Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Venice Tuesday: Who Will Step Up?

Today's pairings in the 2nd sectional qualifier for LPGA Q-School aren't particularly impressive, mostly being composed of Futures Tour players who failed to qualify at Mission Hills. We'll have to see how good the scoring is this week. I don't expect anyone who can't go more than a few under par to have a decent chance for a top 40, much lass a top 20, at Q-School. There are some pretty darn good players in danger of finishing outside the top 100 on the LPGA money list this season who will be joining #6 through #15 on the Futures Tour money list and the top Mission Hills qualifiers.

But keep an eye on LET young gun Kiran Matharu (8:50 am off the 10th tee on the Bobcat course) and former can't-miss AJGA star Esther Choe (9:20 am off the 1st tee on the Bobcat course), who have not been living up either to their promise or the hype surrounding them, to see how they stack up against a much less star-studded field than at Mission Hills. Much more likely to succeed are 2007 Women's Australian Amateur champion Sunny Park, who will be going off the 1st tee at the Panther course with Futures Tour #20 player Jenny Suh at 9:40 am. Starting on the back in the group behind FT #17 player Chella Choi will be 2008 FT winner and #19-ranked Sunny Oh. And Angela Oh, who made it to the Sweet 16 at the Women's Amateur Public Links this summer and earlier had been the 3rd-low qualifer for the U.S. Women's Open at the Maryland site, will also be going off the back about an hour earlier, at 8:30 am.

[Update 1 (7:25 pm): After the 1st round, Sunny Oh is tied for the lead at -4 with Moah Chang, who I'll admit I've never heard of. Angela Oh and Chella Choi are 3 back, Jenny Suh is 4 back, and Sunny Park is 5 back, so they're in pretty good shape when it comes to making the cut. But Kiran Matharu blew up with an 82 and Esther Choe with a 78, so they'll need good rounds tomorrow just to play all 4 rounds. And yet, the one thing that characterizes players of this caliber is volatility. They're still learning how to keep their bad rounds near par and their decent ones at or under it, much less how to get used to going low. With 77 players at +3 or better, the cut could be anywhere between +6 and E. And with only 23 players under par after the 1st round, I don't expect you to have to go under par to get into the top 30 after 72 holes. If +5 was good enough at Mission Hills with a much stronger field, there's no need to panic after 1 or even 2 rounds over 75, so long as your other 2 rounds are good enough to offset them just enough. Only 4 people in the entire Mission Hills field went under par every round. So even though Leanne Bowditch's 1st round, for instance, was 9 shots worse in Venice than it was in Mission Hills, if she shoots 3 72s the rest of the way here instead of the 3 75s she shot there, she could very well give herself a chance to do better at the Final Qualifying School....]

[Update 2 (7:28 pm): OK, OK, here's something on Moah Chang.]

[Update 3 (10/1/08, 2:42 am): LPGA.com has more.]

The Best of the Young Guns: September 2008 Edition

Well, well, well, a lot has changed since I last ranked the LPGA's Super Sophs and Junior Mints together back at the end of April.

Simply the Best

1. Seon Hwa Lee: The Young Guns' only $3M woman and 4-time winner hasn't been doing anything all that special lately, but she has such a lead on the rest of the Junior Mints and Super Sophs that her indifferent play during the LPGA's summer vacation period isn't a huge cause for concern. But the Class of 2008 is looking really tough, with at least 7 players who look like they'll be among the LPGA's elite for a long time to come, so this is no time to be resting on herlaurels.
2. Angela Park: She's the 2nd-hottest player on tour in the 2nd half of the season, behind only Cristie Kerr in winnings in that stretch. 4 top 6s in your last 10 starts will do that for you. Just good enough to be 2nd in her generation.
3. Eun-Hee Ji: Sure, she has 4 top 8s in her last 10 starts, including her 1st career LPGA win and a T3 at the Women's British Open, racking up winnings on a faster pace than even Seon Hwa Lee, and ranked ahead of Angela Park in both systems, but Park's been outplaying her recently and at this point in her career Ji can't afford a patch of indifferent play as easily as Lee can.
4. Jee Young Lee: She's been pretty much a top 20 machine when she hasn't hiccupped with missed cuts over her last 13 events, but she has no top 10s in that stretch. She's still making a ton of birdies, despite a significantly lower GIR rate than usual in her previous 2 seasons, so there's no reason she can't turn it around. She certainly is due.
5. Morgan Pressel: After showing signs of life in mid-summer, she's been in a bit of a tailspin lately, despite the extra preparation she put into the European Swing this year. Maybe getting her wisdom teeth removed, as she did recently, will change her luck. It's not for lack of effort that her results this season have been for the most part disappointing.
6. Inbee Park: Hasn't been the same golfer since being feted as a national heroine in South Korea after her U.S. Women's Open win, so her decision to skip the Southern Swing makes a certain amount of sense. Unlike Jee Young Lee and Pressel, she qualified for the Samsung World Championship, so we'll see very soon what use she made of her time off.

The Contenders

7. Ai Miyazato: Got 3 top 6s in a 6-event stretch in late summer and seemed poised to make my prediction that her 1st LPGA win was around the corner look positively prescient until she missed 2 cuts in a row on the Northern Swing and decided to spend September in Japan. She's competing in the Japan Women's Open this week after finishing T7 in the JLPGA's previous major, so hopefully she'll regain her momentum and come back to the LPGA ready to improve on her 11th-place standing in the race to qualify for the ADT Championship.
8. In-Kyung Kim: One of the hottest golfers on the LPGA right now, with a 5-event top 20 streak going that includes a pair of top 10s. Even though she's been improving her GIR rate significantly lately, it's still not where an elite golfer's should be, but she still has the 4th-highest birdie rate among the Junior Mints and Super Sophs. If she keeps this up, she could pass Miyazato by the next ranking.
9. Song-Hee Kim: Except for a few hiccups here and there, she's been having a fantastic season. And if her stats are any indication, she's due for it to get even better. Perhaps even this week. Watch out for her!
10. Jane Park: Not quite on a Eun-Hee Ji-like pace, but getting there. Even though her recent play has been indifferent at best, she has a way of getting into contention when you least expect it.
11. Brittany Lang: With 5 missed cuts in her last 10 events and only 1 top 20 in the mix, she's been in a real tailspin lately. And just when it seemed she had finally overcome her sophomore jinx!
12. Ji Young Oh: Took a long break from the LPGA after the European Swing, but picked up right where she left off with another top 20 (her 4th in her previous 5 events and best finish since her win). You know she's hot when the GSPI ranks her 4th among all the Junior Mints and Super Sophs, but this is a career ranking, so she'll have to maintain this pace for a long time to remain in such rarefied company.

Quantum Leap Candidates

13. Sun Young Yoo: Got her 4th top 10 of the season in the midst of an otherwise indifferent stretch, but her 3rd-ranked birdie rate among the Junior Mints and Super Sophs suggests it can happen again almost any time.
14. Teresa Lu: Just as I predicted, the European Swing cooled off her game, but at least she stopped her missed cut streak at 2 this past week. Having the 2nd-lowest birdie rate among those in this ranking doesn't bode well for the rest of her season.
15. Minea Blomqvist: After winning on the LET, she hasn't impressed all that much on the LPGA, particularly with this past week's missed cut. The worst GIR rate in this ranking doesn't bode well for her the rest of the season, but she can make birdies in bunches, so could always surprise.
16. Julieta Granada: I didn't include her season stats because they're so bad. She wouldn't even be in this ranking if it weren't for her rookie season. I've heard of sophomore jinxes, but this is ridiculous!
17. Meaghan Francella: After top 30s in the Northern Swing, she missed both cuts on the Southern Swing. Looks like her game hasn't recovered from her early-season injuries. Like Granada, her win has earned her the time to play through her extended slump. Looks like she'll need all the time she can get.
18. Kristy McPherson: Followed up her top 10 at the Bell Micro with a missed cut at the Navistar. It's too bad, as her stats suggest she should have a good fall finish.
19. H.J. Choi: Has shown some real signs of life lately, but couldn't capitalize on her 65 at Evian and sandwiched a top 10 between 2 missed cuts in her last 3 events.
20. Kyeong Bae: Missed 4 straight cuts right after I proclaimed that "The birdie machine is back!" At least she's still very likely to finish in the top 80 this season. Hopefully he can work ut her ballstriking problems during the fall finish, although I don't know if she'll be invited to participate in many Asian swing events.
21. Jin Joo Hong: Needs to get out of her post-Evian funk if she wants to qualify for the Asian Swing this season. A good season could become a great one if she gets hot in the fall. But her stats are not promising.
22. Na On Min: Once a lock to keep her card, she's now on the bubble after getting MCitis this summer. But 2 near-top 20s on the Southern Swing have given her a little bit of breathing room. She's due for something to start going right for her in this sophomore-jinxed season.

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the June ranking.

2008 LPGA Money List (rank), stroke 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 is 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 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.

1. Inbee Park, $1.10M (#5), 71.29 (#15), 3.55 (#15), 62.8% (#88)
2. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.08M (#7), 71.26 (#14), 3.16 (#15), 67.7% (#14)
3. Eun-Hee Ji, $824.8K (#12), 71.21 (#13), 3.26 (#28), 65.4% (#55)
4. Angela Park, $812.8K (#13), 71.51 (#23), 3.48 (#11), 65.4% (#54)
5. Song-Hee Kim, $786.2K (#14), 70.91 (#9), 3.69 (#23), 69.0% (#4)
6. Jane Park, $581.5K (#19), 71.46 (#22), 3.27 (#32), 68.2% (#9)
7. Jee Young Lee, $574.6K (#20), 71.44 (#20), 3.65 (#5), 65.8% (#48)
8. Ji Young Oh, $569.0K (#21), 71.43 (#17), 3.31 (#13), 66.3% (#39)
9. Sun Young Yoo, $542.4K (#25), 71.45 (#21), 3.63 (#3), 66.2% (#40)
10. In-Kyung Kim, $500.1K (#29), 71.62 (#31), 3.59 (#20), 62.6% (#95)
11. Morgan Pressel, $452.2K (#32), 71.69 (#36), 3.26 (#44), 66.2% (#41)
12. Teresa Lu, $451.4K (#33), 72.23 (#53), 2.74 (#50), 63.6% (#74)
13. Brittany Lang, $409.2K (#38), 72.03 (#45), 2.99 (#31), 67.8% (#13)
14. Ai Miyazato, $393.8K (#39), 72.00 (#43), 2.94 (#58), 62.2% (#101)
15. Minea Blomqvist, $389.1K (#43), 72.27 (#55), 3.31 (#36), 60.2% (#130)
16. Kristy McPherson, $341.3K (#48), 71.61 (#28), 3.32 (#38), 65.9% (#46)
17. Jin Joo Hong, $306.5K (#50), 72.21 (#51), 2.90 (#76), 62.5% (#97)
18. H.J. Choi, $236.6K (#56), 72.58 (#68), 2.80 (#37), 60.9% (#119)
19. Kyeong Bae, $158.5K (#69), 72.99 (#94), 3.09 (#47), 60.8% (#120)
20. Na On Min, $142.5K (#75), 73.08 (#100), 2.71 (#57), 61.4% (#111)

Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events entered/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/cuts made (made cut 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 Super Sophs and Junior Mints haven't been at this all too long, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt throughout their careers. 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. I include these other ways of seeing how the young guns 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. So here's how they stand:

1. Seon Hwa Lee, $3.09M (#53), 81/0/4/9/21/42/77 (.951)
2. Julieta Granada, $2.13M (#81), 81/0/1/5/10/20/55 (.679)
3. Jee Young Lee, $2.12M (#82), 73/0/0/5/19/40/68 (.932)
4. Morgan Pressel, $1.89M (#94), 69/1/1/5/21/36/59 (.855)
5. Angela Park, $1.80M (#97), 49/0/0/6/14/20/45 (.918)
6. Ai Miyazato, $1.71M (#101), 66/0/0/4/17/26/53 (.803)
7. Inbee Park, $1.48M (#111), 47/1/1/3/9/15/33 (.702)
8. Brittany Lang, $1.30M (#128), 78/0/0/3/12/27/55 (.705)
9. Eun-Hee Ji, $1.07M (#155), 25/0/1/4/8/10/21 (.840)
10. In-Kyung Kim, $.95M (#179), 45/0/0/2/9/16/37 (.822)
11. Sun Young Yoo, $.90M (#189), 75/0/0/1/6/18/56 (.747)
12. Song-Hee Kim $.86M (#194), 46/0/0/3/8/15/32 (.696)
13. Kyeong Bae, $.75M (#209), 76/0/0/2/7/12/53 (.697)
14. Ji Young Oh, $.72M (#215), 44/0/1/1/4/8/30 (.682)
15. Teresa Lu, $.70M (#219), 64/0/0/1/5/14/45 (.703)
16. Jane Park, $.65M (#228), 32/0/0/3/4/8/26 (.813)
17. Meaghan Francella $.61M (#233), 52/0/1/1/4/8/29 (.558)
18. Minea Blomqvist, $.55M (#243), 55/0/0/1/3/8/34 (.618)
19. H.J. Choi, $.54M (#245), 52/0/0/0/6/11/35 (.673)
20. Jin Joo Hong, $.47M (#265), 40/0/0/0/2/6/25 (.625)
21. Na On Min, $.45M (#269), 43/0/0/1/2/5/27 (.628)
22. Kristy McPherson, $.42M (#275), 37/0/0/0/5/8/25 (.676)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 9/29/08) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 9/28/08) and rank, International and Non-Member LPGA Wins (as of the end of the 2007 season): This is a way of seeing how those Super Sophs 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 Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Seon Hwa Lee, 4.98 (#10), 70.28 (#13), 3
2. Inbee Park, 4.63 (#12), 70.75 (#26); 0
3. Eun-Hee Ji, 4.48 (#16), 70.43 (#16); 4
4. Angela Park, 4.47 (#17), 70.64 (#22); 0
5. Jee Young Lee, 4.21 (#18), 70.74 (#25), 2
6. Morgan Pressel, 3.80 (#22), 71.27 (#40), 0
7. In-Kyung Kim, 2.92 (#35), 71.09 (#35); 0
8. Ai Miyazato, 2.84 (#37), 72.07 (#74), 14
9. Song-Hee Kim, 2.75 (#41), 70.40 (#15); 0
10. Jane Park, 2.65 (#42), 70.81 (#28); 0
11. Ji Young Oh, 1.98 (#55); 70.61 (#20); 0
12. Teresa Lu, 1.93 (#56), 71.15 (#36), 0
13. Brittany Lang, 1.92 (#57), 71.43 (#43), 0
14. Minea Blomqvist, 1.88 (#59), 71.56 (#48), 5
15. Sun Young Yoo, 1.57 (#72), 71.05 (#33), 0
16. Kristy McPherson, 1.43 (#79), 71.76 (#65); 0
17. Jin Joo Hong, 1.42 (#81), 71.80 (#66); 2
18. Meaghan Francella, 1.41 (#83), 73.62 (#172), 0
19. H.J. Choi, 1.35 (#85), 72.46 (#91), 1
20. Na On Min, 1.25 (#88), 73.00 (#128); 0
21. Julieta Granada, 1.14 (#94), 73.36 (#148), 0
22. Kyeong Bae, .82 (#127), 73.05 (#130), 3

So there you have it. I'll be checking back in on these rankings on the following schedule:

February: Junior Mints
March: Super Sophs
April: both
May: Junior Mints
June: Super Sophs
July: Junior Mints
August: Super Sophs
October: Junior Mints (pre-Korea Championship)
November: Super Sophs (post-ADT)
December: all the Young Guns, including the '08 rookies (post-Q School)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Best off the LPGA: JLPGA, September 2008 Edition

Who are the best players on the JLPGA heading into their 3rd major of the season, the Japan Women's Open? This functionally illiterate expert will attempt to answer that question and update his July JLPGA ranking by combining the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, the current JLPGA money list, and the final 2007 money list to identify the Best of the JLPGA.

Momoko's back--the JWO will be her 8th JLPGA event this season. But even though she's won twice in 7 tries this season, I can't justify returning this irregular to the top of the ranking just yet.

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon: #2 2008 money (¥72.67M), #33 RR (3.11) [5], #45 GSPI (71.51) [7], #3 2007 money (¥110.9M). Even though she's cooled off a bit after winning the JLPGA's 1st major for her 9th win in the past 3 seasons, she's still racked up 6 top 5s, 13 top 10s, and 16 top 20s in 2008.

2. Momoko Ueda: #16 2008 money (¥41.00M), #11 RR (4.68) [2], #19 GSPI (70.61) [2], #1 2007 money (¥166.11M). With this past weekend's victory bringing her totals to 7 wins over the past 2 seasons and 5 top 5s in 7 starts this year, March's #1-ranked player is on track to regain that status if she plays as often as I expect her to on the JLPGA the rest of the season.

3. Sakura Yokomine: #5 2008 money (¥68.21M), #25 RR (3.59) [4], #34 GSPI (71.05) [4], #2 2007 money (¥114.9M). With 6 wins in the past 3 seasons and 11 top 5s, 15 top 10s, and 17 top 20s this season, not to mention the lowest scoring average on tour this year, Yokomine's inability to seal the deal all season is the only thing keeping her this low this ranking.

4. Akiko Fukushima: #1 2008 money (¥82.89M), #39 RR (2.82) [6], #41 GSPI (71.30) [5], #11 2007 money (¥51.6M). Let's see: 6 wins the past 3 seasons and 7 top 5s, 12 top 10s, and 17 top 20s this one, as well as being the tour's 2nd repeat winner and having the 5th-lowest scoring average.... It's hard to justify ranking her this low.

5. Ji-Yai Shin: #27 2008 money (¥24.18M), #7 RR (6.26) [1], #4 GSPI (69.04) [1], n.a. 2007 money (not a member). With 3 runner-ups on the JLPGA this season to go with her non-member win, Shin will be playing in her 5th JLPGA event sometime this season, I'm sure, even if she pulled out of the Japan Women's Open in favor of the Samsung World Championship this week. With the recent struggles of the rest of the top JLPGA regulars, I can't justify putting her any lower in this ranking.

6. Miho Koga: #3 2008 money (¥72.54M), #44 RR (2.58) [7], #55 GSPI (71.64) [10], #4 2007 money (¥94.3M). With 6 wins the past 3 seasons to go with 8 top 5s, 13 top 10s, and 20 top 20s this one, she's been better than everyone behind her, despite her 2 missed cuts.

7. Yuri Fudoh: #10 2008 money (¥51.83M), #15 RR (4.52) [3], #51 GSPI (71.59) [8], #6 2007 money (¥87.1M). Somehow the 1st player to get 3 wins in 2008 and to break the billion-yen barrier in career winnings is still having problems with consistency this season. She only has 4 top 5s, 6 top 10s, and 10 top 20s against 2 missed cuts and 4 finishes outside the top 30. Still, she has 7 wins in the past 3 seasons and seems to have gotten that fire in her belly rekindled after her great performance in the Women's British Open.

Right behind these lucky 7 are another talented septet:

8. Ji-Hee Lee: #4 2008 money (¥70.74M), #50 RR (2.15) [11], #31 GSPI (70.92) [3], #38 2007 money (¥23.4M). She's been a top-10 player 5 of the last 8 seasons, so last year was something of a glitch. She's won 4 times the last 3 seasons and put herself in the mix more often than anyone else this one--11 top 5s (7 of them top 3s), 15 top 10s, and 19 top 20s. With the 2nd-best scoring average on tour, she is so due for win #2.

9. Hyun-Ju Shin: #6 2008 money (¥64.20M), #47 RR (2.31) [9], #42 GSPI (71.43) [6], #12 2007 money (¥48.5M). Her win in the JLPGA's 2nd major over Ji-Yai Shin vaulted her up these rankings. Now with a pair of wins, 6 top 5s, 10 top 10s, and 13 top 20s this season, she's definitely among the tour's best.

10. Erina Hara: #7 2008 money (¥57.08M), #58 RR (1.90) [15], #58 GSPI (71.68) [13], #19 2007 money (¥39.7M). Was the hottest player on tour for the weeks leading up to her 1st win, bringing her top 5 total to 7, her top 10 total to 9, and her top 20 total to 17.

11. Yuko Mitsuka: #8 2008 money (¥54.81M), #53 RR (2.04) [14], #62 GSPI (71.74) [14], #14 2007 money (¥45.3M). She's got 6 top 5s, 10 top 10s, and 16 top 20s to go with her win this season, but she's also failed to finish 4 events (2 missed cuts and 2 WDs or DQs).

12. Shinobu Moromizato: #13 2008 money (¥46.01M), #51 RR (2.14) [12], #73 GSPI (72.07) [15], #7 2007 money (¥85.3M). No longer winless, her 5 top 5s, 13 top 10s, and 17 top 20s offset her 4 missed cuts this season.

13. Shiho Oyama: #15 2008 money (¥42.69M), #45 RR (2.50) [8], #57 GSPI (71.66) [12], #8 2007 money (¥71.7M). It's amazing that someone with 7 wins in the 2 previous seasons would still have none this one, but her 7th-ranked scoring average and excellent performance at the LPGA's Mission Hills Q-School qualifier suggest there are more in her future, as do her 6 top 5s, 9 top 10s, and 14 top 20s.

14. Ayako Uehara: #9 2008 money (¥52.15M), #84 RR (1.40) [21], #83 GSPI (72.32) [16], #25 2007 money (¥32.9M). This 2007 Lexus Cupper is definitely coming into her own in 2008, with a win, 6 top 5s, 7 top 10s, and 13 top 20s, but she's stalled of late.

The next septet are having trouble breaking through to the next level:

15. Bo-Bae Song: #12 2008 money (¥46.17M), #60 RR (1.88) [16], #52 GSPI (71.59) [9], #16 2007 money (¥44.4M). Looks to be returning to the early-season form that saw her win and rattle off a string of top 20s, now with 4 top 5s, 9 top 10s, and 14 top 20s.

16. Akane Iijima: #14 2008 money (¥44.83M), #70 RR (1.62) [18], #96 GSPI (72.53) [22], #10 2007 money (¥60.3M). Her 2nd-place finish this past week was her best since her win this season, bringing her totals to 4 top 5s, 7 top 10s, and 17 top 20s. With 4 wins in the past 3 seasons, I wouldn't be surprised at all if she made a big move up these rankings by the end of November.

17. Miki Saiki: #21 2008 money (¥36.84M), #48 RR (2.19) [10], #94 GSPI (72.50) [20], #9 2007 money (¥62.6M). Seems to be coming out of a horrible tailspin in which she missed 6 cuts in 9 events, thanks to an electrifying Mission Hills performance. But she's definitely fallen behind the JLPGA's elite, with 7 top 5s and top 10s and only 11 top 20s this season.

18. Hiromi Mogi: #18 2008 money (¥40.14M), #77 RR (1.44) [20], #54 GSPI (71.64) [11], #15 2007 money (¥44.9M). Has notched top 20s in 7 of 8 tournaments since her win, bringing her season totals to 2 top 5s, 9 top 10s, and 18 top 20s.

19. Chie Arimura: #17 2008 money (¥40.19M), #75 RR (1.49) [19], #105 GSPI (72.65) [24], #13 2007 money (¥47.6M). She's cooled off hard since a missed cut broke her streak of 8 straight top 20s (including her win and 2 other top 5s); she now has 10 top 10s and 13 top 20s on the season.

20. Eun-A Lim: #11 2008 money (¥46.18M), #69 RR (1.64) [17], #86 GSPI (72.36) [18], #86 2007 money (¥5.1M). She has 3 top 5s, 7 top 10s, and 10 top 20s in all this season to go with her win. Her winnings are a bit inflated due to her better performance in richer events than many of her peers, so with a 19th-ranked scoring average, she may have found her level on the JLPGA.

21. Yukari Baba: #19 2008 money (¥39.55M), #87 RR (1.27) [22], #126 GSPI (72.98) [28], #28 2007 money (¥27.9M). So much for that quantum leap I mentioned last ranking--she's missed 5 cuts in her last 7 events and hasn't added to her season totals of 1 win, 3 top 5s, 8 top 10s, and 13 top 20s in that span.

And here are the best of the rest:

22. Hiroko Yamaguchi: #20 2008 money (¥38.57M), #95 RR (1.13) [24], #100 GSPI (72.58) [23], #24 2007 money (¥33.1M). She has 1 win, 3 top 5s, 6 top 10s, and 11 top 20s this season.

23. Ji-Woo Lee: #22 2008 money (¥34.44M), n.r. RR, #95 GSPI (72.50) [21], #47 2007 money (¥16.7M). Still one of the hottest players on tour, having upped her season totals to 2 top 5s, 8 top 10s, and 16 top 20s. The only thing lacking is her 1st career JLPGA win....

24. Midori Yoneyama: #24 2008 money (¥29.65M), #89 RR (1.22) [23], #85 GSPI (72.35) [17], #21 2007 money (¥35.3M). 3 top 5s, 6 top 10s, and 14 top 20s put her right behind 1 Lee and right ahead of another.

25. Esther Lee: #23 2008 money (¥30.61M), n.r. RR, #159 GSPI (73.46) [32], #46 2007 money (¥17.1M). She has 5 top 5s and top 10s to go with 10 top 20s. Still, those 11 missed cuts this season (including in 5 of her last 10 events) are holding her back.

26. Rui Kitada: #25 2008 money (¥29.33M), #102 RR (1.07) [27], #141 GSPI (73.26) [29], #33 2007 money (¥26.4M). She has a win, 2 top 5s, 6 top 10s, and 10 top 20s this season.

27. Saiki Fujita: #26 2008 money (¥29.33M), #97 RR (1.12) [26], #171 GSPI (73.61) [34], #26 2007 money (¥32.3M). She has a win, 3 top 5s, 4 top 10s, and 7 top 20s this season, bringing her total to 3 wins in the past 3 seasons.

28. Na Zhang: #33 2008 money (¥18.34M), #52 RR (2.13) [13], #87 GSPI (72.41) [19], #5 2007 money (¥92.1M). Her back injuries are definitely back. But even with a limited schedule and as many missed cuts or WDs as top 20s this season, she still has the talent to rise up these rankings in a heartbeat. It's difficult to say that of anyone else on tour not in these rankings.

On Golf and Literature: Potiki and the PGA

It just so happens that I've started teaching Patricia Grace's 1986 novel Potiki in my Novels and Tales course just in time for the 1st pro-am at the PGA's Turning Stone Resort Championship. Potiki was brought to American readers by the University of Hawaii Press as part of their series Talanoa: Contemporary Pacific Literature. The General Editor of the series, Vilsoni Hereniko, introduces Grace's novel as follows:

Potiki is a moving story that will be familiar to oppressed people everywhere whose livelihood is threatened by "Dollarmen," property speculators who speak of golf courses, highrises, shopping malls, and tourist attractions. There is a lesson for us all in this community's response to foreigners' attempts to destroy their ancestral symbols and values.

Does the fact that the Oneida Indian Nation owns and runs the Turning Stone resort complex which is hosting this week's PGA event blunt the force of Hereniko's critique? These days, it seems that certain members of the surrounding communities are trying to cast themselves as victims of the OIN's development plans, as both wikipedia and a visitor to the conservative Alexander Hamilton Institute's inaugural dinner attest in their different styles and as historian Beverly Gage analyzed in The Nation almost 8 years ago.

Seems to me both Grace's novel and the Turning Stone resort deserve to be read in all their complexity and ambiguity. What can we make of this coincidental intersection between my academic and blogging lives?

[Update 1 (9/30/08, 7:38 pm): Interesting story on South Korean sensation Danny Lee aiming to make a big splash in this $6M event. Wonder if we'll soon be reading many more stories about male golfers of Korean descent like him and Anthony Kim are changing the face of the PGA.... Still a long way to go to catch up to the LPGA in that regard.]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Navistar Classic Sunday: Ochoa Outlasts Kung and Kerr

One by one, Lorena Ochoa's challengers faded away during the final round of the Navistar Classic. After an eagle on the 8th hole brought her to -16, it looked like Ochoa might run away and hide from the field, but once again the back proved to be her Achilles heel, as she rattled off 8 pars around a bogey on the par-4 12th to fail to break 70 for the 1st time this week. Super Soph Song-Hee Kim pulled even with Ochoa after she made her 3rd birdie in a 6-hole stretch on the 11th hole, but a bogey on the par-3 16th dropped her back to -14, where she ended the tournament tied for 4th with rookie Shanshan Feng (who capped off her bogey-free 66 with a birdie on the 18th). Feng's classmate Louise Friberg, looking for her 2nd win of the season, was the next to fall off the pace, with bogeys on the 17th and 18th that dropped her into a tie for 6th with Ya Ni Tseng (70), Jill McGill (69), Wendy Doolan (68), and Sarah Jane Kenyon (69). And although both Cristie Kerr (66) and Candie Kung (67) birdied the 18th to force a playoff with the world #1, both made 3-putts--Kerr on the 1st playoff hole, Kung on the 2nd--that handed the win to Ochoa.

Making big moves but in the end too little, too late, were Morgan Pressel (66, -3, T54), Eun-Hee Ji (67, -5, T47), Seon Hwa Lee (65, -6, T39), Stacy Prammanasudh (66, -8, T29), and Jee Young Lee (66, -9, T22).

For more, see the LPGA.com notes and interviews page. For now, I'll sign off with congratulations to the world #1 for win #7 of the season!

[Update 1 (8:46 pm): Ah, I can't resist linking to Golf Girl's cute congrats to Lorena and Camilo (and Eduardo).]

[Update 2 (11:18 pm): Hound Dog's back!]

[Update 3 (9/29/08, 3:11 am): Brent Kelley comments on the end of Lorena's "slump."]

[Update 4 (1:02 pm): Hound Dog's epilogue makes some good points.]

[Update 5 (11:27 pm): I give the Golf Channel highlights a B+. Although they culdn't devote 10 seconds to Song-Hee Kim's and Louise Friberg's dropping out of the race for the playoff, they got a good scoop that Ochoa will play the next 3 events and skip the Asian Swing.]

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Sunday: Ueda Outlasts Yokomine and Mitsuka

Wow, what a finish at the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open today on the JLPGA! Sakura Yokomine had yet another great chance to win her 1st tournament of the year, but instead she lost another heartbreaker, this time to the LPGA's own Momoko Ueda, who notched her 2nd win in only her 7th event on tour this season.

This week represented redemption for Ueda, who passed up a great chance to win last week with a final-hole bogey that dropped her back into a playoff with eventual winner Yuri Fudoh. It didn't take long for Ueda to chase down Yokomine down today, making 4 birdies to shoot a 33 on the front and join the 2nd-round leader at -5. Yuko Mitsuka, playing in the final threesome with Yokomine, was next to get to -5 after making her 3rd birdie in 4 holes on the long par-3 11th hole. Ueda, playing in the threesome ahead of her co-leaders, had briefly taken the lead at -6 with a birdie on the very same hole, but gave it back with a bogey on the very next hole, a medium-length par 4. Ueda and Yokomine both went par-birdie-bogey over the next 3 holes while Mitsuka parred each of them to remain at -5. The 16th hole was the key turning point on the back 9, as Ueda first parred the medium-length par-4 and Yokomine and Mitsuka proceeded to bogey it. Ueda didn't let her 1-shot lead slip this time, as she parred the 17th and 18th and watched Mitsuka fail to make a birdie (and end up tied with Akane Iijima and Julie Lu, who made late charges to climb to -4) and Yokomine bogey the 18th (to slip back into a tie for 5th with Miki Saiki).

Here are the final results for the top 10 and notables:

1st/-5 Ueda (70-72-69)
T2/-4 Iijima (74-69-69), Mitsuka (71-70-71), Lu (69-71-72)
T5/-3 Saiki (72-70-71), Yokomine (70-69-74)
T7/-1 Yumiko Yoshida (72-78-65), Chieko Amanuma (74-69-72)
T9/E Shinobu Moromizato (71-76-69), Mie Nakata (70-75-71), So-Hee Kim (71-73-72)

Nice weekend by Iijima, Mitsuka, and Saiki, and a great week for Lu, Yoshida, and Amanuma. Lu, a 2-time JLPGA winner whose last victory came in 2004, made more birdies than anyone in the field this week and accounted well for herself during her 1st time in contention this season. Amanuma was only 2 shots off the lead with 4 left to play. And Yoshida only shot the low round of the week by 4 shots!

T12/+1 Shiho Oyama (74-74-69), Nikki Campbell (69-78-70), Akiko Fukushima (71-73-73), Esther Lee (74-70-73)
19th/+2 Mayu Hattori (70-74-74)
T20/+3 Saiki Fujita (72-76-71)
T30/+5 Erina Hara (76-74-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-74-71), Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-75-72)
T36/+6 Kaori Higo (73-76-73)
T43/+8 Ayako Uehara (76-74-74), Yukari Baba (71-79-74)
T48/+9 Tamie Durdin (73-78-75), Riko Higashio (76-74-75)
T58/+12 Chie Arimura (75-73-80)

It'll be interesting to see how Fukushima, Hara, Uehara, and Oyama in particular deal with this week's disappointing results.

Here's the new money list:

1. Akiko Fukushima ¥82.89M
2. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥72.67M
3. Miho Koga ¥72.54M
4. Ji-Hee Lee ¥70.74M
5. Sakura Yokomine ¥68.21M
6. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
7. Erina Hara ¥57.08M
8. Yuko Mitsuka ¥54.81M
9. Ayako Uehara ¥52.15M
10. Yuri Fudoh ¥51.83M
11. Eun-A Lim ¥46.18M
12. Bo-Bae Song ¥46.17M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥46.01M
14. Akane Iijima ¥44.83M
15. Shiho Oyama ¥42.69M
16. Momoko Ueda ¥41.00M
17. Chie Arimura ¥40.19M
18. Hiromi Mogi ¥40.14M
19. Yukari Baba ¥39.55M
20. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥38.57M
21. Miki Saiki ¥36.84M
22. Ji-Woo Lee ¥34.44M
23. Esther Lee ¥30.61M
24. Midori Yoneyama ¥29.65M
25. Rui Kitada ¥29.33M
26. Saiki Fujita ¥26.65M
27. Ji-Yai Shin ¥24.18M
28. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥23.55M
29. Mayu Hattori ¥22.88M
30. Yuko Saitoh ¥21.98M

So heading into the JLPGA's 3rd major of the season, the Japan Women's Open, Momoko Ueda is one of the hottest golfers on tour, while Ji-Yai Shin, who's coming off her 2nd major victory on the KLPGA this week, is one of the hottest players on the planet. Shin is looking to win a major on every major professional tour this season (the Women's British Open covers both the LPGA and LET), while Ueda is looking to join Yuri Fudoh in the 3-time-winner-in-2008 circle. Meanwhile, the race for the money-list lead is tightening, as Akiko Fukushima has cooled off and Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miho Koga, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, and Hyun-Ju Shin are rapidly making up ground on her. Ai Miyazato is looking for her 1st JLPGA win since her 14th came back in 2006, while Shiho Oyama and Miki Saiki are looking for their 1st of the season before heading to Florida in December to attempt to join Ai-chan and Momo-chan on the LPGA. And young guns like Erina Hara, Yuko Mitsuka, and Bo-Bae Song are looking to establish themselves firmly among the JLPGA's elite. Not too shabby!

[Update 1 (12:36 pm): Uh-oh! Shin's name doesn't appear on the newly-updated field list for the JWO! Looks like she'll be playing the Samsung World Championship after all.]

[Update 2 (11:15 pm): Here's the Kyodo story.]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Navistar Classic Saturday: It's Free-for-All Time!

Talk about taking advantage on moving day! The Navistar Classic's one and only defending champion Maria Hjorth led the way with a blistering 63, bringing her total to -9 for the tournament and her within 4 shots of co-leaders Louise Friberg (65) and Lorena Ochoa (69). Candie Kung's 65 got her to -10 for the tournament--the 10th player to reach double digits under par thus far. If Shi Hyun Ahn hadn't made 2 bogeys on the back, she would have joined that group--as it is, her 65 lifted her to -8 for the tournament. She became the 19th player to end the day within 5 shots of the lead, tied with Heather Daly-Donofrio and 1 shot behind Wendy Doolan, who both shot 66s of their own. (It was Doolan's 1st round of the tournament in which she didn't make a hole in one or a quadruple bogey!)

Higher up the leaderboard, Song-Hee Kim's 69 made her the only player to join Ochoa in shooting 3 straight sub-70 rounds. She remains 2 shots behind the world #1, along with Christina Kim (69), 2nd-round leader Janice Moodie (72), Michele Redman (70), and Ya Ni Tseng (the only player in this bunch to actually make up ground on Ochoa with her 68).

Scoring has been lower than I expected this week: most players in contention have shot at least 1 round of 67 or better. You'll definitely need to go below 70 at least 3 times to win this thing. If Ochoa and Song-Hee Kim can't bend probabilities their way, they're going to get passed by half a dozen people among the top 21 who go really low tomorrow. But who? Cristie Kerr? Katherine Hull? Jane Park? Shanshan Feng? Na On Min? Should be very very interesting on the back 9 tomorrow afternoon!

[Update 1 (7:19 pm): Check out LPGA.com's notes and interviews page when you get a chance.]

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Saturday: Yokomine Makes a Move

Sakura Yokomine has made a bid to restore some order to the JLPGA's Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open today. Her 69 brought her to -5, but it took a late double bogey and a final-hole bogey by 1st-round co-leader Julie Lu to hand Yokomine the lead. There was very little movement on moving day, except in the wrong direction by Lu's former co-leaders. Yuko Saitoh and Nikki Campbell led the way with 78s, followed by Rie Murata with a 77 and Mayumi Shimomura with a 75. Still, there are 14 players within 5 shots of Yokomine heading into the final round, so her 1st win on tour this season won't be easy.

1st/-5 Yokomine (70-69)
2nd/-4 Lu (69-71)
3rd/-3 Yuko Mitsuka (71-70)
T4/-2 Miki Saiki (72-70), Momoko Ueda (70-72)
T6/-1 Akane Iijima (74-69), Chieko Amanuma (74-69), Yui Kawahara (73-70), Yui Mukaiyama (73-70)
T10/E Esther Lee (74-70), Eriko Moriyama (73-71), Akiko Fukushima (71-73), So-Hee Kim (71-73), Mayu Hattori (70-74), Shimomura (69-75)

T16/+1 Mie Nakata (70-75)
T22/+3 Campbell (69-78), Shinobu Moromizato (71-76)
T26/+4 Chie Arimura (75-73), Shiho Oyama (74-74), Saiki Fujita (72-76)
T37/+5 Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-75), Kaori Higo (73-76)
T46/+6 Ayako Uehara (76-74), Erina Hara (76-74), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-74), Riko Higashio (76-74) Tamie Durdin (73-78), Yukari Baba (71-79)

Some disappointing missed cuts:

T63/+8 Rui Yokomine (77-75), Miho Koga (76-76)
T72/+9 Yuki Ichinose (74-79)
T79/+11 Ritsuko Ryu (78-77)

Can Mitsuka, Ueda, Saiki, Iijima, or Fukushima make a charge tomorrow and deny Yokomine her 1st win of the season?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Navistar Classic Friday: Oh, How Things Have Changed

Lorena Ochoa shot her 2nd straight 67 today at the Navistar LPGA Classic to become the 1st player to get to double digits under par. She "only" closed with a 32 on the front (2 shots worse than her opening 9 yesterday), but handled the closing 4 holes on the back much better this time around (-1 vs. +1). Early in the year, this kind of performance would have intimidated her competition and gotten them out of their comfort zones. But as I write veterans like Michele Redman (who's made 2 eagles as she's gone -7 over her 1st 11 holes today), Janice Moodie, and Jill McGill are threatening to pass her, not to mention Super Soph Ji Young Oh, who's gunning to become the 1st in her class to win twice on tour. Only 3 shots back are Cristie Kerr and Ya Ni Tseng, each of whom has gone 1 shot lower than Ochoa's best in 1 of their opening rounds. And threatening to pass them are Christina Kim and Song-Hee Kim. Even though Jane Park and Jeong Jang are struggling today, they still have a bunch of birdie holes ahead of them on the front before their days are done. So that's 10 players who could well be within 3 shots of Ochoa heading into moving day. Any wonder that the world #1 hasn't won since May?

[Update 1 (4:58 pm): And it's not just her LPGA peers catching up to Ochoa. Ji-Yai Shin just won her second major on the KLPGA this season, bringing her majors total on the year to 3 and her win total to 7. That's tops in the world this calendar year.]

[Update 2 (5:46 pm): Song-Hee Kim closed with her 2nd straight 68; Moodie's -10 with 2 birdie holes to go on the front; Redman is hanging tough on the tough closing holes, just needing a par on 18 for a bogey-free 65 that would put her 1 back of Ochoa; McGill's 1 back with a few birdie holes to go before she hits 15 through 18; Christina Kim's -6 on her round and 2 shots back of Ochoa with 17 and 18 (both of which she bogeyed yesterday) to go; Ji Young Oh bogeyed 15 for the 2nd straight day to erase her birdie on 14 and fall 2 back again; and Shanshan Feng has birdied 14 and 16 to get within 3 of the lead.]

[Update 3 (5:57 pm): While Jane Park and Jeong Jang continue to struggle, they each have 2 birdie holes to go, so could still salvage their rounds. Meanwhile, In-Kyung Kim fired a 67 today to move to -5 for the tournament, the same as Na On Min and Michelle Ellis, but 1 behind them (and Teresa Lu, Mikaela Parmlid, and Louise Friberg, who join them at -6) for the tournament. Speaking of nice moves, Morgan Pressel's 67 brought her to +1, which could end up right on the cut line, as she's T67 with fellow Junior Mints Seon Hwa Lee and Brittany Lang, who also broke 70 to give themselves a chance to keep playing on the weekend. But it's curtains for their classmate Kyeong Bae, Danielle Downey, Minea Blomqvist, H.J. Choi, Sun Young Yoo, and Meaghan Francella, as well as Nicole Castrale, Stacy Lewis, Se Ri Pak, Lindsey Wright, Laura Diaz, and Sophie Gustafson. Moira Dunn's going to need a serious miracle not to join them....]

[Update 4 (6:02 pm): OK, Moodie's 67 keeps her 1 shot ahead of Ochoa, while Redman's 65 moves her to -9. McGill's still there with 5 holes to go and Christina Kim and Ji Young Oh are playing the final holes 1 more behind.]

[Update 5 (6:26 pm): Christina Kim's 66 puts her 3 off the lead. She's one of 8 golfers to go lower than Ochoa so far this week--for 1 round. Of course, two of them--Jang and Jane Park--really blew up today. But one difference between the Ochoa of this spring and the Ochoa since then is that she hasn't been able to continue going low all 4 rounds. So far, only 4 players in the field have even broken 70 twice, with only 2 more having a realistic chance to do so still playing. Ochoa's going to have to really bend probabilities to stay under 70 all 4 rounds--and if she goes into neutral or reverse, there are plenty of players ready to zoom past her.]

[Update 6 (7:26 pm): Jill McGill did it--broke 70 and matched Ochoa over the 1st 2 rounds. Ji Young Oh ended up matching Kerr and Tseng, now 4 off the lead. And Shanshan Feng dropped back to -6, becoming the 14th player to pull within 5 shots of the leader Janice Moodie. And it looks like the folks at +1 will end up T69, leaving 81 (or so) players on the right side of the cut line.]

[Update 7 (8:54 pm): LPGA.com has all your overview and interview needs covered.]

[Update 8 (9/27/08, 7:24 pm): Even travelling, Hound Dog can run circles around the AP.]

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Friday: Who Shot What?!

Parity is one thing, but the 1st round of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open was almost pure anarchy. What other word fits when such luminaries as Miho Koga (76), Ayako Uehara (76), Shiho Oyama (74), and Akane Iijima (74) are languishing below or near tomorrow's projected cut line while Yuko Saitoh (34-35), Nikki Campbell (33-36), Julie Lu (31-38!), Mayumi Shimomura (34-35), and Rie Murata (34-35) share the lead at -3?

OK, OK, I'm probably going too far: Momoko Ueda and Sakura Yokomine are only 1 shot back, along with Mie Nakata and Mayu Hattori, while Akiko Fukushima, Yuko Mitsuka, Shinobu Moromizato, and Yukari Baba are 2 behind and Miki Saiki is only 3 off the pace.

But look at the larger pattern of results and tell me if they aren't the slightest bit unexpected:

1st/-3 Saitoh, Campbell, Lu, Shimomura, Murata (69)
T6/-2 Ueda, Yokomine, Nakata, Hattori (70)
T10/-1 Fukushima, Mitsuka, Moromizato, Baba, So-Hee Kim, Keiko Sasaki (71)

T16/E Saiki, Saiki Fujita (72)
T23/+1 Kaori Higo, Tamie Durdin (73)
T34/+2 Oyama, Iijima, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Esther Lee, Yuki Ichinose (74)
T53/+3 Chie Arimura (75)
T60/+4 Koga, Uehara, Erina Hara, Maiko Wakabayashi, Riko Higashio (76)
T74/+5 Rui Yokomine (77)
T85/+6 Ritsuko Ryu (78)

Yup, that's former LPGAer Higashio and current LETer Yokomine (Sakura's onechan) keeping the former hottest golfer on the JLPGA company at the bottom of the leaderboard.

When only 5 players broke 70, scoring conditions must have been challenging, to say the least. Whether or not they improve, the relatively high leading scores and the compression among the top 52 players make this thing even more wide open than usual. Anarchy, anyone?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Navistar Classic Thursday: Back with a Bang

With 10 players going super low--including 65s by Jeong Jang, Jane Park, and Jill McGill, 66s by Cristie Kerr and Janice Moodie, and Lorena Ochoa among those lurking only 2 shots off the lead--another 11 breaking 70, and 52 in all going under par today, there's no time for rust at the Navistar LPGA Classic.

In fact, if scoring conditions remain about the same, you'll need to get or stay near even par by the end of the day tomorrow just to make the cut. So players like Karrie Webb, Hee-Won Han, and Stacy Lewis at E can't rest easy, those with Stacy Prammanasudh, Shi Hyun Ahn, and Meena Lee at +1 have to be on the ball, and those like Jee Young Lee, Laura Diaz, and Minea Blomqvist at +2 have their work cut out for them. Everyone worse--including Se Ri Pak (75), Seon Hwa Lee (76), Sun Young Yoo (77), and Morgan Pressel (78)--will need a fantastic comeback.

I begin with these cautionary tales to suggest that it's going to be very difficult for the lead pack to maintain this pace. For further evidence, you need look no further than the best rounds in the field today. Jane Park made 8 birdies in her 1st 14 holes but was +1 over her final 4. Lorena Ochoa opened with a 30, thanks to a birdie-eagle-birdie run to cap off her front 9, but could only manage a 37 on the back, also going +1 over that same closing stretch. Sure, there were some people who made a move there--among the top 20, Mi Hyun Kim lead the way with 3 birdies and no bogeys, Jeong Jang, Cristie Kerr, Janice Moodie, and Katie Futcher were -2, and Jill McGill, Ji Young Oh, Sandra Gal, Mikaela Parmlid, and Taylor Leon were -1--but for the most part, those who played well did their damage over the 1st 14 holes and hung on the rest of the way at best. If scoring conditions get any more difficult, then you can expect fewer than 10 players tomorrow to go under par on the 15th through 18th--and that fewer than half these players will be among that group.

That's the thing about Robert Trent Jones courses: if you're playing great, you can go really low, but if any problems creep into any aspect of your game, your score will reflect it. Morgan Pressel's triple bogey on the 395-yard par-4 4th, Seon Hwa Lee's triple bogey on the 517-yard par-5 5th hole, the nice pairs of double bogeys by Maria Hjorth, Brittany Lang, Meaghan Francella, and Anna Rawson, and Sophie Gustafson's 41 on the back following up a 34 on the front are all evidence of this quality of The Senator.

So right now there's no need for anyone to hit the panic button when they look at the top of the leaderboard. Breaking 70 twice if you stay around par in the other round should be good enough to put you in contention on Sunday.

[Update 1 (9/26/08, 12:13 am): Here's the LPGA.com notes and interviews page. The AP story was pretty much cobbled together from it.]

[Update 2 (1:40 pm): A death in the Hound Dog family will be limiting his blogging this week, so I'll do what I can to pick up the slack now that our own family crisis seems to be getting more manageable.]

Navistar Classic Pairings

Sorry for the delay in my traditional pre-tournament pairings post--still dealing with that family health/work crunch confluence I mentioned last week....

But get a load of the prime-time groups going off the front in the early afternoon:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
Katherine Hull
Morgan Pressel
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Yani Tseng
Lorena Ochoa

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Nicole Castrale
Cristie Kerr
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Kristy McPherson
Sophie Gustafson
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Jimin Kang
Minea Blomqvist
Teresa Lu

Yes, that's the 2006 rookie of the year and the 2008 ROY race leader playing 2 rounds with the world #1! What could be better?

Well, no other threesome this week. But their opposite numbers going off the back in the early afternoon come the closest:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Song-Hee Kim
Meena Lee
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Kim Hall
Katie Futcher
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Jee Young Lee
Michele Redman
Young Kim

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Christina Kim
Shanshan Feng
Se Ri Pak

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Ji Young Oh
Karrie Webb
Kyeong Bae

If Jee Young Lee had replaced Kyeong Bae, those last 2 threesomes would have been even more impressive than they already are. For Feng to be paired with a Hall of Famer and one of the best Americans in the field shows what respect the 2nd-tier rookies are getting this time of year.

Speaking of Feng's peers, check out the early afternoon pairings going off the 10th tee:

Start Time: 11:45 AM
Brittany Lang
Shi Hyun Ahn
Joo Mi Kim

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Hee-Won Han
Louise Friberg
Hee Young Park

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Candie Kung
Lorie Kane
Sung Ah Yim

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Julieta Granada
Mi Hyun Kim
Angela Park

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Becky Morgan
H.J. Choi
Giulia Sergas

Han is one of those players I'm already 2nd-guessing myself for not picking this week; for Friberg and Park to play with her is a great opportunity.

Speaking of great opportunities, check out the early morning pairings going off the 1st tee:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Brandie Burton
Christa Johnson
Meaghan Francella

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Sun Young Yoo
In-Kyung Kim
Silvia Cavalleri

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Diana D'Alessio
Lindsey Wright
Janice Moodie

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Jane Park
Allison Fouch
Eun-Hee Ji

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Jeong Jang
Rachel Hetherington
Wendy Ward

Yup, that's Junior Mint Fouch paired with Super Sophs Ji and Park.

Outside the prime-time pairings are Stacy Lewis (getting Michelle Wie's traditional 1st off the 10th time), Moira Dunn (7:12 am off #10), Ashleigh Simon and Sandra Gal (7:56 am off the ast and 10th tees, respectively), Danielle Downey (1:13 pm off #10), Anna Rawson (1:35 pm off #1), and Na On Min (1:46 pm off #10).

Should be some very good golf today as players race to qualify for the ADT Championship, the Asian swing, and to avoid having to go back to Q-School.... Here's the live scoring link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Venice Q-School Field Announced

Here's the field list and LPGA.com preview. No time for a proper response, but it does strike me that most of the recognizable names come from players who tried and failed at Mission Hills....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Navistar Classic Preview/Predictions

The LPGA's Southern Swing--and its late summer vacation--comes to an end this week at the Navistar Classic, which Hound Dog usefully previews. Even though there are 9 events in a row starting this week, only 3 of them are full-field tournaments, so he's also started a Card Watch, 2008 Edition series that will be worth following.

The Senator course is the first one that the LPGA has played in quite some time that I believe favors the longer hitters on tour. There are a good number of long par 3s and par 4s, along with longer-than-usual-for-the-LPGA par 5s. It's more of a links course than Sunningdale, the site of this year's Women's British Open, so I'm stacking my picks for this week's Pakpicker with players who can drive the ball well and who have been playing well of late (or whom I believe are simply due).

1. Ochoa
2. Tseng
3. Feng
4. Park Angela
5. Park Hee Young
6. Stanford
7. Lee Jee Young
8. Lee Seon Hwa
9. Blomqvist
10. Hull
11. Prammanasudh
12. Lewis

Alts: Webb, Kerr, Stupples

Having come this close to getting shut out in the last Alabama event, I'm crossing my fingers this week. I've dropped to 6th place in the season standings, so it's time to get back in gear.

Same goes for the world #1 (who must feel the top players on tour and in the world breathing down her neck), the leader in the Rookie of the Year race (who's looking to extend her lead on Na Yeon Choi), China's only LPGA player (who's looking to earn her way into the Asian Swing), NYers Moira Dunn and Danielle Downey (who are on the top 80 bubble), and Stacy Lewis (who wishes she was)....

Monday, September 22, 2008

On the Relative Strength of Professional Tours in Women's Golf

With Yuri Fudoh and Ha-Neul Kim's 3rd victories on the JLPGA and KLPGA, respectively, and Gwladys Nocera's 4th on the LET, overshadowed, to say the least, by a sudden and unexpected onset of Ryder Cup Madness in the golf world, I want to revisit an issue Hound Dog raised earlier this summer: who can boast the second-strongest tour in women's golf? When HD ranked the KLPGA and JLPGA earlier this year, he was struck by the significantly lower world rankings of the top players in the former tour than the latter. While part of this was simply due to the preeminence of rookies and young guns on the KLPGA at the time, it's worth revisiting this question from a variety of angles (not least because I'll be updating my own Best of the JLPGA ranking next week, in the run-up to their 3rd major of the season).

First, consider who has the most worldwide wins this calendar year and their positions in the Rolex Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index:

Lorena Ochoa 6 [1, 1]
Ji-Yai Shin 6 [7, 4]
Gwladys Nocera 4 [96, 60]
Annika Sorenstam 3 [2, 5]
Paula Creamer 3 [5, 2]
Yuri Fudoh 3 [17, 47]
Ha-Neul Kim 3 [92, n.r.]
Hee Kyung Seo 3 [122, n.r.]
Lotta Wahlin 3 [167, 138]
Suzann Pettersen 2 [3, 3]
Seon Hwa Lee 2 [10, 13]
Mi-Jeong Jeon 2 [32, 49]
Akiko Fukushima 2 [39, 40]
Miho Koga 2 [42, 45]
Hyun-Ju Shin 2 [46, 48]
Amy Yang 2 [93, 64]
Martina Eberl 2 [131, 74]
Ran Hong 2 [148, n.r.]
Rebecca Hudson 2 [162, 155]

Before we jump in, let's acknowledge that the GSPI is skewed by the fact that their system doesn't take into account KLPGA events. In fact, the GSPI doesn't even take wins or final finishes into account, as far as I can tell, instead ranking players by their respective finishes in each round they play. The RR is skewed in its own way by taking into account the last 2 years' worth of results around the world, twice as many weeks as the 52 the GSPI looks at.

Clearly, good play and multiple wins matter most on the LPGA--even Pettersen, whose 2 wins have come in Europe this season, is ranked so high because of her incandescent play on the LPGA in 2007. Even Amy Yang, who's barely played in LPGA events as a non-exempt rookie this season--and played much worse there than she has on the LET--is virtually the top-ranked LET regular, even though Nocera has twice as many wins as she does. The next-best tour seems to be the JLPGA, where the players with more than 1 win this season seem guaranteed top 50 rankings. It's worth noting that Shiho Oyama and Miki Saiki are also top 50 players in at least 1 system, even though they are only #14 and #21 on the current JLPGA money list, yet both got top 5 finishes in sectional qualifying at Mission Hills last week, so they seem close to being in Ai Miyazato's and Momoko Ueda's league.

But hold on a second. Look again at who's won on the KLPGA multiple times. Sun-Ju Ahn, the Mission Hills medalist, isn't even on this list, even though for a long time in 2007 she was Ji-Yai Shin's top rival. When international players come to the KLPGA--including LPGA Rookie of the Year #2 Na Yeon Choi, U.S. Women's Open winner Inbee Park, last year's #2 KLPGA star Eun-Hee Ji, and multiple Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak--they haven't dominated like their LPGA status might have led you to expect. Shin, the Women's British Open winner and winner on the JLPGA, just got outduelled by Kim, last season's KLPGA Rookie of the Year, for her 3rd straight runner-up finish after she had been stopped on the JLPGA by Hyun-Ju Shin and Saiki Fujita the previous 2 weeks. So the KLPGA actually seems quite similar to the JLPGA, where Momoko Ueda has only won once in multiple tries and Ai Miyazato struggled for a top 10 in the year's second major (she'll try again in 2 weeks).

That leaves the LET getting the short end of the stick. I know it rubs their top regulars the wrong way, but when an amateur (Anna Nordqvist) outdoes a multiple winner (Eberl) at Mission Hills and one of their top players (Becky Brewerton) fails to advance, it makes sense that even someone who went as low as Nocera (-29 last weekend, breaking an LET record!) can't crack the top 50 in either ranking system. Just look at how many "outsiders" have won on the LET this season--Shin, Pettersen, Karrie Webb, Helen Alfreddson, Laura Davies, and Minea Blomqvist--and you can see why multiple wins over weaker fields just don't cut it.

I don't have time to back this up, but my guess is the JLPGA's top 20 and the KLPGA's top 10 could thrive on the LPGA. But when last year's LET Rookie of the Year Louise Stahle has "journeywoman" status at best on the LPGA, when 5 of their top 30 have played in 7 or fewer events (as opposed to 2 who have done so on the JLPGA list), and when even multiple LPGA winners from Europe in recent years like Sorenstam and Pettersen have been struggling to add to their totals, I have to wonder how many LET players could thrive on the LPGA.

What do you all think? Is Vicky Hurst better than Nocera? Is Mindy Kim as good as Wahlin? They have the same number of wins, after all. How much deeper than the Futures Tour's is the talent pool of regulars on the LET?

[Update 1 (10/3/08, 2:19 am): The conversation continues over at Waggle Room.]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Sunday: Ueda/Fudoh/Arasaki Showdown

The final 2 threesomes in the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic have opened the door and Momoko Ueda and Yuri Fudoh have charged right on through. Fudoh's made 5 birdies and no bogeys through 17 holes to get to -8 for the tournament, while Ueda has also played bogey-free golf and caught the leader with a birdie on the 13th. 2nd-round leader Yayoi Arasaki had gotten to -10 with birdies on the 2nd and 3rd holes, but a pair of bogeys and a costly double bogey on the par-4 10th dropped her out of the lead. She's stabilized the ship with a birdie on the par-5 12th to pull a shot ahead of a pair of golfers in the penultimate group, Shinobu Moromizato and Aki Takamura, as well as Bo-Bae Song, who's picked up where she left off yesterday with 4 birdies and only 1 bogey in 16 holes. But all Song's heroics of the past 2 days will be for naught if she can't join Fudoh as leader in the clubhouse.

At least she has a chance: Ji-Hee Lee (+1) and Namika Omata (+4), playing with Arasaki in the final pairing, have fallen off the pace; Lee, at least, still has a ghost of a chance, as anything can happen over 5 holes, but 4 shots is a lot to make up in that time. Amateur Asako Fujimoto is in the same boat, having bogeyed the par-4 13th minutes before Lee to also fall back to -4, tied with playing partner Yuko Saitoh.

Well, well, well, the scoreboard just updated! Fudoh didn't birdie the 18th and Song didn't catch her at -8, even though she did what the leader in the clubhouse couldn't. Ueda was the next golfer to have a chance to match or surpass Fudoh, and things were looking great for her after a birdie on the par-4 17th lifted her into the lead at -9. But a final-hole bogey dropped her back into a tie with the JLPGA's living legend. Joining them in a playoff will be Arasaki, who showed plenty of guts in fighting back to even-par on her final round after her birdie on the par-5 15th and parring in from there. If Ueda could have managed a birdie on either back-9 par 5, the tournament would have been hers, but Arasaki and Fudoh's birdies on both holes kept them in the game.

While I search for playoff results, here are the top 10 and notables:

T1/-8 Fudoh (71-70-67), Ueda (70-70-68), Arasaki (69-67-72)
4th/-7 Song (76-65-68)
T5/-5 Hiroko Yamaguchi (69-72-70), Saitoh (72-69-70), Aki Takamura (71-69-71), Fujimoto (71-69-71), Shinobu Moromizato (68-71-72)
T10/-4 Miho Koga (70-71-1), Ji-Hee Lee (69-70-73)

T12/-3 Akane Iijima (73-70-70)
T15/-2 Ayako Uehara (72-72-70)
T17/-1 Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-74-69), Tamie Durdin (74-70-71), Mie Nakata (72-72-71), Hiromi Mogi (76-67-72), Sakura Yokomine (68-74-73), Ji-Woo Lee (72-70-73), Yuki Sakurai (72-70-73), Yuko Mitsuka (71-70-74)
T28/E Erina Hara (71-73-72)
T30/+1 Midori Yoneyama (72-72-73)
T38/+3 Mayu Hattori (72-69-78)
T49/+6 Kaori Higo (74-72-76)

[Update 1 (4:54 am): I should have noted that Aki Takamura got it to -7 with 3 holes to play, but fell out of the picture with bogeys on the 16th and 18th. And I should have checked the official leaderboard, which reveals that Yuri Fudoh won the playoff for her JLPGA-leading 3rd win of the season!]

[Update 2 (5:07 am): So edit the above leaderboard to put Ueda and Arasaki at T2 and check out the new money list while I search for what just happened!

1. Akiko Fukushima ¥82.05M
2. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥72.67M
3. Miho Koga ¥72.54M
4. Ji-Hee Lee ¥70.74M
5. Sakura Yokomine ¥65.51M
6. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
7. Erina Hara ¥56.69M
8. Ayako Uehara ¥51.88M
9. Yuri Fudoh ¥51.83M
10. Yuko Mitsuka ¥50.44M
11. Eun-A Lim ¥46.18M
12. Bo-Bae Song ¥46.17M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥44.75M
14. Shiho Oyama ¥41.85M
15. Akane Iijima ¥40.52M
16. Hiromi Mogi ¥40.14M
17. Chie Arimura ¥40.00M
18. Yukari Baba ¥39.28M
19. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥38.18M
20. Ji-Woo Lee ¥34.44M
21. Miki Saiki ¥34.14M
22. Momoko Ueda ¥30.20M
23. Esther Lee ¥29.77M
24. Midori Yoneyama ¥29.65M
25. Rui Kitada ¥29.33M
26. Saiki Fujita ¥26.14M
27. Ji-Yai Shin ¥24.18M
28. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥23.16M
29. Mayu Hattori ¥22.28M
30. Yuko Saitoh ¥21.48M

Fudoh jumps from 18th to 9th, Iijima leapfrogs up a few spots, and Ueda is now breathing down Saiki's neck.]

[Update 3 (6:46 am): Kyodo News finally came through with the story. Some good details, including the fact that a thunderstorm delayed play and amateur Fujimoto is a high school student. But here's the key part:

Fudo came back from five shots behind with a final-round 67 and then holed a curling 25-footer in the playoff....

Fudo, the all-time earnings leader on the Japan LPGA tour, completed a flawless day after Ueda and Arasaki failed to convert birdie attempts of their own from shorter distances and said luck was on her side at the very end of a long day.

"I thought playoff chances were becoming slimmer and was preparing to go home when Ueda-san was moving up on the board," said Fudo, who had to endure a two-hour wait at the clubhouse and on the practice green before walking up to the tee for the playoff. "But I just tried to go out there and show everything I have once I got in the playoff."

Congratulations to Yuri Fudoh!]

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Saturday: Will the Big Names Please Step Up?

Parity has been the watchword on the JLPGA this year. Yuri Fudoh has 2 wins, but little else to show this season (outside of a fantastic Women's British Open). Sakura Yokomine and Shiho Oyama have yet to win. Clearly, fields are getting stronger and the gap between the tour's best and the rest is shrinking fast. Nothing exemplifies this more than the leaderboard as the 2nd round of the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic comes to a close. 1st-round co-leader Yokomine picked up where her final-hole bogey yesterday left off; she's 1-over on each side and with 1 hole to play has carded only 1 birdie all day today. At +2, she's now 6 shots behind leader Yayoi Arasaki, who birdied 5 of her last 10 holes for a sizzling 67 (behind only Bo-Bae Song's 65, which started off with a 30 on the back, and Kaori Aoyama's 66). Who is Arasaki? Well, she's a 6th-year pro having one of her best seasons on the JLPGA, but she currently sits at #68 on the money list, as a result of missing 13 cuts and only garnering 2 top 20s. But she has 18 holes to put all that behind her. Who can say for sure that the big names chasing her will be able to step up tomorrow?

[Update 1 (2:42 am): Take a look at the top 10 and notables for further evidence of a sea change in process on the JLPGA:

1st/-8 Arasaki (69-67)
2nd/-6 Namika Omata (69-69)
T3/-5 Ji-Hee Lee (69-70), Shinobu Moromizato (68-71)
T5/-4 Aki Takamura (71-69), Asako Fujimoto (71-69), Momoko Ueda (70-70)
T8/-3 Song (76-65), Eun-Hye Lee (73-68), Mayu Hattori (72-69), Yuko Saitoh (72-69), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-69), Yuko Mitsuka (71-70), Fudoh (71-70), Miho Koga (70-71), Hiroko Yamaguchi (69-72)

T17/-2 Ji-Woo Lee (72-70), Yuki Sakurai (72-70), Yokomine (68-74)
T20/-1 Hiromi Mogi (76-67), Akane Iijima (73-70)
T28/E Tamie Durdin (74-70), Ayako Uehara (72-72), Mie Nakata (72-72), Midori Yoneyama (72-72), Erina Hara (71-73)
T45/+2 Kaori Higo (74-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-74)

Also striking is how many top 30 players missed the cut this week:

T62/+4 Yuki Ichinose (78-70), Rui Kitada (76-72), Yukari Baba (75-73)
T74/+5 Maiko Wakabayashi (76-73), Esther Lee (75-74)
T82/+6 Yun-Jye Wei (80-70)
T91/+9 Chie Arimura (76-77)
T101/+12 Ritsuko Ryu (78-78)

Tomorrow represents a golden opportunity for Ji-Hee Lee and Momoko Ueda to make a charge. We'll see if they--or anyone else in the top 30--can do it!]

[Update 2 (2:51 am): Lee would be in a lot better position if she hadn't suffered a double bogey on the par-4 14th in the midst of a birdie barrage. Koga also came back to the field after getting to -5 at one point on the back. With Jeon struggling and Akiko Fukushima, Hyun-Ju Shin, and Eun-A Lim not in the field, not to mention Yokomine, Hara, and Uehara dawdling, Mitsuka has a great chance to make up some ground on most of the rest of the top 10, and Moromizato and Song have as good a one to break back into it.]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Friday: Game On!

Sakura Yokomine bogeyed her final hole and Shinobu Moromizato birdied her last 3 to end up in a tie for the lead after the 1st round of the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic. But at -4, their lead is tenuous at best, when you take into account who's chasing them: Ji-Hee Lee and Hiroko Yamaguchi shot bogey-free 69s, Miho Koga and Momoko Ueda made 4 birdies each on their way to 70s, Erina Hara, Yuko Mitsuka, and Yuri Fudoh shot 71s, and Mi-Jeong Jeon and Ayako Uehara opened up with even-par 72s. And that's just the best of the players within easy reach of the lead heading into the weekend:

T1/-4 Yokomine, Moromizato (68)
T3/-3 Lee, Yamaguchi, Namika Omata, Yayoi Arasaki (69)
T7/-2 Koga, Ueda (70)
T9/-1 Hara, Mitsuka, Fudoh, Nobuko Kizawa, Yoko Inoue, Aki Takamura, Asako Fujimoto (71)

Yokomine's 33 was the lowest 9-hole score in the field, by the way.

T16/E Jeon, Uehara, Mie Nakata, Mayu Hattori, Midori Yoneyama, Ji-Woo Lee, Yuki Sakurai (72)
T30/+1 Akane Iijima (73)
T43/+2 Kaori Higo, Tamie Durdin (74)
T57/+3 Yukari Baba, Esther Lee (75)

Scoring was high for the rest of the JLPGA's top players:

T70/+4 Bo-Bae Song, Chie Arimura, Hiromi Mogi, Rui Kitada, Maiko Wakabayashi (76)
T91/+6 Ritsuko Ryu, Yuki Ichinose (78)
T99/+8 Yun-Jye Wei (80)

With Akiko Fukushima, Ai Miyazato, Hyun-Ju Shin, Eun-A Lim, and Na Zhang taking the week off and Miki Saiki and Shiho Oyama rocking Mission Hills and making it to the finals of LPGA Q-School, this week represents a great opportunity for those near the top of the leaderboard. Who will take advantage?

Mission Hills Friday: Let the Stomach-Churning Begin!

I'll tell you, not being able to follow hole-by-hole live scoring at the Mission Hills sectional qualifier for LPGA Q-School makes this event even more anxiety-producing! If it's that bad for me, how must it feel right now to be Dewi Claire Schreefel, whose 2nd-straight 71 just brought her to +4--and 32nd place--with half the field still on the course? Or Maru Martinez, whose 73 puts her 1 stroke back? Or 47-year-old Caryn Wilson, who went 81-74 over the weekend to fall to +6 for the event?

For some players, of course, the anxiety is over--in a bad way. The LET's Becky Brewerton is out after a 78 dropped her all the way to +9. Aimee Cho's 77-81 weekend brought her hopes crashing down. Will it be on to Venice for these and the other non-qualifiers this week? We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, congratulations to Alison Walshe, whose 69 brought her back to E for the event--and T17 with few behind her in striking range.

More soon!

[Update 1 (4:31 pm): While you're waiting for more scores to post, check out Hound Dog's analysis of the current LPGA players on the bubble--between #70 and #150 on the money list. Good stuff there, especially as #81-#100 will get about equal status with the top 20 Q-School qualifiers in December, and #101-#125 will get lower status. He also helpfully notes the players having a bad 2008 who nevertheless will get high status in 2009 because of their good 2007s (the last time this rule will be in effect.) It's good stuff.]

[Update 2 (7:42 pm): Wow, Martinez squeaked through on the dot! Not so fortunate were Wilson, Natalie Tucker (71, +6, T33), Chella Choi (75, +7, T43), Jenny Suh (74, +10, T58), Samantha Richdale (75, +10, T58), Pornanong Phatlum (75, +11, T63), Gina Umeck (78, +14, T69), Sara Brown (79, +15, T72), and Christina Lecuyer (76, +16, T76). But just making it into the field for the Final Qualifying School means little. Sure, 11 players went under par and 17 shot par or better, but the top 20 is what everyone--including all the LPGA players at #101 on the money list or higher who choose to enter by the end of October, #6 through #15 on the Futures Tour money list, and the Venice qualifiers--will be shooting for there. By that standard, only Sun-Ju Ahn (-16), Anna Nordqvist (-14), Miki Saiki (-12), and Shiho Oyama, Michelle Wie, and Stacy Lewis (-8) should take much satisfaction from this week. Walshe, Melissa Reid (71, -2, T10), Tania Elosegui (73, E, T12), Mika Miyazato (75, +2, T23), and Misun Cho (72, +2, T23) will really have to play a lot better to have a chance in December (although the 21st- through 40th-place finishers will have limited LPGA status in 2009). At least everyone in the top 30 at Mission Hills only have 5 more-pressure-packed rounds to get their cards--those who didn't make it this week and don't decide to give up before the Venice qualifier have 9 to go....]

[Update 3 (9/20/08, 1:27 am): Here's the LPGA's final-round recap.]

[Update 4 (1:48 am): And here's Golf Channel's highlights and Wie interview.]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pink Vader

Check it out, and quake in fear. On the other hand, I figure this should put fear in the heart of any monsters lurking about.

Mission Hills Thursday: Redemption Time?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's only the 3rd round of sectional qualifiers for the LPGA's Q-School in December. But after the 1st two rounds at Mission Hills, some compelling stories are emerging, particularly among those in the final pairings:

9:35 am
Stacy Lewis (The Woodlands, TX) 141
Briana Vega (Andover, MA) 140
Shiho Oyama (Japan) 140

9:45 am
Martina Eberl (Munich, Germany) 140
Caryn Wilson (Rancho Mirage, CA) 139
Miki Saiki (Hiroshima, Japan) 137

9:55 am
Anna Nordqvist [a] (Eskilstuna, Sweden) 137
Michelle Wie (Honolulu, HI) 135
Sun-Ju Ahn (Gyeonggi-do, South Korea) 132

Wie's and Lewis's recoveries from health problems have been plastered all over the headlines, but less-well-known are the struggles that Ahn has been having on the KLPGA and Saiki and Oyama on the JLPGA. Ahn, one of the KLPGA's Big 3 last season, only has 1 win there this season; she finds herself chasing young guns Hee Kyung Seo, Ha Neul Kim, He Yong Choi, and So Yeon Ryu, all of whom are just as close to catching Ji-Yai Shin as she is, if not closer. Saiki notched 6 top 5s in her 1st 11 JLPGA events this season after placing in the top 10 on their money list in her rookie season last year, but lately has been having trouble breaking 75 in Japan, missing 6 of her last 9 cuts and dropping to #20 on the money list, well behind such fellow young guns as Erina Hara, Yuko Mitsuka, Bo-Bae Song, and Chie Arimura. And Oyama was my pre-season pick to contend for #1 on the JLPGA with Momoko Ueda having left for the LPGA, but she's one of the few elite players on that tour still searching for a win this season and has dropped almost 20 spots in the Rolex Rankings since late March. The 2006 money-list leader has had plenty of good finishes, and she's got the 6th-best scoring average on tour this season, but if she wants to get her 5th top 10 finish on the money list in her last 6 seasons there, she'd better build some serious momentum here at Mission Hills so she can make a move from her current #13 position.

The top European professionals in the field are also on the comeback trail. Eberl left competitive golf for most of 2005 while suffering an eating disorder, but now sits #3 on the LET money list, having won twice already this season. Becky Brewerton (145, 8:35 am off the 1st tee), meanwhile, is looking for her 1st career top 10 finish on the LET money list this year, having been a regular in the top 20 in her 1st 4 seasons on tour. Melissa Reid (146, 8:05 am off the 1st tee, with Japan's amateur sensation Mika Miyazato) failed to qualify for membership in the LET in their Q-School last season, but she's gotten into enough events this year to rank 9th on their money list and lead the Rookie of the Year race. Arizona State's Nordqvist, the low amateur at the Women's British Open this year, is only dealing with the pressure of being tagged as Europe's Next Big Thing in women's golf.

So let's see how these players play today and tomorrow. And let's see who among the less-heralded players who made the cut can stay or move into the top 30 by Friday.

[Update 1 (9/19/08, 10:49 am): Sorry, folks, a combination of work crunch and family crisis will limit posting today, so here's Hound Dog's squib on the 3rd round!]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mission Hills Wednesday Pairings and Scoreboard

The Wednesday pairings at the Mission Hills sectional qualifier for LPGA Q-School preserve the same groups as yesterday's, but in addition to the different courses and earliness/lateness of starting times, today's page also includes yesterday's scores. One interesting non-competition is over which pairing will have the lowest total score. Right now, the Eberl-Lewis-Bates threesome is outperforming the Wie-Brewerton-Oyama and Walshe-Umeck-Lecuyer ones.

For those who prefer the traditional scoreboard, the LPGA has you covered.

Is it so wrong to be more excited about this event than the Ryder Cup?

[Update 1 (8:48 pm): Hound Dog has the best-known notables covered. Looking further down the leaderboard, Alison Walshe (74, +1), Melissa Reid (72, +2), Mika Miyazato (73, +2), and Sara Brown (72, +2) had better get it in gear if they want to guarantee they'll stay inside the top 30, for Misun Cho (72, +3), Maru Martinez (75, +4), Chella Choi (72, +5), Jenny Suh (74, +5), Samantha Richdale (75, +5), Dewi Claire Schreefel (73, +6), and Pornanong Phatlum (72, +6) are unlikely to keep struggling.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mission Hills Tuesday Pairings

The Mission Hills sectional qualifier for the LPGA's Q-School begins in just a few hours. Here are the premier pairings:

Dinah Shore Course

#10 pairing. 10th tee, 8:25 am: Michelle Wie (Honolulu, HI); Becky Brewerton (Kinmel Bay, UK), Shiho Oyama (Japan)

#22 pairing. 10th tee, 9:25 am: Susan Nam (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada); Jeehae Lee (Seoul, South Korea); Sun-Ju Ahn (Gyeonggi-do, South Korea)

#6 pairing. 10th tee, 8:05 am: Miki Saiki (Hiroshima, Japan); Caroline Park (Seoul, South Korea); Selanee Henderson (Temecula, CA)

#13 pairing. 1st tee, 8:45 am: Hoi Ning Eva Yoe (Hong Kong, China); Whitney Wade (Glasgow, KY); Melissa Reid (Derby, UK)

#28 pairing. 10th tee, 9:55 am: Anna Nordqvist [a] (Eskilstuna, Sweden); Kiran Matharu (Leeds, UK); Jeannine Fiorito (Las Vegas, NV)

#12 pairing. 10th tee, 8:35 am: Masayo Yonamine [a] (Japan); Eileen Vargas (Ibague, Colombia); Mika Miyazato [a] (Japan)

Arnold Palmer Course

#49 pairing. 1st tee, 9:25 am: Martina Eberl (Munich, Germany); Stacy Lewis (The Woodlands, TX); Dana Bates (Thousand Palms, CA)

#36 pairing. 10th tee, 8:15 am: Alison Walshe [a] (Westford, MA); Gina Umeck (Redlands, CA); Christina Lecuyer (Edmonton, Canada)

Don't know how I missed that Walshe and Nordqvist are in the field! Sorry about that.

[Update 1 (12:13 pm): Brent Kelley IDs a few more in the field.]

[Update 2 (12:15 pm): Courtesy of Brent, here's the link to the old-fashioned scoreboard (it only updates once a player's round is complete.]

[Update 3 (12:16 am): Hound Dog's ready for your comments.]

[Update 4 (7:27 pm): Well, 34 players shot par or better, and 82 players shot 75 or better. In that top 34 are most of the usual suspects (with Sun-Ju Ahn leading the way at -6), as well as surprises like amateurs Leanne Bowditch and Garrett Phillips (69s). But dealing with the cut line tomorrow will be Becky Brewerton (73), Mika Miyazato (73), Maru Martinez (73), Ashley Prange (73), Christina Lecuyer (73), Melissa Reid (74), Samantha Richdale (74), Sara Brown (74), Chella Choi (75), Jenny Suh (75), Misun Cho (75), Rebecca Kim (75), Esther Choe (76), Dewi Claire Schreefel (77), Kiran Matharu (77), and Pornanong Phatlum (78). Here's the LPGA's overview.]