Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Speaking Truth to Power

Nina Paley is the creator of Mimi & Eunice and is unleashing them on the world under a copyleft license.

The Best on the LPGA: 2-Time Winners, August 2010 Edition

With Michelle Wie's wire-to-wire win in Winnipeg last week, it's high time to see where she stands in terms of her likelihood to move on to my 3-to-6-time winners' list this season. Will she join the players who have graduated from my February list of 2-time LPGA winners?

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. In-Kyung Kim: Ever since she told me at Locust Hill that her season's been "on and off," she's been on in a big way. Her only finish outside the top 6 since the LPGA Championship was in the Evian Masters and even so she's still leading the LET's Rookie of the Year race. Her near-win in Ireland on the LET the week after the Women's British Open shows how close she is to being the 1st to graduate from this list.
2. Morgan Pressel: She hasn't quite had the "breakout 2010" I called for back in February, but she's very very close.

The Contenders

3. Michelle Wie: Even with her bad back and limited LPGA schedule after her return to Stanford in a few weeks, she proved at the Canadian Women's Open that she can win any week she tees it up.
4. Anna Nordqvist: The LET's '09 ROY hasn't had a bad 2010--in fact, it's been much better than most are giving her credit for--but she's been overshadowed by the fantastic play of the LPGA's super-elite. Hound Dog claims her rookie season last year was the best by anyone in LPGA history who failed to win the Rookie of the Year award and ranks it 8th overall. I'm curious to see if she if she can surpass it this season. Let's see if she heads to Europe in September to get some momentum going for the LPGA's stretch run in October and November.
5. Eun-Hee Ji: She's suffering from a lingering case of the U.S. Women's Open jinx. She's due to come out of it early next season--let's see if she can cut its effects short this one!
6. Christina Kim: She got her putter going for a nice stretch there mid-way through the season, but hasn't been all that sharp of late.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Stacy Prammanasudh: Even though she still hasn't gotten her driving accuracy back to where it was in 2004-2006, when she was hitting the fairway over 70% of the time, her putter's come alive this season and she's poised to start putting herself back in contention if she can just improve her ballstriking.
8. Karen Stupples: So far she hasn't had the "great 2010" I predicted for her. It seems like the 1st full season back from maternity leave is a lot tougher than even an immediate but partial return to competition.
9. Meena Lee: So far her 2010 has been about the same as her previous 3 seasons, which saw her fall from averaging 1 win and 6 top 10s per year to averaging only about 2 top 10s per year. Unfortunately, her approach shots remain her Achilles heel.
10. Jeong Jang: The comeback I predicted for her this season after her wrist surgery was right on schedule until she WDed from the Safeway Classic and didn't start in the Canadian Women's Open. So I have to downgrade her chances of winning again soon here. Good thing for her the LPGA's schedule is so spotty until October--plenty of time for rest and further recovery.
11. Ji Young Oh: Looks like my doubts in February--"Somehow I can't believe that this Junior Mint has as promising a future on the LPGA as the other Young Guns on this list, but she's proven me wrong before and she could well do it again in 2010. She trained with Ji-Yai Shin in Australia over the off-season, so I wouldn't put anything past her."--were right on target. She's been playing so badly this season that making 4 cuts in a row, as she has recently, is its highlight.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

12. Janice Moodie: This 3-time Solheim Cupper has never lost her LPGA tour card, even when she gave birth in 2006 and played only 10 events. But she hasn't won since 2002 and has gotten only 5 of her 45 career top 10s from 2006-up, so it's not like being a mom on tour hasn't taken its toll on her game. And so far this season doesn't seem all that different from her last 4.
13. Jennifer Rosales: She was a top-30 caliber player from 2002-2005, when she notched her 2 wins and 17 of her 19 top 10s, but she hasn't broken into the top 10 since then, making only 42 of 69 cuts from 2006 to 2009 (and that's using the LPGA's generous policy of not usually counting WDs and DQs toward totals on career bio pages). Well, she's made 8 of 11 cuts this season, but only has 1 top 20 to show for her improved consistency. At #69 on the money list, she still has a chance to qualify for the season-ending Asian swing if she can get her putter going.
14. Michele Redman: She hasn't been the top 30 player she was from 2000-2005 for quite some time, but even in that less impressive stretch she's never finished worse than 61st on the money list and ended 2009 ranked #44 on my Best of the LPGA ranking. Back in February, I wrote that "I don't see any signs that she won't continue to add to her total of 76 career top 10s since she joined the LPGA in 1992, but at the slower pace she's set in 2006-2009, when she's averaged just over 1 per season." Well, she'll need to get out of this year's 3-events-and-running missed-cut rut to avoid her worst season in this millennium.
15. Laura Diaz: She suffered easily the worst season of her LPGA career in 2009, when she couldn't find the fairways off the tee or the hole once she got to the green. She'd been a regular in the top 40 and on the Solheim Cup since 2000, and even had 2 consecutive top-10 seasons early last decade, but coming back from the birth of her daughter is still very much a work in progress.
16. Gloria Park: She got a medical exemption after sitting out all of 2009 on a maternity leave, so has stayed at #141 on the priority status list all season. But being one of the newest moms on tour hasn't made her comeback any easier.

On the Outside, Looking In

17. Carin Koch: She notched 56 top 10s between 1995 and 2008, but only 2 wins--and at the Corning Classic and in Mexico (2 warning signs from my 1-time winners' ranking). But 2009 was a disaster whenever she took the driver out of her hands and despite being #155 on the current LPGA priority status list, she has stuck by her decision to move back to Sweden and has played only the 2 dual LPGA-LET events this season.
18. Patricia Meunier-Lebouc: She's made 16 of 42 LPGA cuts over the previous 3 seasons before this one and sits at #221 on the priority status list for 2010. She's also curtailed her LET schedule in that same period and doesn't appear on this year's LET money list, so it's looking my guess in February that "she's almost ready to move on from her professional golf career, which dates back to 1994 on the LET" was pretty dead-on.
19. Heather Daly-Donofrio: She's made 16 of 40 cuts over the previous 4 seasons before this one and joined the LPGA's Communications Department in 2009. Even though her daughter is past the terrible 2s, it looks like she's not going to be entering any events this season from #234 on the current priority status list.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Canadian Women's Open Sunday: Wie Goes Wire-to-Wire in Winnipeg for LPGA Win #2

By now, fans of the Canadian Women's Open have probably read LPGA.com's final-round notes and interviews, Hound Dog's final-round play-by-play, Bill Jempty's final-round overview and reactions, and Brent Kelley's final-round contextualization, so you know that in the end it was the bomber with the bad back who beat the precision player with the cold putter. Michelle Wie added Canada to the list of North American countries she's won in, following up on her win in Mexico last November with an impressive victory over "Final Round Queen" Ji-Yai Shin. Here are a few things you may not have read much about just yet.

Kyeong Bae had the most impressive start and most disappointing finish to her final round of just about anyone in the field. After 13 holes she had made 7 birdies and gotten to -8 for the tournament, but she bogeyed 3 of her last 4 holes to drop to T11 with fellow surprises Lorie Kane (who had birdied 6 of her 1st 12 holes!) and Becky Morgan (who was +5 on the 18th alone this week). If Kane hadn't taken an 8 and a 7 in her opening 75, she would have been right in the mix for Canadian fans! Another veteran who had a good week was Rachel Hetherington, who followed up yesterday's 66 with a 72 today and ended up T24.

Meanwhile, the LPGA's youngsters weren't twiddling their thumbs all week, either. Jennifer Song and Mika Miyazato made a bunch of birdies on the weekend to catch Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, and Brittany Lincicome at T15. Only 2 shots behind them at -2 overall were rookie Mina Harigae and former wunderkind Aree Song at T24.

On the down side, Song-Hee Kim suffered her worst finish of the season and the culprit was her usually-reliable putter. Inbee Park needed a 6-birdie 69 yesterday to avoid her worst LPGA finish of '10, as well. And the games of Seon Hwa Lee and Mi Hyun Kim were nowhere to be found in Winnipeg this week.

Wie's win moves her to #10 on the LPGA money list but she's only halfway to most of the leading millionaires and plans to return to Stanford this fall. Unless she can get study abroad credit for the LPGA's Asian swing, she has no chance of contending for the money list title and Player of the Year honors. Here are those whose odds are much better:

1. Ji-Yai Shin $1.40M (1 win in 14 starts, 122 POY points, 70.30 scoring average, 3.85 birdies per round)
2. Ai Miyazato $1.34M (5/15, 172, 70.55, 4.02)
3. Na Yeon Choi $1.34M (1/16, 123, 70.09, 4.25)
4. Suzann Pettersen $1.30M (0/14, 115, 69.98, 3.90)
5. Cristie Kerr $1.25M (2/14, 1 major, 148, 70.04, 4.20)
6. Ya Ni Tseng $1.13M (2/14, 2 majors, 146, 70.68, 3.75)
7. Song-Hee Kim $.96M (0/16, 91, 70.19, 4.04)
8. In-Kyung Kim $.78M (0/15, 77, 70.68, 3.70)
9. Paula Creamer $.71M (1/9, 1 major, 64, 71.36, 3.25)

Too bad the LPGA's schedule puts this drama on hold basically until October!

[Update 1 (10:44 pm): Here are Hound Dog, Ryan Ballengee, Stephanie Wei, Shane Bacon, and The Squire on the winner and event, and Brent Kelley, Beth Ann Baldry, Steph, and Shane on the DQ controversy that Bill Jempty has been writing on here and elsewhere. Reading between the lines of all the second-, third-, and fourth-hand reports, I wonder if Shi Hyun Ahn, who originally hit the ball of her playing partner Il Mi Chung on the fairway, felt any pressure, self-imposed or (in)directly from her senior countrywoman, to join in an attempted cover-up of their rules violation. If pretending it never happened was Chung's idea, her punishment should be more severe than Ahn's.]

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not Golf

But it could be, because there's an over the water driving range just to the right of where we're looking.

LPGA to conduct cheating inquiry

Steve Elling at CBS Sports has more on the incident at the CN Canadian Open which I wrote about yesterday.

Initially, the LPGA seemed satisfied with the player actions and sanctions.

"No one with the LPGA was privy to any discussions between the players and caddies in advance of the players’ efforts to seek out a rules official to explain the situation,” a spokesman said Saturday. “We know only that the players came forward, admitted their issue and received the appropriate result based on the rules of golf.”

However, that stance has clearly changed.

LPGA communications chief David Higdon confirmed Sunday morning to CBSSports.com that the tour intends to interview all the parties involved and then mull a possible course of action.

“We have treated this situation very seriously, and have or will speak to all principles involved,” Higdon said in an email Sunday morning. “Yes, we are looking very closely at it.”

The LPGA has had issues in the past with South Korean natives, who have been accused by other players of bending rules by conversing with friends or parents and receiving advice in their native tongue, among other perceived violations. The LPGA at one point put players on notice that such conversations and interaction would not be tolerated. One longtime LPGA caddie with his own blog site claimed this weekend that Korean players have been getting away with rules violations for years, causing some to accuse him of racism.
The LPGA has to investigate what happened, and if Ahn and Chung's actions were deliberate, they should be suspended from the tour. Ryan at Waggle Room now writes

On Saturday evening, Waggle Room learned that it was Ahn's caddie who told the story direct to Smich but may not be willing to share details publicly for fear of being shunned in the golf community.
Ahn's caddy could be in position of causing great harm to a pro golfer's career and reputation. It is very understandable why he wouldn't want to talk publicly.

One last comment about Smich. He has a long history of making derogatory comments about the South Korean players. People who have read his blog for any length of time, would have a basis to say he is a racist. I think his anger at being fired by Mi Hyun Kim 11 years ago has made him very bitter and his lack of success as a caddie of late,(He hasn't been close to a winning bag in all the time he's blogged, and if I checked, the top 20 finishes of his players in that time can be counted on one hand easily) caused his feelings to turn to hate or racism. His outspokenness has undoubtedly caused these players also not to want to hire him.

Interestingly enough I checked Smich's archives, he worked for Ahn once at the Wegmans. So he has caddied for both Ahn and Chung in the past.

Update- Golf writer and blogger Bob Weeks has more

A source told me on Sunday that the two players allegedly knew about the mix up by the time they reaced the scorer's tent and discussed it in Korean, agreeing not to bring it up. The source then alleged that Ahn's caddie also knew about the situation and threatened to turn them in.

Reportedly, the players waited two hours after their final round before contacting the LPGA Tour to report the incident, calling from their hotel.
Weeks is a much more credible source than Larry Smich. Chung and Ahn are in for big trouble.

Hat tip- Geoff Shackelford

Nitori Ladies Overview: Nobuko Kizawa Shows the Value of Persistence

Nobuko Kizawa got her 1st JLPGA victory in her 20th season on tour just weeks before her 41st birthday in a playoff over LPGA transplant Na-Ri Kim at the Nitori Ladies. And she did it the hard way, dropping 3 shots in her last 11 holes after getting to -14 and opening the door to a charging Sakura Yokomine, who made up 6 shots in that span and just missed the playoff by a single stroke. Yukari Baba, who tied Yokomine for 4th, joined Kim in making up 4-shot deficits in the home stretch, while money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn could only make up 3 shots and ended up 2 back.

No word (in English, at least) yet about how Kizawa beat Kim for her 1st win in 463 starts, so here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-11 Nobuko Kizawa (69-65-71) [won in playoff]
2nd/-11 Na-Ri Kim (68-67-70)
T4/-10 Sakura Yokomine (70-70-66), Yukari Baba (67-69-70)
5th/-9 Sun-Ju Ahn (68-70-69)
6th/-8 Ikue Asama (69-70-69)
T7/-6 Hiromi Mogi (74-68-68), Akane Iijima (69-71-70)
T9/-5 Ji-Hee Lee (71-71-69), Yuki Ichinose (71-71-69), Chie Arimura (71-69-71), Toshimi Kimura (71-69-71), Tamie Durdin (70-70-71), Rui Kitada (69-71-71), Mie Nakata (70-69-72), Shinobu Moromizato (65-71-75)

T17/-4 Young Kim (73-69-70)
T20/-3 Yuri Fudoh (72-71-70), Na-Ri Lee (69-72-72)
T25/-2 Ji-Woo Lee (73-70-71), Li-Ying Ye (69-74-71), Ayako Uehara (70-72-72)
T29/-1 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-71-69), Akiko Fukushima (73-73-69), Nikki Campbell (73-72-70)
T33/E Maiko Wakabayashi (69-77-70)
T40/+1 Ritsuko Ryu (75-71-71), Miki Saiki (74-72-71), Esther Lee (74-71-72), Saiki Fujita (72-72-73), Rikako Morita (72-71-74)
T45/+2 Yuko Mitsuka (72-73-73)

DQ: Yun-Jye Wei (69-73-DQ), Erina Hara (68-74-DQ)
MC: Mayu Hattori (76-71), So-Hee Kim (73-74), Bo-Bae Song (74-74), Jae-Hee Bae (73-75), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-75), Kaori Aoyama (75-75), Ah-Reum Hwang (76-76), Miho Koga (76-77)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥63.03M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥54.17M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥48.36M
4. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥46.54M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥42.68M
6. Yukari Baba ¥41.58M
7. Chie Arimura ¥41.42M
8. Rui Kitada ¥41.41M
9. Akane Iijima ¥40.97M
10. Inbee Park ¥36.50M
11. Miho Koga ¥33.58M
12. Nikki Campbell ¥33.44M
13. Mie Nakata ¥31.94M
14. Mayu Hattori ¥29.40M
15. Shinobu Moromizato ¥29.29M
16. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥26.91M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥26.65M
18. Hiromi Mogi ¥26.10M
19. Akiko Fukushima ¥26.03M
20. Young Kim ¥26.03M
21. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
22. Hiromi Takesue ¥25.22M
23. Ayako Uehara ¥25.11M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥24.68M
25. Na-Ri Kim ¥23.31M
26. Asako Fujimoto ¥22.09M
27. Bo-Bae Song ¥21.22M
28. Yun-Jye Wei ¥20.76M
29. Eun-A Lim ¥20.25M
30. Rikako Morita ¥18.79M

With Ai Miyazato at #40, Momoko Ueda at #44, Teresa Lu at #61, and Seon Hwa Lee at #73, I expect to see a lot of them on the JLPGA next month.

Canadian Women's Open Saturday: Wie-Shin Showdown in the Works

Even though Michelle Wie missed more greens yesterday than in the previous 2 days combined and gave back every 1 of her 3 birdies with a corresponding bogey in rainy conditions, she kept her hopes for a wire-to-wire win at the Canadian Women's Open alive. It took Ji-Yai Shin a flurry of 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to tie Wie for the 54-hole lead at -10, but she may be the only real challenger left in the field, as Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, and Jee Young Lee couldn't get many birdie putts to fall and are 4 back, while the only really low rounds of the day--a 66 by Rachel Hetherington, 67s by Catriona Matthew, Cristie Kerr, and Mina Harigae, and 68s by Christina Kim, Se Ri Pak, Brittany Lang, Mika Miyazato, and Lorie Kane--came by players who started the day so far back they'll need to shoot in the mid-60s or lower today to have a ghost of a chance of getting in the mix. In short, very few players with a chance of stopping Wie from getting her 2nd career LPGA tour victory made much of a move on moving day. Sometimes when you open the door, very few people walk through it.

But when the player who did may well be the best woman golfer in the world, it doesn't really matter that she's virtually alone. In a classic showdown between bomber and precision player, Shin will get to put pressure on Wie with her approach shots all day today. Only problem for Shin is that her ball-striking has been surprisingly suspect this week. She's hit 2/3 of her fairways and just under 2/3 of her greens in regulation, which would be acceptable for most top-level players, but are simply sub-par results (and not in a good way) for her. Unlike many of her fellow precision players, Shin does not seem to have an extra gear off the tee. While many are putting up straight-shooter-like numbers on St. Charles's firm fairways, Shin is barely averaging more than 250 yards off the tee. And while many of her fellow pea-shooters are also having trouble hitting fairways and greens this week--check out Morgan Pressel's numbers for a representative example (and note that she went +3 in her final 8 holes yesterday to fall out of contention), but see also Paula Creamer and In-Kyung Kim--it's Shin's putter that's keeping her alive thus far. She's not only made a lot of birdie putts but also a lot of par saves.

So in a day of marquee pairings--most notably Brittany Lincicome and Katherine Hull at 10:49, Ai Miyazato and Amy Yang at 10:57, Cristie Kerr and Christina Kim at 11:45, and Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel at 11:53--all eyes will be on the final group. But it's worth noting that each of the final 3 pairings

Start Time: 12:09 PM
Suzann Pettersen
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 12:17 PM
Jee Young Lee
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Ji-Yai Shin
Michelle Wie

feature 1 player who's significantly longer than her playing partner. Can Pettersen, Lee, and Wie take advantage of their length today? If Wie does, Shin is the only player in the field who can beat her. Should be pretty interesting, whether it turns into a shootout between Wie and Shin in their 4th round in a row together or a Sunday free-for-all. I may just have to bother one of my friends who has Golf Channel in a few hours!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Did LPGA Golfers Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung cheat at the CN Canadian Open?

LPGA Blogger and Caddie Larry Smich wrote the following-

Finally, caught in the act! All this time, I’ve been detailing cheating by the Koreans and been called a racist and more for my observations. Even been taken to the woodshed by the head honcho. Well yesterday, it all became evident that I was spot on. Did you notice that Shi Hyun Ahn and Ilmi Chung were disqualified? The reason is that they both played the wrong ball on their final hole and not correcting the infraction before signing their cards, to put it mildly.

Here is what I’ve heard of the alleged incident. Both balls were in the fairway. Ahn missed the green and Ilmi hit hers on. Ahn chipped it close and tapped in for par. This is where it all begins. Apparently, Ahn noticed that this was not her ball and conversed in Korean with Ilmi. In the mean time, at least one caddie in the group noticed it also but did not say anything. They finished the hole, went to the scoring tent, checked the scores and signed their cards. Somewhere, either before or after going to the tent, Ahn told her caddie (a Nationwide looper and only working for her this week) “You did not see anything”. As of right now, I do not know who owned up and went to the officials. The third player in the group was oblivious to the situation and was not involved. BTW, Ahn shot 72 and Chung a 76.
Before I go any further I’ll give some background on Smich and the golfers he is accusing. He has been an LPGA caddy for over 30 years. In that time, he has had three winning bags. The last of which was with Mi Hyun Kim in 1999. Shortly after that win, Kim fired Smich.

Smich has worked for other South Korean players, but the last was over two years ago. He did work for Chung at some point in the middle of the last decade.

Anyone who reads Smich’s blog knows he doesn’t like the Korean players. Ryan at Waggle Room uses the word vendetta towards how Smich writes about players from South Korea. In 2007, Smich also accused LPGA player Young Kim of cheating. Most of the time Smich doesn’t name players when he makes cheating allegations.

Ahn is a one-time winner on the LPGA Tour and was the 2004 Rookie of the Year. She is a looker, and is nicknamed Cinderella. I get lots of hits at my home blog from people looking either for Ahn photos or are looking to find out what golfer is nicknamed Cinderella.

At the 2009 LPGA Championship, a golf ball of Ahn’s struck and killed a bird.

Chung has never won on the LPGA Tour and since the retirement of Pearl Sinn, I believe she is the oldest South Korean born player on the LPGA Tour.

Ryan at Waggle Room apparently got someone to corroborate part of what Smich says(Remember he didn’t see it happen)

We have learned of a second account of the situation. The second account is all the same until the green.

When Ahn and Chung realized what had happened, Chung’s caddy approached Downey’s caddy and said, “We have a bit of a problem, but I’m not saying anything.” Downey’s caddy went into the scoring tent. Ahn and Chung signed for their scores. Downey’s caddy was prepared to turn in Ahn and Chung, which then prompted their seeking of LPGA officials for a ruling and their certain disqualification.
The LPGA’s Mike Scanlan also made the following comment to Ryan-

“The players sought out a rules official after their round to explain the situation and were subsequently disqualified.

“No one with the LPGA was privy to any discussions between the players and caddies in advance of the players’ efforts to seek out a rules official to explain the situation. We know only that the players came forward, admitted their issue and received the appropriate result based on the Rules of Golf.”
Bob Weeks, who is also blogging on the incident, went looking for Larry Smich at the tournament. Interestingly enough, Smich couldn’t be found. The golfer who he was caddying for, Stephanie Loudon, had her husband carrying her bag for the third round.

At the moment, the golf tournament is on television, and so far as I know, no mention has been made of the Ahn and Chung incident.

Deliberate cheating in professional golf is very serious and not unheard of. A Latin American player was suspended by the PGA Tour around 40 years ago. Jane Blalock was suspended for a year by the LPGA in 1972. That was till she filed a antitrust lawsuit. The accusations against Blalock was probably the sport’s biggest cheating scandal of the last 50 years. She was one of the tour’s stars at the time. What we have today involves two fairly obscure players. I don’t know if we’ll ever learn what did happen. The golf media rather write repetitive article after repetitive article on Tiger Woods than give the LPGA even five minutes of their time.

On a side note, Michelle Wie is leading the Canadian Open. Should she hold on to win, the LPGA attention deficit might decrease at least for one week.

Note- The first photo above is Ahn and the second is Chung.

CN Canadian Women's Open on Tape Delay?

The broadcast is supposed to be live. Then why are scores at LPGA.com ahead of the broadcast. When Jiyai Shin birdied the 13th hole, LPGA had the result several minutes before the Golf Channel broadcast did.

On the 12th hole they had Shin making bogey before Golf Channel showed the result. Also Michelle Wie's drive on the 10th hole was described as in the middle of the fairway before Wie even hit her shot.

A few minutes behind is no big deal. I just find it interesting and wonder why it is taking place.

Canadian Women's Open Friday: Michelle Wie Still Leads, But for How Long?

1st-round leader Michelle Wie started on the 10th tee yesterday and promptly bogeyed the par-3 she had gotten a hole in 1 on the day before, but bounced back with 3 birdies in her next 6 holes and consecutive birdies late in her round to post her 2nd-straight sub-70 score and get to double digits under par at the Canadian Women's Open. Only 8 players made up ground on her as conditions continued to challenge the LPGA's best--and 1 of them, Rookie of the Year Race leader Azahara Munoz, missed the cut despite following up Thursday's 82 with a 68 Friday. Ji-Yai Shin fired a bogey-free 31 on the front (her back) to pull within 3 of Wie and lead Na Yeon Choi, Jee Young Lee, and Katherine Hull in the 67 brigade, while Morgan Pressel got her bogey-free 31 on the back (her front) to move within 4 of the lead and match Sarah Jane Smith's 66 as low rounds of the day. Meanwhile, Suzann Pettersen fired her 2nd-straight 69 to stay within 4 of Wie.

With only 6 players at 5-under or better, Wie has opened up a big lead on some very good golfers. She's 8-up on In-Kyung Kim and Paula Creamer, 10-up on Ai Miyazato, 11-up on Hall of Famers Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster, 12-up on Cristie Kerr and Se Ri Pak, 13-up on Song-Hee Kim, and 14-up on Inbee Park and Brittany Lang. But at least they have a chance to try to make up ground on her. Joining Munoz on the wrong side of the cut line are Ya Ni Tseng, Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Angela Stanford, Momoko Ueda, Hee-Won Han, Stacy Lewis, and Amanda Blumenherst, among all too many others.

Back to the top of the leaderboard, Wie has missed only 6 greens in her 1st 36 holes, despite having trouble finding the fairway off the tee. Can she make like Cristie Kerr at Locust Hill and run away from the field despite lacking reliable accuracy with her driver? Or is she due for some big numbers that will open the door for more of the field to get into contention? Only time will tell!

[Update 1 (12:52 am): Hound Dog's 2nd-round overview and LPGA.com's notes and interviews help flesh out my all-too-brief post. Too much going on at work, at home, and in house-hunting to do more than this, though.]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tiger and Michelle Leading?!

How is this actually shocking news? But it is!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LPGA Tour to add Taiwan tour stop in 2011

This news isn’t very surprisingly in light of these facts

1- Yani Tseng is at present holder of two of the tour’s major championships and ranked as one of the top five rated players in the world. Tseng is from Taiwan.
2- The increasing popularity of golf in Asia.

Of course people continue to grumble about the lack of United States based tour stops on the LPGA Tour. These people are being short sighted.

1- Any tournaments for the tour is good news

2- The LPGA could be close to bankruptcy at the moment. When a tournament is played, the tour takes a cut of the purse for operating expenses. I heard from a reliable source that the LPGA needs 30 tournaments a year to stay solvent. At the moment the LPGA schedule for next year looks like it will be under 30 events like it has been since 2009.

The LPGA is losing at least one United States LPGA event for 2011, the Jamie Farr, as it goes on hiatus for a year. Also CVS will no longer sponsor a California tour stop. That leaves 12 LPGA events in the United States, plus the foreign events. As it stands, the tour will visit Singapore, Thailand, Mexico(at least 3 times), Canada, England, France, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea next year with possible additions of Brazil and China.

The LPGA is in trouble right now. Nationalistic based pride and paranoia about Asia and Asians need to be shelved.

Hat tip- Ryan at Waggle Room who apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about CVS not renewing its sponsorship.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

RIP Satoshi Kon

Just heard the news of Satoshi Kon's passing. After Hayao Miyazaki, he was probably my favorite anime director. From his contribution to the animated sf anthology Memories (1995) to his first feature film Perfect Blue (1997), to his 2 best movies, Millennium Actress (2001) and Tokyo Godfathers (2003), to the tv series Paranoia Agent (2004) and his last film Paprika (2006), he was nearly always pitch-perfect, mystifying, engrossing. He will be missed.

Canadian Women's Open Preview, Predictions, Pairings

The Canadian Women's Open title is at stake this week at St. Charles Country Club in Winnipeg. Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion and Sherri Steinhauer is the last LPGAer to win at St. Charles (in the 1992 du Maurier Classic).

Hound Dog's preview and hot 20 list are the places to start when thinking about who in the packed field will do well this week. For what it's worth, Golf Observer has a chart of past CWO finishes (all at different courses). The players have been commenting on how firm the St. Charles fairways are in their pre-tournament interviews, so the usual advantage straight shooters might have on the tree-lined layout with lots of long par 3s and 4s may be negated a bit (so long as it doesn't rain much this week). With that in mind, here are my entries in this week's PakPicker at Seoul Sisters.com:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Kerr
3. Pettersen
4. Choi Na Yeon
5. Kim Song-Hee
6. Hull
7. Tseng
8. Park Inbee
9. Shin
10. Kim In-Kyung
11. Webb
12. Yang

Alts: Stanford; Lang; Yoo

The pairings are pretty awesome for the 1st 2 rounds. Here are my faves:

1st tee, 12:33 PM
Na Yeon Choi
Suzann Pettersen
Ai Miyazato

1st tee, 12:44 PM
Ji-Yai Shin
Cristie Kerr
Michelle Wie

10th tee, 8:39 AM
Karrie Webb
Amy Yang
Stacy Lewis

10th tee, 8:50 AM
Angela Stanford
In-Kyung Kim
Brittany Lang

10th tee, 9:12 AM
Brittany Lincicome
Paula Creamer
Anna Nordqvist

1st tee, 12:22 PM
Laura Davies
Se Ri Pak
Morgan Pressel

1st tee, 12:00 PM
Christina Kim
Sophie Gustafson
Song-Hee Kim

10th tee, 8:28 AM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Hee-Won Han
Katherine Hull

10th tee, 12:00 PM
Eunjung Yi
Jee Young Lee
Momoko Ueda

10th tee, 12:55 PM
Sandra Gal
Gwladys Nocera
Moira Dunn

1st tee, 7:11 AM
Jane Park
Irene Cho
Kyeong Bae

1st tee, 1:28 PM
Samantha Richdale
Chella Choi
Amy Hung

Also of note: Lexi Thompson and Amanda Blumenherst are 1st off the 10th tee on Thursday, Pernilla Lindberg and Jennifer Song follow them about an hour later, and Aree Song and Maria Hernandez go off the front at 1:39 pm. It's enough to make me want to be in Winnipeg the rest of this week!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Safeway Classic Sunday: Ai Miyazato Takes 5

There are a lot of ways of winning in golf. Ai Miyazato's wire-to-wire win at the Safeway Classic wasn't capped off by the textbook exemplarity of her Sunday at the ShopRite, the explosive brilliance of her Sundays at Tres Marias and in Singapore, or the jaw-dropping onslaught of her Sunday in Thailand. In fact, yesterday's 72 was tied for Miyazato's 2nd-worst Sunday score of the season. But thanks to a lot of help from Cristie Kerr and Song-Hee Kim, who both got to double digits under par and the lead or a share of it on the back 9--combined with more difficult scoring conditions that saw only Mina Harigae break 68--Ai-sama walked away from Ghost Creek with her 5th LPGA win of the season and the 6th of her career. Despite opening the door to the field early on by going +2 over her 1st 7 holes, Miyazato came back with back-to-back birdies on 9 and 10 and parred her way home. Whatever it takes, eh?

Miyazato's win vaults her back to the top of the money list ($1.31M to Na Yeon Choi's $1.30M) and Player of the Year race (172 points to Ya Ni Tseng's 146) and should put her back atop the Rolex Rankings, as well. On to the Canadian Women's Open!

[Update 1 (2:44 am): Awesome play-by-play from Hound Dog! Maybe when we get our new house we'll get cable tv to go with it!]

[Update 2 (12:22 pm): And an excellent epilogue as well from HD!]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CAT Ladies Overview: Akiko Fukushima Wins for 1st Time Since 2008

No time to do more than a quick tournament-level overview for this week's JLPGA event, the CAT Ladies, which Akiko Fukushima won by 2 shots over Yukari Baba, thanks to birdies on 4 of her last 6 holes.

With Fukushima's victory, most of the JLPGA's biggest names have now found their way to the winner's circle in 2010. But former defending champion Shinobu Moromizato will have to wait at least another week for her 1st JLPGA win of the season. She finished 8 shots back and was never a factor.

Here's how the top 10 and notables did this week:

1st/-14 Akiko Fukushima (66-70-69)
2nd/-12 Yukari Baba (69-68-70)
3rd/-11 Yeo-Jin Kang (67-70-71)
T4/-9 Sun-Ju Ahn (72-70-68), Chie Arimura (74-65-71)
T6/-8 Sakura Yokomine (73-69-69), Akane Iijima (74-67-70), Esther Lee (69-72-70), Erika Kikuchi (72-68-71), Chiharu Tsunekawa (67-73-71), Miki Saiki (72-67-72)

T12/-7 Saiki Fujita (68-73-71)
T14/-6 Young Kim (71-72-70), Eun-A Lim (74-67-72), Na-Ri Kim (72-69-72), Bo-Bae Song (71-70-72), Shinobu Moromizato (73-66-74)
T20/-5 Ritsuko Ryu (71-72-71)
T23/-4 Jae-Hee Bae (73-73-69), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-71-72), Miho Koga (69-73-73)
T26/-3 Yuko Mitsuka (71-73-72), Erina Hara (71-71-74)
T29/-2 Ayako Uehara (72-74-71), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-71-72), Ji-Hee Lee (71-73-73)
T34/-1 Ji-Woo Lee (74-72-72), Asako Fujimoto (73-72-73), Rikako Morita (73-72-73), Mayu Hattori (73-71-74), Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-69-77)
T39/E Mie Nakata (72-73-74), Tamie Durdin (71-71-77)
43rd/+1 So-Hee Kim (74-72-74)

MC: Yuki Ichinose (77-70), Hiromi Mogi (75-72), Na-Ri Lee (74-73), Rui Kitada (73-74), Yun-Jye Wei (72-75), Li-Ying Ye (73-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (78-72), Woo-Soon Ko (84-79)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥59.03M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥48.97M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥47.64M
4. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥45.95M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥41.27M
6. Chie Arimura ¥40.01M
7. Rui Kitada ¥40.01M
8. Akane Iijima ¥38.37M
9. Inbee Park ¥36.50M
10. Yukari Baba ¥36.38M
11. Miho Koga ¥33.58M
12. Nikki Campbell ¥32.85M
13. Mie Nakata ¥30.53M
14. Mayu Hattori ¥29.40M
15. Shinobu Moromizato ¥27.89M
16. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥26.91M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥26.25M
18. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
19. Akiko Fukushima ¥25.45M
20. Young Kim ¥25.12M
21. Hiromi Takesue ¥24.72M
22. Ayako Uehara ¥24.46M
23. Ji-Woo Lee ¥24.03M
24. Hiromi Mogi ¥23.50M
25. Asako Fujimoto ¥21.68M
26. Bo-Bae Song ¥21.22M
27. Yun-Jye Wei ¥20.76M
28. Eun-A Lim ¥20.25M
29. Yoshimi Koda ¥18.58M
30. Rikako Morita ¥18.39M

With the Nitori Ladies coming up next week, and the LPGA having a sparse September schedule, we may see Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, and Seon Hwa Lee back on the JLPGA fairly soon. Stay tuned!

Safeway Classic Saturday: Ai Miyazato Keeps It Going

Despite a 2-hole bogey train midway through her 2nd round in the Safeway Classic, Ai Miyazato fought back to double digits under par with a 67 yesterday. She takes a 3-shot lead over Song-Hee Kim (64) and Na Yeon Choi (67)--and a 4-shot lead over fellow rivals for #1 in the world of women's golf Cristie Kerr (67) and Ji-Yai Shin (68)--into today's final round.

Miyazato was a little fortunate that the players who went super-low on moving day had pedestrian 1st rounds. Kim made 6 birdies and an eagle (on the par-5 10th) yesterday, but only managed 3 birdies and 3 bogeys on Friday. Ji-Young Oh, who fired a bogey-free 30 on the front yesterday thanks to 4 birdies in a row and an eagle on the par-5 8th, and followed it up with a 3-birdie, 2-bogey 34 on the back, could only manage a 37-37 performance the day before. And In-Kyung Kim, who opened with a birdieless 39 on the par-35 back 9 Thursday, continued her comeback with 4 birdies and an eagle between the 6th and 10th holes yesterday, but stalled out after that with only 1 birdie and 1 bogey the rest of the day to settle for a 66 that left her 6 shots off the pace.

Meanwhile, Choi, Shin, and Kerr have not been as sharp as we've come to expect them to be. Choi made 6 birdies Friday but also went double bogey-bogey on the same stretch of holes that Miyazato bogeyed yesterday, then twice got to -9 in her 2nd round but both times fell back with bogeys on the back. Shin was -4 through her 1st 6 holes on Thursday, but bogeyed 4 holes in a row as she made the turn and needed a birdie and an eagle on 2 of her 3 closing par 5s to break 70. Then yesterday she also made a pair of bogeys on the back, turning a great round into merely a really good one particularly with her walkoff bogey. And after a 4-birdie, 2-bogey 70 on Thursday, Kerr had it going yesterday with a 5-birdie, bogey-free 32 on the front but lost her momentum with bogeys on the par-3 11th and par-4 13th. She did well to recover with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes to get back within 4 of Miyazato.

If Miyazato keeps putting as well as she has the 1st 2 days today, this tournament is as good as over. She's averaging 13 greens and 25 putts per round over her 1st 2 rounds. She's bombing it out there over 277 yards off the tee (on the measuring holes), which translates into loads of birdie opportunities, and thanks to her hot putter, she's made 13 in 36 holes.

That kind of performance is even more impressive when you consider who missed the cut this week: not just defending champion M.J. Hur and Rookie of the Year race leader Azahara Munoz, but also the likes of Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, and Karen Stupples. Ghost Creek is by no means an easy course, but Miyazato has made it look easy through 36 holes. Let's see if she can handle the pressure of going for her 5th LPGA win of 2010!

[Update 1 (9:05 am): Yes, I have been living under a rock lately--I didn't know about Juli Inkster's DQ until I read Hound Dog's excellent 2nd-round overview. Actually, the house hunt has gone into high gear and the fall semester starts tomorrow, so what with not-so-vicariously experiencing the girls' jet lag and having trouble getting online with the laptop the Full Metal Archivist took to Japan with her, I haven't had much time for golf blogging lately. I know, sacrilege!]

[Update 2 (9:13 am): Further evidence of Ghost Creek's toughness.... 2-time major winner this season Ya Ni Tseng barely made the cut--right on the number. Rookie Mina Harigae followed up her opening 69 with a 76 on moving day. Fellow rookie Mariajo Uribe went 77-69 to join Harigae in making the cut. But the only other not-quite-ready-for-prime-time New Blood (and not-yet-New Blood) generation players to join them were Alison Walshe (73-68), Cindy LaCrosse (73-71), Jennifer Song (75-72), nd Paola Moreno (74-73). No Amanda Blumenherst, Gwladys Nocera, Beatriz Recari, Pernilla Lindberg, or Christine Song today .... No former ROYers Dorothy Delasin (70-81) or Angela Park (78-75). And no Mi Hyun Kim! :(]

[Update 3 (9:22 am): Here's LPGA.com's notes and interviews page.]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Safeway Classic Friday: Is Ai Miyazato Back?

Yesterday was "fortunately, unfortunately" day at the Safeway Classic.

Fortunately, my favorite golfer, Ai Miyazato, fired a bogey-free 66 to take the lead after round 1. Hitting 13 greens and taking only 25 putts was the key to her round. Ai-sama credited her great results to her near-win in Japan last week as well as a different mental approach to putting in her interview, but I have to wonder if improved distance off the tee--264 yards on measured holes--played as big a role in helping her attack Ghost Creek.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite golfers, Jeong Jang, withdrew after an opening 78. As Hound Dog pointed out recently, JJ had been making steady progress this season after last year's wrist surgery and seemed poised to rejoin the LPGA's super-elite. Here's hoping she didn't reinjure her wrist. Only bright side if she did is that this isn't a bad time in the LPGA schedule to need some time off....

Fortunately, Jee Young Lee, another favorite of mine who's been struggling a bit lately, got it going at Ghost Creek yesterday with a 6-birdie 67. If it weren't for her walkoff bogey, she'd be tied with Ai-sama at the top, instead of their fellow '06er Teresa Lu. Good driving and putting characterized both their rounds, as well. Lee only hit 6 fairways, but when you bomb it out there over 278 yards, you give yourself chances to hit a lot of greens. And she came through 15 out of 18 times and took only 28 putts in all. Meanwhile, Lu hit 12 of 14 fairways and like Miyazato was getting it out in the mid-260s, so it should come as no surprise that she hit 14 greens and took 27 putts.

Unfortunately, fellow '06er Julieta Granada opened with an 81 that included 7 bogeys and 2 doubles. Her struggles on the LPGA seem neverending.

Fortunately, former Rookie of the Year Dorothy Delasin gave hope that it's possible to play through a long-term slump, as she matched the 70s by Cristie Kerr and Laura Davies on the strength of 288-yard driving, 13 greens in regulation, and only 28 putts.

Unfortunately, former Rookie of the Year Angela Park couldn't take advantage of Ghost Creek yesterday, opening with a 78. She was even through her 1st 7 holes, but suffered through a stretch in the next 9 in which she made 4 bogeys and a triple--this despite averaging 255 yards off the tee and hitting 10 greens.

Fortunately, someone who was planning to be involved in this year's Rookie of the Year race finally got it going at Ghost Creek. Mina Harigae was 1 of 13 players to break 70 in the 1st round; her 69, sparked by nearly 270-yard drives and 15 greens in regulation, tied Juli Inkster, Ji-Yai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, and Stephanie Louden. Wouldn't it be awesome if Harigae made like defending champion M.J. Hur this time around and got a surprise win in her rookie season?

Unfortunately, a triple bogey on the par-4 17th, her 8th hole, helped drop M.J. Hur to an opening 74, tied with Paula Creamer, Seon Hwa Lee, Sophie Gustafson, Katherine Hull, Kristy McPherson, Jane Park, Paola Moreno, and the Pacific Northwest's own Paige Mackenzie at T61. Here's hoping they all make the cut today!

Fortunately, Momoko Ueda bounced back from another disappointing JLPGA result to post a 6-birdie 68 yesterday, tying Taiwan's own Amy Hung, sweet-swinging Chella Choi, and long-hitting Brittany Lincicome in the process. Momo-chan couldn't quite match Lincicome's 290 yards off the tee (averaging just over 281 herself), but she hit 14 greens and took only 28 putts in all.

Unfortunately, long-hitting Ya Ni Tseng couldn't bounce back from a par-double-bogey start, despite averaging almost 287 yards off the tee and hitting 10 fairways, and had to settle for a 75 that put her at T77 with Jennifer Song, Mika Miyazato, and Stacy Prammanasudh, among others.

Fortunately, Inbee Park continued her long-hitting ways of this season, averaging 290 yards off the tee herself and keeping herself in the mix with a solid 71....

There's more to be said about the 1st round, but not by me. We've got a lot of houses to look at in a few hours, so time to get some rest.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Safeway Classic Preview and Predictions

After a 2-week break from LPGA action--during which I got to finish getting our house ready to go on the market (yay!) and prepare for and play in the Albany qualifier for the New York State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship (boo!--I missed getting to play Crag Burn in Buffalo by 2 shots on a fun course that really suited my game--long story...later)--the professionals I'm most interested in following are enjoying the Pacific Northwest and the 54-hole Safeway Classic this week. Last year was the 1st time the tournament was held on Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek course and 2 of my favorite players responded by fighting to stay in contention on a Sunday of pretty darn gripping golf, in which M.J. Hur eventually prevailed in a playoff over Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman. For this year, Hound Dog has his preview and hot 20 list up and LPGA.com updates us on the Rolex Rankings shuffle.

Me, I don't have too much to add to last year's preview, except to say that this time it's Ai Miyazato, Seon Hwa Lee, and Karen Stupples who are coming off near wins (on the JLPGA, KLPGA, and LET respectively) and sponsor exemption Jennifer Song who's coming off a win (on the Futures Tour). With that in mind, here are this week's guesses as to who among the Best of the LPGA will play the best this week, for the PakPicker competition at Seoul Sisters.com (which I'm inexplicably leading thus far this season):

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Kim In-Kyung
4. Shin
5. Lee Seon Hwa
6. Jang Jeong
7. Kim Song-Hee
8. Park Inbee
9. Pressel
10. Kerr
11. Pettersen
12. Song, Jennifer

Alts: Creamer; Munoz; Kim, Christina

There are a couple of current Futures Tour money-list leaders in the field besides Jennifer--Cindy LaCrosse and Christine Song will also be keeping active before their FT season concludes in Albany the 1st week of September (as will Paola Moreno and Libby Smith)--along with last year's leaders Mina Harigae, Jean Reynolds, Misun Cho, Samantha Richdale, Alison Walshe, and Pernilla Lindberg, so it'll be interesting to see how they stack up against each other when the dust settles. It's neat to see Aree Song, Kelli Kuehne, Gloria Park, and Belen Mozo in the field, as well. Mozo flew in from a T52 in Wales and is skipping Scotland on the LET schedule just to have a chance to compete on the LPGAS, while the rest are blasts from the more-or-less recent past whom we haven't seen much of lately on tour.

I'll have more on the field when the pairings are out!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

flora flora flora

NEC Karuizawa 72 Sunday: Ji-Hee Lee Returns to the Winner's Circle

Ji-Hee Lee pulled away from Ai Miyazato, withstood a 7-birdie barrage from Akiko Fukushima, and held off Nikki Campbell down the stretch in the NEC Karuizawa 72 to take her 1st JLPGA victory since last April's Life Card Ladies. Her bogey-free 67 not only made her the only player to break 70 all 3 rounds, but also showed that she's finally shaken off the aftereffects of a back injury she suffered during Team Korea's celebration of its victory over Team Japan in the Kyoraku Cup last December, when, during the traditional captain toss, her teammates accidentally dropped her.

For Miyazato, who was -10 with 8 holes left to play and right in the thick of things, her 3 bogeys down the stretch tripled her total over the previous 36 holes. It's highly doubtful she'll accrue enough Rolex Rankings points to retake the #1 position this week. For defending champion Chie Arimura, 2 early bogeys threw her off balance and she never really bounced back.

Here are the top 10 and notables' results:

1st/-13 Ji-Hee Lee (67-69-67)
T2/-9 Akiko Fukushima (68-70-67), Nikki Campbell (65-70-70)
4th/-8 Ai Miyazato (65-70-73)
5th/-7 Yoshimi Koda (71-70-68)
T6/-6 Yuko Mitsuka (68-71-71), Chie Arimura (70-67-73)
T8/-5 Sakura Yokomine (69-73-69), Miho Koga (71-70-70), Miki Saiki (69-68-74)

T11/-4 Mie Nakata (71-72-69), Saiki Fujita (71-68-73), Mi-Jeong Jeon (67-70-75)
T15/-3 Ritsuko Ryu (70-74-69), Jae-Hee Bae (71-72-70)
T18/-2 Bo-Bae Song (71-71-72), Yukari Baba (70-72-72), So-Hee Kim (69-73-72), Asako Fujimoto (72-69-73), Young Kim (73-67-74)
T23/-1 Ayako Uehara (73-72-70), Erina Hara (73-69-73), Esther Lee (71-70-74)
T27/E Li-Ying Ye (75-70-71), Hiromi Mogi (70-73-73), Ji-Woo Lee (71-70-75)
T31/+1 Na-Ri Lee (73-72-72), Akane Iijima (74-70-73), Yuri Fudoh (70-74-73), Kaori Aoyama (74-69-74)
T37/+2 Shinobu Moromizato (75-69-74), Momoko Ueda (73-69-76), Eun-A Lim (71-71-76)
T45/+3 Maiko Wakabayashi (74-71-74), Rui Kitada (73-69-77)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥55.73M
2. Yuri Fudoh ¥47.64M
3. Sakura Yokomine ¥47.28M
4. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥45.55M
5. Ji-Hee Lee ¥40.80M
6. Rui Kitada ¥40.01M
7. Chie Arimura ¥36.71M
8. Akane Iijima ¥36.68M
9. Inbee Park ¥36.50M
10. Miho Koga ¥33.03M
11. Nikki Campbell ¥32.85M
12. Yukari Baba ¥31.10M
13. Mie Nakata ¥30.18M
14. Mayu Hattori ¥28.99M
15. Shinobu Moromizato ¥27.08M
16. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥26.36M
17. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
18. Saiki Fujita ¥25.20M
19. Hiromi Takesue ¥24.72M
20. Young Kim ¥24.31M
21. Ayako Uehara ¥24.00M
22. Ji-Woo Lee ¥23.62M
23. Hiromi Mogi ¥23.50M
24. Asako Fujimoto ¥21.68M
25. Yun-Jye Wei ¥20.76M
26. Bo-Bae Song ¥20.41M
27. Eun-A Lim ¥19.44M
28. Yoshimi Koda ¥18.58M
29. Rikako Morita ¥17.98M
30. Kaori Aoyama ¥17.54M

Miyazato moved up to #39 on the list with ¥13.64M in winnings and Ueda to #45 with ¥10.63M.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NEC Karuizawa 72 Saturday: Miyazato and Campbell Lead Again, But Open the Door Wider

Ai Miyazato and Nikki Campbell, your 1st-round co-leaders at the NEC Karuizawa 72, are also your 2nd-round co-leaders after firing matching 70s to get to -9 for the tournament. Although each has made only 1 bogey over her 1st 2 rounds, many players made up ground on them by outbirdieing them. Ji-Hee Lee fought her way into tomorrow's final group with a bogey-free 69 that leaves her 1 back, but the biggest moves were made by defending champion Chie Arimura (bogey-free 67) and Miki Saiki (bogey-free 68) to join Mi-Jeong Jeon 2 back. In all, there are 13 players within 5 shots of the lead.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-9 Ai Miyazato (65-70), Nikki Campbell (65-70)
3rd/-8 Ji-Hee Lee (67-69)
T4/-7 Chie Arimura (70-67), Miki Saiki (69-68), Mi-Jeong Jeon (67-70)
7th/-6 Akiko Fukushima (68-70)
T8/-5 Yuko Saitoh (72-67), Saiki Fujita (71-68), Yuko Mitsuka (68-71), Ya-Heui Lu (68-71)

T12/-4 Young Kim (73-67)
T14/-3 Asako Fujimoto (72-69), Miho Koga (71-70), Ji-Woo Lee (71-70), Esther Lee (71-70)
T20/-2 Momoko Ueda (73-69), Rui Kitada (73-69), Erina Hara (73-69), Bo-Bae Song (71-71), Eun-A Lim (71-71), Yukari Baba (70-72), Sakura Yokomine (69-73), So-Hee Kim (69-73)
T29/-1 Kaori Aoyama (74-69), Mie Nakata (71-72), Jae-Hee Bae (71-72), Hiromi Mogi (70-73)
T39/E Shinobu Moromizato (75-69), Akane Iijima (74-70), Yuri Fudoh (70-74), Ritsuko Ryu (70-74)
T50/+1 Maiko Wakabayashi (74-71), Li-Ying Ye (75-70), Ayako Uehara (73-72), Na-Ri Lee (73-72)

MC: Yuki Ichinose (76-70), Chieko Amanuma (72-75), Rikako Morita (74-74), Na-Ri Kim (76-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-74), Mayu Hattori (73-77), Yuki Sakurai (76-76)

Playing in the final pairing today, Miyazato, Campbell, and Jeon tied each other, which is a little funny, in that Jeon collapsed last October in the final round of Miyazato's last JLPGA win and Campbell made a miracle 50-foot putt in a playoff to deny her a 2nd. Meanwhile, ex-JLPGA exile Yuko Mitsuka got a hole in 1 on the 189-yard 12th, but was +2 in her final 6 holes to fall back off the pace. And the slumping Erina Hara made the cut for only the 6th time all season with a 7-birdie 69. Finally, 20-year-old Megumi Kido had a great round going--5 birdies and no bogeys with 4 holes left to play--but finished bogey-triple-par-par to squander most of them.

I'm going to get up early tomorrow morning for the 4-hour-or-so drive to Cornell University's Robert Trent Jones course (I'm playing in one of the NYSGA's State Days to tune up for Monday's Albany qualifier for the Mid-Am), but promise to do a quick post before I go if Ai-sama wins!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Livin' Large on the Futures Tour

Catch the 1st episode of DFT Cribs, a T-Joh production:

A bogey-bogey finish today in Richmond forced Joh to accept a 71, which puts her 5 shots behind the LPGA's Reilley Rankin, who played a bogey-free round. South African Melissa Eaton-Jackson stayed smokin' hot after the long drive from Harrisburg, opening with a 6-birdie 67, while Jennifer Song is 2 off the pace after a 7-birdie 68.

Lisa Mickey is back behind the computer and fills us in on Rankin's round--and much more. She doesn't mention that Hannah Yun didn't start this tournament after withdrawing with an injury on the 1st day of the Harrisburg event. Hope she's ok!

Just Windy in Wales, But Still Tough to Score

Carin Koch took the 2nd-round lead in the S4/C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe with a fantastic 68 in windy conditions in Wales, prompting much alliteration from the LET. She's opened up a 1-shot lead on Christel Boeljon (72) and a 2-shot gap on Melissa Reid (68) and 1st-round leader Vikki Laing (74).

Everyone else of note is over par:

5th/+1 Lee-Ann Pace (74-71)
T6/+2 Anja Monke (79-67), Becky Brewerton (77-69), Anne-Lise Caudal (73-73)
T10/+3 Karen Stupples (76-71)

T13/+4 Veronica Zorzi (76-72), Titiya Plucksataporn (76-72), Becky Morgan (75-73), Helen Alfredsson (72-76)
T19/+5 Laura Davies (76-73), Sophie Giquel (74-75), Linda Wessberg (73-76)
T24/+6 Kiran Matharu (79-71), Giulia Sergas (78-72)
T31/+7 Emma Cabrera-Bello (80-71), Pernilla Lindberg (75-76)
T44/+8 Belen Mozo (78-74)
T49/+9 Ashleigh Simon (77-76), Caroline Masson (75-78)
T57/+10 Frances Bondad (78-76)

And many got put out of their misery by the cut line!

MC: Johanna Mundy (82-73), Gwladys Nocera (80-75), Mallory Blackwelder (79-77), Jeehae Lee (78-78), Alison Walshe (75-81), Henrietta Zuel (71-85), Smriti Mehra (82-75), Nina Reis (79-78), Mollie Fankhauser (78-79), Bettina Hauert (78-80), Diana D'Alessio (76-82), Nikki Garrett (82-77), Carly Booth (82-77), Kim Welch (82-78), Sandra Gal (82-81)

Good news: the forecast calls for more wind and rain. Seeing how "showers" have been forecast both of the 1st 2 days, that's virtually a guarantee the remaining players will stay dry!

NEC Karuizawa 72 Friday: Miyazato and Campbell Set the Pace with 65s

Apologies for the late report on the 1st round of the NEC Karuizawa 72, the 1st tournament of the 2nd half of the JLPGA season. I was doing a little rearranging of the house before The Full Metal Archivist, onechan, and imoto return from Japan next week and had to disconnect all our electronics for awhile to make it happen. It was a remarkable feat of discipline and self-control, as I was on cloud 9 all day when I saw this morning before I disconnected everything that Ai Miyazato matched Nikki Campbell's opening 65. Despite my worries about her pairing with Erina Hara (who fought back for a 73 after going +2 in her 1st 7 holes), Miyazato was on fire today. She played a bogey-free round and was the only player in the field to birdie all 4 par 5s. w00t! She needed every single birdie, however, as 2 of the top Koreans on the JLPGA, Mi-Jeong Jeon and Ji-Hee Lee, fired bogey-free 67s, and the tour's 2nd-leading money winner Akiko Fukushima had a bogey-free 68 of her own. Yuko Mitsuka returned to JLPGA action with a 5-birdie 68, as well.

Clearly the leaderboard is packed! Here are the top 10's and notables' 1st-round results:

1st/-7 Ai Miyazato, Nikki Campbell (65)
T3/-5 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee (67)
T5/-4 Akiko Fukushima, Yuko Mitsuka, Ya-Heui Lu (68)
T8/-3 Sakura Yokomine, Miki Saiki, So-Hee Kim (69)

T11/-2 Yuri Fudoh, Chie Arimura, Yukari Baba, Hiromi Mogi, Ritsuko Ryu (70)
T19/-1 Miho Koga, Saiki Fujita, Mie Nakata, Ji-Woo Lee, Eun-A Lim, Esther Lee, Jae-Hee Bae (71)
T35/E Chieko Amanuma, Asako Fujimoto (72)
T43/+1 Momoko Ueda, Young Kim, Rui Kitada, Ayako Uehara, Mayu Hattori, Erina Hara, Na-Ri Lee (73)
T58/+2 Akane Iijima, Kaori Aoyama, Rikako Morita, Maiko Wakabayashi (74)
T74/+3 Shinobu Moromizato, Hyun-Ju Shin, Li-Ying Ye (75)
T84/+4 Na-Ri Kim, Yuki Ichinose, Yuki Sakurai (76)

Campbell opened with a 31 but couldn't sustain the pace on the back 9. Fudoh was +2 as she stood on the 5th tee, but went birdie-eagle-birdie as she made the turn to get back on track. Song eagled the par-5 13th to jump back to E, then birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to get under par on the day. 20-year-old Megumi Kido eagled the 405-yard par-4 14th to get back to even par; Saiki had been cruising to that point, but doubled that same hole. Golf!

There's more of it going on right now. Jeon has caught Miyazato and Campbell at -7 in the early going. More later!

[Update 1 (10:24 pm): Last week I was wondering where Seon Hwa Lee was. Well, she's playing this week on the KLPGA!]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dig at Miyazato or Honor for Hara?

As I mentioned last week, Ai Miyazato and Momoko Ueda are playing in the JLPGA's NEC Karuizawa 72 event this week. I was taking a look at the 1st-round pairings and quickly found Ueda's name right where you'd expect it, paired with defending champion Chie Arimura and Yuko Mitsuka (who's back on tour after her self-imposed exile for most of the summer and hoping to regain the form that had her in contention on the final 9 holes here last year), right after a group that includes leading '09 money winners Sakura Yokomine and Shinobu Moromizato. Meanwhile, Miyazato is paired with 20-year-old rookie Asako Fujimoto and...22-year-old Erina Hara?! What's going on here? Is the JLPGA out to get Ai-sama?

Don't get me wrong: it's great for these young prospects to get a chance to play with Ai-sama. It's not even a big deal that Fujimoto hasn't had a top 20 in her last 8 starts--at least she's in the top 30 on the money list. That's where Hara is used to being; in fact, in her 1st 3 seasons on tour, she never finished outside the top 25. But all that's a distant memory now. Over the 1st half of this season, she's made the cut a grand total of 5 times in 18 starts, failed to crack the top 40 in 4 of those finishes, and ended a tournament under par only once. Her scoring average is 76.07, she's averaging only 1.88 birdies per round, and she's hitting greens in regulation only 46.8% of the time. So what is she doing in the same group as Miyazato, who has a chance to regain the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings with a win this week?

Consider that Yuri Fudoh, in the group ahead of Miyazato, gets to play with Rui Kitada and Rikako Morita, and that Akiko Fukushima, in the group behind Ai-sama, is paired with Ayako Uehara and Mayu Hattori. 2008 money list leader Miho Koga probably has the best pairing of them all; she gets to play with Mi-Jeong Jeon and Yukari Baba, who are both in the top 10 on the '10 money list and both seasoned veterans. Is it really just coincidence that of all the big-name players in this week's JLPGA event, it was Ai Miyazato who got the Erina Hara short straw?

Well, no. Hara did, after all, win this event back in her rookie season, when she went 67-63-65 for a 7-shot drubbing of Ji-Hee Lee. It was the 1st and only JLPGA victory of Hara's short career. So I suspect that the tournament organizers were looking for a way to honor her '08 performance and inspire her to play better in her 1st performance in the 2nd half of the '10 season. What better way to do that than pair her with the most prominent female Japanese golfer in the world?

I'm sure Miyazato doesn't mind the pairing in the slightest. There's no doubt Hara and Miyazato are friends. They've been teammates on the Pinx/Kyoraku Cup international team competitions against Korea for years. Hara was 1 of the 4 Japanese golfers who doused Ai-sama while celebrating her playoff victory at last year's Evian Masters (her 1st LPGA win). I just hope Hara can handle the pressure.

Wet and Windy in Wales

Scotland's Vikki Laing leads the S4/C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe by 1 shot over Christel Boeljon and Henrietta Zuel and 2 shots over Helen Alfredsson and amateur Amy Boulden as the rest of the field went over par. Laing bogeyed the 1st hole midway through her round to fall back to E but made 2 birdies in her last 9 holes to secure a solid 70 in tough scoring conditions. Here's how other notables did today:

T6/+1 Linda Wessberg, Anne-Lise Caudal
T9/+2 Carin Koch, Sophie Giquel, Lee-Ann Pace
T17/+3 Becky Morgan, Pernilla Lindberg, Caroline Masson, Alison Walshe
T28/+4 Laura Davies, Karen Stupples, Melissa Reid, Diana D'Alessio, Veronica Zorzi
T41/+5 Becky Brewerton, Ashleigh Simon
T51/+6 Giulia Sergas, Bettina Hauert, Mollie Fankhauser, Belen Mozo, Jeehae Lee, Frances Bondad
T68/+7 Anja Monke, Nina Reis, Mallory Blackwelder, Kiran Matharu
T84/+8 Gwladys Nocera, Emma Cabrera-Bello
T104/+10 Sandra Gal, Johanna Mundy, Kim Welch, Carly Booth

The forecast isn't too hot for tomorrow, either. This could be a real war of attrition....

[Update 1 (3:51 pm): Well, the LET's write-up focuses on the wind. Maybe it wasn't wet in Wales. But I'm not losing the alliteration in my title--no way!]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recommended Reading: Michael Agger's "MoneyGolf," Hound Dog's "LPGA Elevator"

Michael Agger is 2 essays into his week-long "MoneyGolf" series over at Slate in which he looks at the state of the art in golf stats, while Hound Dog has used his own home-brewed stats to attempt to account for who's moving up and down the LPGA elevator. Check 'em out!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The LPGA's Top Rivalries: Generation Gaps, August 2010 Edition

With the LPGA off this week, now's as good a time as any to reexamine how the tour's last 6 generations stack up. Check out the career money list and wins/majors totals for the top players in the generations that span the Sorenstam Era (1994-2008) and the overlapping Ochoa Era (2003-2009).

[Note: those players (and their stats) in [square brackets] have retired; *=includes non-member win; **=includes 3 non-member wins.]

1994-1996: The Sorenstam Generation

[1. Annika Sorenstam (1994) $22.57M (#1), 72/10]
2. Karrie Webb (1996) $15.70M (#2), 36*/7
3. Lorie Kane (1996) $6.74M (#15), 4/0
4. Pat Hurst (1995) $6.64M (#16), 6/1
5. Catriona Matthew (1995) $6.21M (#20), 3/1
6. Wendy Ward (1996) $4.63M (#36), 4/0
7. Carin Koch (1995) $4.43M (#38), 2/0

The race between Kane, Hurst, and Matthew is tightening up. Koch is living in Sweden and playing pretty much exclusively on the LET these days.

1997-1999: The Pak Generation

1. Cristie Kerr (1997) $11.55M (#5), 14/2
2. Se Ri Pak (1998) $10.85M (#6), 25/5
3. Mi Hyun Kim (1999) $8.44M (#10), 8/0
[4. Rachel Hetherington (1997) $5.70M (#25), 8/0]
5. Sophie Gustafson (1998) $5.53M (#28), 5/0
6. Laura Diaz (1999) $5.00M (#33), 2/0
7. Maria Hjorth (1998) $4.96M (#34), 3/0
8. Karen Stupples (1999) $3.38M (#52), 2/1

Even though Kerr's passed Pak on the career money list, she'll have to join her in the Hall of Fame to have her name on the generation, too. Gustafson is close to chasing down Hetherington and Hjorth, Diaz. I'm happy for the NYer that she broke the $5M barrier! [Update (9/6/10): Now that Hetherington's retired, it's only a matter of time before she drops out of the top 5 in her generation in winnings.]

2000-2002: Seoul Sisters

1. Jeong Jang (2000) $6.42M (#17), 2/1
2. Hee-Won Han (2001) $6.30M (#19), 6/0
3. Grace Park (2000) $5.36M (#30), 6/1
4. Angela Stanford (2001) $5.29M (#32), 4/0
5. Candie Kung (2002) $4.69M (#35), 4/0
6. Natalie Gulbis (2002) $4.11M (#41), 1/0
7. Gloria Park (2000) $3.25M (#58), 2/0

Jang continues to hold off Han, while Stanford and Kung continue to make up ground on Park.

2003-2005: The Ochoa Generation

[1. Lorena Ochoa (2003) $14.86M (#3), 27/2]
2. Paula Creamer (2005) $7.65M (#12), 9/1
3. Suzann Pettersen (2003) $6.40M (#18), 6/1
4. Christina Kim (2003) $3.77M (#44), 2/0
5. Stacy Prammanasudh (2003) $3.08M (#61), 2/0
6. Brittany Lincicome (2005) $3.00M (#64), 3/1
7. Meena Lee (2005) $2.92M (#70), 2/0
8. Shi Hyun Ahn (2004) $2.56M (#79), 1*/0
9. Katherine Hull (2004) $2.54M (#80), 1/0
10. Young Kim (2003) $2.36M (#88), 1/0
11. Lindsey Wright (2004) $2.07M (#99), 0/0

With Lorena officially stepped away from the LPGA, the only real question is how close Creamer and Pettersen can come to matching her career. The race between the 3 mid-level Americans and between the 2 Australians and 3 Koreans below them will be of interest, as well, but Young Kim will need to rejoin the LPGA to participate in it.

2006-2008: Young Guns

1. Ai Miyazato (2006), $4.35M (#39), 5/0
2. Ya Ni Tseng (2008), $4.19M (#40), 4/3
3. Seon Hwa Lee (2006), $3.76M (#45), 4/0
4. Na Yeon Choi (2008), $3.62M (#47), 3/0
5. Morgan Pressel (2006), $3.38M (#53), 2/1
6. In-Kyung Kim (2007), $3.13M (#60), 2/0
7. Jee Young Lee (2006), $3.02M (#63), 1*/0
8. Song-Hee Kim (2007), $2.99M (#65), 0/0
9. Brittany Lang (2006), $2.41M (#85), 0/0
10. Inbee Park (2007), $2.41M (#86), 1/1
11. Julieta Granada (2006), $2.23M (#94), 1/0
12. Eun-Hee Ji (2007), $2.20M (#95), 2/1
13. Angela Park (2007), $2.12M (#97), 0/0
14. Sun Young Yoo (2006), $2.05M (#101), 1/0
15. Kristy McPherson (2007), $1.46M (#127), 0/0
16. Ji Young Oh (2007), $1.44M (#131), 2/0
17. Hee Young Park (2008), $1.37M (#138), 0/0
18. Kyeong Bae (2006), $1.20M (#156), 0/0
19. Teresa Lu (2006), $1.09M (#169), 0/0
20. Meaghan Francella (2006), $1.07M (#170), 1/0
21. Momoko Ueda (2008), $1.03M (#179), 1*/0
22. Jane Park (2007), $.93M (#196), 0/0
23. Amy Yang (2008), $.84M (#210), 0/0
24. Shanshan Feng (2008), $.79M (#218), 0/0

Looks to me like the Young Guns have come of age!

2009-2011: New Blood

1. Ji-Yai Shin (2009), $2.97M (#67), 7**/1*
2. Michelle Wie (2009), $1.26M (#147), 1/0
3. Anna Nordqvist (2009), $1.20M (#157), 2/1
4. M.J. Hur (2009), $.77M (#222), 1/0
5. Stacy Lewis (2009), $.63M (#246), 0/0
6. Mika Miyazato (2009), $.55M (#262), 0/0
7. Vicky Hurst (2009), $.48M (#281), 0/0
8. Azahara Munoz (2010), #.32M (#324), 0/0
9. Haeji Kang (2009), $.28M (#343), 0/0
10. Chella Choi (2009), $.15M (#430), 0/0
11. Mindy Kim (2009), $.15M ($431), 0/0
12. Amanda Blumenherst (2010), $.13M (#449), 0/0
13. Shiho Oyama (2009), $.13M (#450), 0/0
14. Gwladys Nocera (2010), $.13M (#453), 0/0

Besides Shin, Wie, Nordqvist, and Munoz, it's really too soon to tell who's going to have a great LPGA career. But I'm already starting to get curious about who will be in the Class of '11, the last rookie class to join this generation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Best of the LPGA: August 2010 Edition

No time like the present to update my July ranking of the Best of the LPGA--seriously, this is my last chance to make this a post-Women's British Open ranking, rather than a pre-Safeway Classic ranking! As usual, I'll be mashing up the LPGA money list (through the Women's British Open), the August 3rd Hound Dog Top 70 (which focuses exclusively on LPGA performances and results from 2010 and 2009), the August 2nd Rolex Rankings (which assigns points based on results over the last 104 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour), and the August 1st Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (which ranks players based on relative finishes over the last 52 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour) to divide LPGA players into tiers, then using my own judgment to rank them within each tier. (I've chosen last week's rankings so as not to reflect this past weekend's action on the KLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour.)

I think we need a cooler phrase than "we've entered a new era where #1 is up for grabs." How about this one: "Beware--there's a girl gang dominating the LPGA"?

1. Ji-Yai Shin: #1 money ($1.21M), #2 HD, #1 RR (10.48), #2 GSPI (68.69). Thanks in part to 1 terrible hole on Saturday at Birkdale, her T14 at the Women's British Open was her worst finish since her emergency appendectomy--not to mention her 1st finish outside the top 5 since the Bell Micro and only her 3rd such finish all season. Her Evian win, however, helped lift her to the top of the money list and helped her stay atop the Rolex Rankings (barely). Which is good enough to make her the consensus #1--for now.
2. Ya Ni Tseng: #3 money ($1.12M), #1 HD, #5 RR (9.93), #4 GSPI (68.90). Last month, I wrote, "if she can notch her 2nd major of the year at the Women's British Open, she'll be right back in the thick of things!" She did, and she is! With 2 LPGA majors and 3 worldwide wins in 2010, and riding a 7-event top 20 run, she's poised to supplant Shin as the Mostly Harmless Player of the Year. But then so are a half-dozen other great players....
3. Cristie Kerr: #6 money ($1.08M), #4 HD, #2 RR (10.47), #3 GSPI (68.87). After her sublime win at the LPGA Championship, she 1st had problems with her ballstriking, then with her putting. Still, she bounced back from her worst finish of the year (a T31 at Evian) with her 3rd top 5 in the '10 majors, despite having trouble finding the hole at Birkdale.
4. Suzann Pettersen: #4 money ($1.09M), #6 HD, #4 RR (10.23), #1 GSPI (68.32). Speaking of putting issues, her T14 at the WBO was her 3rd-worst finish of the year, but her T5 at Evian was her 7th such finish this season. With her hip injury flaring up lately, I'm surprised she played in the Ladies Irish Open this week. Guess she figures she'll get some real rest in September (when the LPGA has only 1 event and the LET only 2).
5. Ai Miyazato: #5 money ($1.09M), #3 HD, #3 RR (10.33), #8 GSPI (69.26). You know, it's not like she played badly on the European swing--T19 at Evian and T9 at the WBO would satisfy most golfers--but she put together just enough bad holes in a row at each event to knock herself out of contention early and needed superlative Sundays to salvage each event (7 of her 15 rounds in the 60s this season have come in the final round!). But with 2 missed cuts to go with her 4 wins this season, she's been passed by a foursome who have been more consistently excellent than she has been lately. Let's see how she plays in Japan this week--she has a chance to regain the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.
6. Na Yeon Choi: #2 money ($1.18M), #5 HD, #6 RR (8.80), #6 GSPI (68.93). She has a gold, 2 silvers, and a bronze since missing the 1st LPGA cut of her career at the LPGA Championship. Her name is everywhere on the LPGA stats pages, but the 2 that impress me the most are her 4.19 birdies per round rate (1st on tour) and 1.77 putts per green in regulation rate (T7 and the best of her LPGA career). She's been neck-and-neck with Tseng for tops in their rookie class and generation, so now that she's putting like a champion, I'm not surprised they've taken their duel to the top of the LPGA.
7. Song-Hee Kim: #7 money ($880.9K), #7 HD, #8 RR (7.26), #5 GSPI (68.91): Far and away the best player without an LPGA win and on my hot list for most likely to win a major, her T19 at the WBO was her 2nd-worst finish of the season (her worst was a T22 at the ShopRite). That's because she's the only player on tour with a scoring average below 70, she leads the tour with 24 rounds in the 60s, and she's averaging 4.12 birdies per round (tied for 2nd on tour with Cristie Kerr).

With Lorena Ochoa removed from the Rolex Rankings at her request but still listed in the other 3 measures I combine, I'm going to keep her in my system, like I did for Annika Sorenstam when she stepped away from the LPGA. She's a good benchmark for who belongs in the girl gang's lead chase pack--as it turns out, it's not even really a pack.

8. Paula Creamer: #8 money ($684.6K), #8 HD, #7 RR (7.55), #13 GSPI (69.79). Her European swing was both painful and disappointing after her magic at Oakmont, but if all the r'n'r she's going to be getting in the next 2 months makes a difference, watch out for her in October through December....
9. In-Kyung Kim: #9 money ($653.5K), #9 HD, #10 RR (7.07), #22 GSPI (70.14). When I interviewed her at the LPGA Championship, she aptly summed up her season to date as "on and off," but starting that week she's been nothing but on. Not only has she finished 5-4-3 in the last 3 majors, but in that same run she got a T2 at the Farr and a T2 on the LET yesterday. Normally I'd say that the leader of the LET money list and Rookie of the Year race would be due to move up these rankings, but she'll need an LPGA win this season to be initiated into the girl gang ahead of her.
10. Lorena Ochoa: #36 money ($176.5K), #10 HD, n.r. RR (#2 [9.20] as of 5/3/10); #8 GSPI (69.26). Nothing to add to what I wrote in June: "I still don't believe she's gone for good, but pretty soon she'll disappear from this list, just like Annika did before her. I'm still devastated."

Right behind the contenders for #1 and their lead chase pack are some excellent players with top 10s in at most 2 of the 4 systems and/or top 20s in at least 3 of them:

11. Morgan Pressel: #11 money ($581.9K), #12 HD, #14 RR (5.55), #9 GSPI (69.43). The best European swing of her career--only Na Yeon Choi was more consistently excellent than she was--boosts her past a lot of players who have been treading water (by elite standards) lately. I was a little surprised she didn't try to keep it going in Ireland last week at the site of next year's Solheim Cup, but at least she'll be rested for the Pacific NW swing at the end of August.
12. Karrie Webb: #16 money ($403.7K), #11 HD, #11 RR (6.68), #11 GSPI (69.64). Just noticed she's lost 7 to 10 yards off the tee from her averages over the previous 6 seasons. Earlier this season I was thinking it was her putting that was holding her back, but I wonder if that's being caused by not-as-sharp ballstriking lately? Whatever the reason, she had her 2 worst finishes of the season on the European swing.
13. Angela Stanford: #14 money ($473.4K), #13 HD, #13 RR (6.25), #10 GSPI (69.52). She extended her European swing by an extra week so she could get a sneak preview of the Solheim Cup course in Ireland and got her best finish (T19) in the last 3 weeks out of it. Which suggests how disappointing her Evian and WBO were.
14. Anna Nordqvist: #20 money ($319.7K), #14 HD, #9 RR (7.18), #19 GSPI (69.97). Her stats are better than her results thus far this year, but she should take some confidence from her T6 in Ireland last week from the LET back to the LPGA.
15. Michelle Wie: #19 money ($321.3K), #15 HD, #12 RR (6.57), #18 GSPI (69.96). 1 bad round in Evian and at Birkdale torpedoed her chances of contending either week, but she bounced back from terrible performances in the previous 2 majors and got her 2nd top 20 in a row at the WBO. On the other hand, she'll have to keep improving to avoid getting passed by those behind her.
16. Inbee Park: #10 money ($605.3K), #16 HD, #15 RR (5.54), #21 GSPI (70.07). I was surprised to see that she's only been having a very good run with her putter this season on the LPGA, rather than how she's usually done (among the very best on tour). Just like fellow '07er In-Kyung Kim has a chance to win the LET's money title this season, Park has a shot at #1 on the JLPGA. But she'll have to consider skipping the NW Arkansas event to build up some momentum in September in Japan if this is a serious goal of hers.
17. Amy Yang: #13 money ($515.9K), #17 HD, #27 RR (3.63), #16 GSPI (69.87). I stand by my June prediction that "[s]he's due for a win soon." I still have that feeling. She bounced back from her worst finish of the season at Evian with her 2nd consecutive top 5 in a major at the WBO. Even though she could only manage a T19 in Ireland, she's ready to win during the LPGA's Pacific NW swing. You heard it here 1st!
18. Brittany Lincicome: #17 money ($382.9K), #18 HD, #18 RR (4.36), #33 GSPI (70.65). Last month, I wrote, "She continues to impress me. I wouldn't be surprised if she makes a move up this list." And lo and behold she did! Going T11 at Evian and T9 at Birkdale will do the trick--and she continued her run with a T8 in Ireland.

It's not like the players in this big group are doing badly--after all, they have at most 2 top 20s and/or at least 3 top 30s--but they'll have to get it going if they want to knock anyone above them out of the top 20!

19. Sun Young Yoo: #12 money ($538.8K), #19 HD, #25 RR (3.95), #32 GSPI (70.65). T23 at Evian and T31 at the WBO were solid finishes, but not enough to sustain her rise up these rankings. Has she peaked?
20. Katherine Hull: #15 money ($455.8K), #21 HD, #19 RR (4.35), #34 GSPI (70.70). Even though I wrote last month that "she's on track for an even better 2nd half" of the season, I never expected her to come so close to winning the WBO. But I should have noticed that her previous best of the season (a T4 at the ShopRite) came after a missed cut (at the State Farm). Yup, she missed the cut at Evian! Oh, and a final-round 64 and a 5th-place finish in Ireland suggest she's not done yet this season.
21. Catriona Matthew: #30 money ($206.4K), #20 HD, #23 RR (4.17), #28 GSPI (70.57). She didn't have the European swing she was hoping for. T23 at Evian isn't bad, but sandwiching it between 2 missed cuts in majors was not what the formerly-defending WBO champion needed.
22. Stacy Lewis: #18 money ($328.4K), #27 HD, #37 RR (2.99), #36 GSPI (70.75). A butchered 18th hole on Friday at Evian led to her 3rd missed cut of the season and her T31 at the WBO was nothing to write home about, but she still moved up these rankings during the European swing, thanks to even worse struggles by those formerly ahead of her.
23. M.J. Hur: #23 money ($307.9K), #28 HD, #28 RR (3.57), #30 GSPI (70.62). She's finished consistently around 30th since her runner-up to Ai Miyazato at the ShopRite, which was actually good enough for her to move up a bit from June's ranking.
24. Brittany Lang: #28 money ($214.6K), #23 HD, #29 RR (3.39), #43 GSPI (70.92). Thankfully, she was low American in Ireland (7th place after a pair of 68s on the weekend), because otherwise her European swing would have been a complete wash (MC at Evian and T43 at Birkdale). Her problems, strangely enough, seem to be starting with her driver (both distance and accuracy are way down), but they extend to her GIR rate (down) and her strokes on the greens (up). Maybe a week off is just what the swing doctor ordered.
25. Azahara Munoz: #22 money ($308.4K), #31 HD, #42 RR (2.66), #14 GSPI (69.85). The highest-ranked rookie on my list, she's already got a non-member LET win under her belt from her 1st tournament as a professional last season. She's just about ready to win on the LPGA. She hasn't missed a cut on the LPGA (her worst finish was her 1st, at the Kia Classic, a T31) and has a 9-event top-25 run going. Her T8 in Ireland last week keeps her momentum going. She still has a shot at winning both the LPGA and LET Rookie of the Year races this season, but she'll most likely have to skip the NW Arkansas event to have a real shot at catching In-Kyung Kim.

A large number of players have at most 2 top 30s and/or at least 3 top 40s:

26. Jee Young Lee: #21 money ($309.8K), #22 HD, #40 RR (2.82), #35 GSPI (70.73). Her 2 consecutive top 10s at the start of the season and 3 straight in the middle are distant memories now. Maybe some time off will help clear her mental palette of her MC at Evian and T62 at Birkdale.
27. Momoko Ueda: #35 money ($186.0K), #25 HD, #33 RR (3.26), #24 GSPI (70.31). A good WBO (T9 despite a weak final round) gives some hope for the 2nd half of a season that looked like it would fall victim to a nagging knee injury. Let's see how she plays on the JLPGA this week before we get too excited, though.
28. Hee Young Park: #27 money ($219.9K), #24 HD, #36 RR (3.06), #49 GSPI (71.26). Her European swing was only marginally better than Jelly's--MC at Evian and T55 at the WBO--but the way the Rocket is driving the ball this season she's due to take off any given week her putter decides to cooperate.
29. Maria Hjorth: #32 money ($192.3K), #30 HD, #34 RR (3.16), #26 GSPI (70.44). Her last 3 events are T16 at Evian, MC at the WBO, and T12 in Ireland--a microcosm of her 1st full season back since having her baby.
30. Sophie Gustafson: #37 money ($173.8K), #29 HD, #30 RR (3.38), #31 GSPI (70.64). Her come-from-behind win in Ireland boosted her to #6 on the LET money list in only 5 starts, but she didn't have that kind of magic in the 2 before it that count toward the LPGA money list (T31 at Evian and T43 at the WBO). Let's see if she can export it to the Pacific NW starting next week!
31. Jeong Jang: #26 money ($238.9K), #34 HD, #59 RR (2.07), #39 GSPI (70.80). Watch out for JJ! Since missing the cut in her 1st event this season, her worst finish was her very next start, a T48. She hasn't finished outside the top 40 since and has a 6-event top-30 run going, during which she notched 3 top 20s and a top 10s (thanks in part to a T8 at Evian). I'd say she's back from wrist surgery and ready to shoot up these rankings.
32. Kristy McPherson: #43 money ($146.5K), #35 HD, #32 RR (3.33), #37 GSPI (70.76). She had been putting very well all season until Oakmont, but hasn't since. Now both her putting and iron play lag behind her driving, which has been excellent. Her T29 in Ireland at least improves on her T563 at Evian and MC at the WBO.
33. Christina Kim: #24 money ($283.4K), #36 HD, #48 RR (2.46), #63 GSPI (71.48). In June, I wrote, "[s]he's got her putter going now, so watch out for her the rest of the season." She responded with a MC at Evian, but bounced right back with a T9 at Birkdale and a T12 in Ireland (she's 6th on the LET ROY list).
34. Se Ri Pak: #25 money ($241.7K), #55 HD, #31 RR (3.36), #101 GSPI (72.22). She's gone into a nosedive since getting her 25th career win in a playoff at the Bell Micro. The culprit: injuries.
35. Mika Miyazato: #29 money ($211.9K), #47 HD, #44 RR (2.51), #109 GSPI (72.40). Her best finish of the season--a T6 at Evian--gives her one of the biggest upward moves on the rankings, but she followed it up with a MC at the WBO. She decided to go back to Florida rather than home to Okinawa as she did after last year's European swing. I'm looking for her to come back to action refreshed and ready to keep moving up the rankings.

A huge number of players have at most 2 top 40s and/or at least 3 top 50s:

36. Hee-Won Han: #31 money ($197.3K), #33 HD, #47 RR (2.47), #53 GSPI (71.33). In JUne, I noted that "T4 at the ShopRite was the highlight of her season to date, a MC at Oakmont the low point" and I asked, "Which Han will show up in Europe?" Well, the answer was kind of both: she finished T29 at Evian but missed the cut at the WBO. So the question still stands for the Pacific NW swing at the end of this month....
37. Shanshan Feng: #33 money ($189.9K), #32 HD, #69 RR (1.84), #55 GSPI (71.34). In June, I wrote that she's "playing--and putting--very well in 2010. Looks like her slump from last season is finally over." After missing the cut at Oakmont, she couldn't break into the top 50 in either European swing event, which makes it 4 starts in a row outside the top 50. She's putting too well this season for that streak to continue.
38. Seon Hwa Lee: #50 money ($120.8K), #38 HD, #55 RR (2.14), #38 GSPI (70.77). After missing 2 cuts in a row for the 1st time in her LPGA career back in June, she made like Feng and couldn't find a top 50 in Europe. And she had to birdie the 18th at Birkdale in the dark on Friday just to make the cut. Hopefully she'll figure something out during this 2-week layoff....
39. Meena Lee: #38 money ($173.7K), #39 HD, #75 RR (1.71), #52 GSPI (71.32). She bounced back from her missed cut at Oakmont with a T16 at Evian and a T43 at Birkdale. Not great, but not bad. She'll need to improve her approach shots and putting to continue moving up this list.
40. Karen Stupples: #40 money ($164.3K), #42 HD, #63 RR (1.95), #46 GSPI (71.10). She's cooled off from earlier in the season, not having cracked the top 30 in recent memory--and she didn't play well in Europe.
41. Candie Kung: #34 money ($187.4K), #49 HD, #45 RR (2.50), #54 GSPI (71.34). A disappointing European swing is in tune with her overall results in 2010. She hasn't had a top 20 in her last 7 starts. I wonder if she'll take advantage of her JLPGA membership in September to try to get her season going?
42. Juli Inkster: #45 money ($138.3K), #41 HD, #65 RR (1.88), #40 GSPI (70.83). Her missed cut at Oakmont was only her 2nd of the season, but her other was at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and her previous start was a T62 at Locust Hill. Fortunately, she salvaged her performance in majors this year with a T21 at the WBO, but preceded it with a T67 at Evian.
43. Lindsey Wright: #58 money ($94.3K), #51 HD, #38 RR (2.98), #61 GSPI (71.45). Her T37 at Evian was tied for her 3rd-best finish in what may well be an injury-curtailed season, but she followed it up with a MC at the WBO.
44. Vicky Hurst: #39 money ($170.3K), #62 HD, #60 RR (2.06), #78 GSPI (71.76). Another big mover up these rankings on the strength of a T11 at Evian and a T31 at the WBO. Let's see if she brings some momentum to the Pacific NW.

There's a very big group with at most 2 top 50s and/or at least 3 top 60s:

45. Karine Icher: #41 money ($163.5K), #40 HD, #84 RR (1.59), #62 GSPI (71.47).
46. Jimin Kang: #42 money ($150.0K), #43 HD, #88 RR (1.52), #69 GSPI (71.62).
47. Natalie Gulbis: #47 money ($130.4K), #44 HD, #67 RR (1.88), #51 GSPI (71.31).
48. Eun-Hee Ji: #62 money ($86.4K), #45 HD, #43 RR (2.58), #87 GSPI (72.00).
49. Shi Hyun Ahn: #56 money ($103.2K), #50 HD, #90 RR (1.48), #42 GSPI (70.89).
50. Stacy Prammanasudh: #51 money ($117.9K), #48 HD, #93 RR (1.40), #45 GSPI (70.96).
51. Na On Min: #49 money ($123.9K), #54 HD, #127 RR (1.00), #47 GSPI (71.11).
52. Alena Sharp: #55 money ($105.0K), #52 HD, #109 RR (1.17), #57 GSPI (71.38).
53. Meaghan Francella: #44 money ($142.0K), #53 HD, #78 RR (1.68), #124 GSPI (72.76).
54. Wendy Ward: #46 money ($134.8K), #66 HD, #77 RR (1.68), #98 GSPI (72.19).
55. Gwladys Nocera: #48 money ($126.0K), n.r. HD, #102 RR (1.29), #122 GSPI (72.64).
56. Kris Tamulis: #73 money ($57.0K), #46 HD, #143 RR (.85), #91 GSPI (72.05).

There's a large group with at most 2 top 60s and/or at least 3 top 70s:

57. Amanda Blumenherst: #52 money ($115.4K), #65 HD, #87 RR (1.58), #58 GSPI (71.42).
58. Haeji Kang: #53 money ($110.7K), #58 HD, #103 RR (1.27), #84 GSPI (71.93).
59. Katie Futcher: #60 money ($91.2K), #56 HD, #111 RR (1.13), #83 GSPI (71.93).
60. Kyeong Bae: #54 money ($105.4K), #60 HD, #83 RR (1.59), #104 GSPI (72.30).
61. Amy Hung: #57 money ($96.4K), #57 HD, #110 RR (1.15), #92 GSPI (72.06).
62. Heather Bowie Young: #61 money ($87.3K), #59 HD, #114 RR (1.10), #60 GSPI (71.45).
63. Helen Alfredsson: #63 money ($80.6K), #69 HD, #63 RR (1.95), #106 GSPI (72.33).
64. Sherri Steinhauer: #64 money ($76.7K), n.r. HD, #190 RR (.61), #59 GSPI (71.44).
65. Laura Davies: #91 money ($33.0K), n.r. HD, #56 RR (2.13), #67 GSPI (71.62).
66. Pat Hurst: #59 money ($93.8K), n.r. HD, #79 RR (1.66), #85 GSPI (71.94).

And here are the many players with at most 2 top 70s and/or at least 3 top 80s:

67. Sarah Jane Smith: #65 money ($70.9K), #61 HD, #120 RR (1.05), #88 GSPI (72.22).
68. Mi Hyun Kim: #71 money ($59.3K), #68 HD, #159 RR (.76), n.r. GSPI (71.77) [too few events in database].
69. Mindy Kim: #72 money ($57.3K), #64 HD, #156 RR (.77), #119 GSPI (72.55).
70. Karin Sjodin: #80 money ($46.1K), #63 HD, #173 RR (.69), #134 GSPI (72.92).
71. Moira Dunn: #76 money ($51.7K), #70 HD, #160 RR (.75), #105 GSPI (72.32).
72. Michele Redman: #79 money ($46.9K), n.r. HD, #73 RR (1.73), #71 GSPI (71.64).
73. Teresa Lu: #66 money ($66.3K), n.r. HD, #97 RR (1.34), #100 GSPI (72.22).
74. Sandra Gal: #67 money ($63.8K), n.r. HD, #98 RR (1.32), #93 GSPI (72.08).
75. Janice Moodie: #68 money ($63.5K), n.r. HD, #106 RR (1.23), #113 GSPI (72.41).
76. Jennifer Rosales: #70 money ($60.8K), n.r. HD, #133 RR (.91), #75 GSPI (71.74).
77. Ji Young Oh: #77 money ($49.5K), n.r. HD, #70 RR (1.88), #126 GSPI (72.71).
78. Maria Hernandez: #69 money ($63.4K), n.r. HD, #130 RR (.95), #133 GSPI (72.87).
79. Chella Choi: #78 money ($47.7K), n.r. HD, #147 RR (.82), #70 GSPI (71.63).
80. Diana D'Alessio: #90 money ($33.8K), #67 HD, #235 RR (.41), #144 GSPI (73.15).