Monday, June 8, 2009

Who's the Best on the LPGA Without a Win?

Andrew Seligman kept the Wie Watch fires burning in his State Farm Classic preview for the AP. Now that it's pretty clear she's put her lost years behind her, he exemplifies the latest media tendency to concern-troll the fact that she hasn't won yet on the LPGA Tour. To which I say: come on, people--she's not even the best player without a win on tour! Building on my latest Best of the Young Guns ranking, here's the official Mostly Harmless Guide to the 20 best players without a win as an LPGA member.

Most Likely to Win This Season

1. Na Yeon Choi: She hasn't missed a cut in her 38 LPGA starts and has 5 top 3s in less than 2 full seasons. Her 16th-hole eagle last Friday to keep her streak alive shows what she's made of. [Update (9/20/09): She gave away a 7-shot lead, but still found a way to beat Ai-sama at the Samsung!]

2. Jee Young Lee: She's a big hitter and a good putter, so why hasn't she followed up her non-member win in Korea yet? She has the most top 10s in her generation with 27 in less than 4 full seasons, and she notched her 7th top 3 this past week..

3. Angela Park: She has 8 top 3s but only 17 more finishes in the top 20 in less than 3 full seasons.

4. Michelle Wie: If you count her non-member starts, she has 10 top 3s and 16 top 10s in 55 starts; if you count only this year, she has 2 top 3s and 3 top 10s in 8 starts. Either way, these are impressive stats. But as her weak finish this past weekend shows, she needs to become more consistent. [Update (11/17/09): Add Wie to the 1st-time winners list!]

5. Ai Miyazato: She's averaging just over 1 top 10 every 4 starts on the LPGA in less than 4 full seasons, but has only 4 top 3s to her name as an LPGA member (she finished 2nd at the Mizuno Classic in 2004 as a non-member). She was playing well enough to win the State Farm, but finished 1 shot out of a tie for 3rd. [Update (7/26/09): Cross Ai-chan off the list. She won the Evian Masters today!]

6. Brittany Lang: In 13 more starts than Miyazato, she has 2 fewer top 10s and the same number of top 3s.

7. Song-Hee Kim: This Futures Tour sensation got off to a slow start on the LPGA, but now has 11 top 10s and 4 top 3s in less than 3 full LPGA seasons.

8. Jane Park: This NCAA star has finally settled into life on tour well, but she's been plagued by back problems this season. Still, even with limited status her rookie season, she already has 3 top 3s and 6 top 10s in just under 40 starts as a member.

The Best of the Rest

Here's where the players' LPGA records get a little thinner and past performance on other tours counts for more than recent performances on the LPGA.

9. Amy Yang: Those 3 LET wins didn't come out of nowhere--there's a reason I predicted she'd be the 10th-best player on the LPGA at the end of this season.

10. Momoko Ueda: She's moving in the right direction this season on the LPGA--never mind that 76 yesterday, just a blip--and definitely has the game to follow up on her non-member win at the Mizuno Classic and 6 other JLPGA wins.

11. Hee Young Park: With 4 KLPGA wins to her name and the ability to go very low, she just has to have a week where she avoids that one big number to get her 1st LPGA win.

12. Shiho Oyama: 11 JLPGA wins in 9 seasons don't lie, but tendonitis in the elbows is hard to recover from.

13. Vicky Hurst: We'll see if dominating the Futures Tour will translate into immediate success on the LPGA for this star-in-the-making.

14. Sun Young Yoo: This late-blooming Senior Standout has the game to contend often, but hasn't done it yet (25 top 20s, but only 10 top 10s and 1 top 3).

15. Kristy McPherson: This late-blooming Junior Mint got her first top 3 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship this season, giving her 2 fewer than Jane Park but 1 more top 10 in a comparable number of starts, so don't be surprised if she beats Park to that 1st LPGA win. She had a chance to do it this past week, but had a tough Sunday.

16. Lindsey Wright: I had thought she was going to be the next Australian to break through, but injuries in the 2nd half of last season opened the door for Katherine Hull to beat her to it; she's healthy now, so watch out for her.

17. Stacy Lewis: She's definitely for real, but as with most rookies, it's going to take a little bit of time for her to learn to compete at this level, as suggested by her walkoff double bogey to drop to a 70 last Thursday and continuation of her bad momentum Friday that led to her missing the cut at the State Farm.

18. Teresa Lu: This late-blooming Senior Standout had a great year last season, seemingly buoyed by fellow Taiwanese native Ya Ni Tseng's breakout rookie season; can she build on that momentum the rest of this year?

19. Shanshan Feng: If she can play as well as she did in the 2nd half of last season the rest of this season, she can win any given week.

20. Sandra Gal: Her stats are down from last year, but I believe this Super Soph has a lot of potential.


Charles Boyer said...

I completely agree about Jee Young Lee and Na Yeon Choi being better at this point in their careers than young Ms. Wie.

All will win eventually, but right now, those two in particular are playing better.

The Constructivist said...

I agree that Angela Park is struggling, but her overall numbers are pretty comparable to Wie's and she has more experience as an LPGA member, not to mention her Rookie of the Year award. Going by Ai Miyazato's performance so far this season, I was tempted to put her ahead of Wie, but didn't, as I didn't want my fandom to unduly influence me....

Unknown said...

I don't understand why Jee Young Lee and Momoko Ueda are on this list. Why don't their wins count simply because they were non-members at the time. They played the same tournament, same course, same opponents, same time?

The Constructivist said...

Their wins count, to be sure. But as long as the LPGA distinguishes between member and non-member wins, I will, too. Note that Ji-Yai Shin, who had 3 LPGA wins in 2008 as a non-member, is still listed as a Rolex First-Time Winner for her 2009 HSBC Women's Champions victory.

I agree with you the distinction is without a difference, and the LPGA does, too, once someone's won enough times on tour. Non-member major wins by folks like Karrie Webb are certainly counted toward their totals.

Here's another puzzler: why doesn't the LPGA count non-member winnings on their career money list? You won the same money as a pro whether you're an LPGA member or not, right?

Anonymous said...

Happily, you can remove Na Yeon Choi from this list. She just won the Samsung Championship.

The Constructivist said...

Yay! Did you see my 9/20 update?