)
28. Jane Chin, $0 (n.a.), 0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0 (.000)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Rankings points (as of 12/30/13) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index score (as of 12/29/13) and rank, International Wins (on JLPGA, KLPGA, LET as of 12/30/13): This is a way of seeing how those '10ers 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, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, ALPG, Symetra Tour, LETAS, and CLPGA; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, LET, and Symetra Tour).

1. Beatriz Recari, 3.77 (#19), 70.46 (#24); 1
2. Azahara Munoz, 2.79 (#31), 71.35 (#52); 2
3. Ilhee Lee, 2.73 (#32), 72.00 (#86); 0
4. Gerina Piller, 2.61 (#37), 70.84 (#35); 0
5. Gwladys Nocera, 1.40 (#78), 71.80 (#76); 12 (all LET)
6. Mina Harigae, 1.19 (#95), 72.09 (#91); 0
7. Alison Walshe, 1.14 (#101), 71.68 (#67); 0
8. Pernilla Lindberg, .98 (#118), 72.41 (#106); 0
9. Dewi Claire Schreefel, .92 (#124), 72.49 (#113); 0
10. Mariajo Uribe, .91 (#125), 72.89 (#134); 0
11. Cindy LaCrosse, .73 (#158), 73.70 (#179); 0
12. Paola Moreno, .56 (#199), 72.95 (#140); 0
13. Marianne Skarpnord, .26 (#285), 74.04 (#204); 2
14. Amanda Blumenherst, .23 (#303), 74.57 (#248); 0
15. Maria Hernandez, .18 (#342), 74.15 (#209); 1
16. Christine Song, .17 (#348), 75.30 (#311); 0
17. Cathryn Bristow, .04 (#562), 76.59 (#372); 0
18. Misun Cho, .04 (#566), 75.88 (n.r.); 0
19. Tanya Dergal, .02 (#700), 78.10 (#432); 0
20. Jean Reynolds, .01 (#779), 74.56 (#247); 0
21. Katie Kempter, .01 (#791), 76.17 (#356); 0
22. Nannette Hill, n.r., 76.45 (n.r.); 0
23. Mallory Blackwelder, n.r., 77.24 (#401); 0
24. Lisa Meldrum, n.r., 79.77 (n.r.); 0

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