Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fantastic Pairings on Moving Day in Mobile!

Check out the 3rd-round pairings for the Avnet LPGA Classic! Great chance for those in the Mobile area to see a lot of rookies go off early and then follow your favorite leaders, as everyone's going off the 1st tee in twosomes! Here are a few of the best:

7:10 am: Hee Kyung Seo, Cindy LaCrosse--KLPGA and Futures Tour stars
7:34 am: Mina Harigae, Wendy Ward--the kid and the vet
8:14 am: Cristie Kerr, Kristy McPherson--Solheim Cuppers
8:30 am: Karrie Webb, Stacy Prammanasudh--HoFer, meet Solheim Cupper
9:02 am: Jee Young Lee, Tiffany Joh--fun-lovin' pairing
9:10 am: Anna Nordqvist, Beatriz Recari--the Euros are coming...
9:50 am: Laura Davies, Dewi Claire Schreefel--...the Euros are coming
9:58 am: Hee Young Park, Harukyo Nomura--which one's on JLPGA again?
10:06 am: Azahara Munoz, Amanda Blumenherst--Class of '10 in the house!
10:14 am: Angela Stanford, Natalie Gulbis--more Solheim Cuppers
10:30 am: Jessica Korda, Laura Diaz--another kid/vet combo
10:38 am: Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster--even more Solheim Cuppers
10:46 am: Katherine Hull, Shanshan Feng--2 on the cusp of very goodness
10:54 am: Haeji Kang, Chella Choi--fighting for spot into Sybase
11:02 am: Mi Hyun Kim, Aree Song--call 'em the comeback kids
11:10 am: Grace Park, Lexi Thompson--kid/vet 3.0
11:18 am: Morgan Pressel, Candie Kung--2 tough competitors
11:42 am: Christina Kim, Paige Mackenzie--2 friends of Steph Wei
11:58 am: Se Ri Pak, Sarah Kemp--not-quite-kid, meet HoFer
12:06 pm: Suzann Pettersen, Jenny Suh--kid, not-quite-vet
12:14 pm: Song-Hee Kim, Sun Young Yoo--winner could come from this pairing
12:22 pm: Stacy Lewis, Karen Stupples--kid/vet 4.0
12:30 pm: Sandra Gal, Amy Yang--2 rising stars!

I'm not going to be able to watch today's round, as onechan and imoto are in a little skate show (their 1st!!) this evening. And I'm going to try to stay away from the live scoring from now on. But I'm excited to find out if Angela Oh can go as low today as Ilhee Lee did yesterday. From the looks of the early scoring, I'll bet the tournament organizers softened up the greens and put the pins in pretty accessible spots for moving day. Can't wait to find out what happens....

Cyber Agent Ladies Saturday: Fudoh-Shin Showdown in the Works

The best golfer this millennium on the JLPGA and the player some would argue has been the best on the planet since Lorena Ochoa's retirement are set for a Sunday showdown at the Cyber Agent Ladies in Chiba prefecture. Yup, Yuri Fudoh's bogey-free 66 and Ji-Yai Shin's hot-and-cold back 9 that included a pair of bogeys at its start and a pair of birdies at its finish have left them tied at -6, setting up a potential shootout between the Billion Yen Woman and the Final Round Queen! But with Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, Bo-Mee Lee, Mi-Jeong Jeon and the other 8 golfers within 5 shots of Fudoh and Shin's lead all looking to gate-crash that particular party, anything can happen tomorrow.

Let's take a look at the leaderboard:

T1/-6 Yuri Fudoh (72-66), Ji-Yai Shin (68-70)
T3/-3 Yumiko Yoshida (73-68), Sakura Yokomine (70-71), Saiki Fujita (69-72), Hiromi Mogi (67-74)
T7/-2 Ayako Uehara (73-69), Midori Yoneyama (73-69), Ji-Hee Lee (71-71), Bo-Mee Lee (71-71), Tamie Durdin (70-72), Mie Nakata (70-72), Na-Ri Kim (70-72), Ji Na Lim (68-74)

T15/-1 Ji-Woo Lee (72-71), Akane Iijima (71-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-73), Mayu Hattori (70-73), Mihoko Iseri (66-77)
T20/E Yuko Mitsuka (76-68), So-Hee Kim (74-70), Chie Arimura (73-71), Jae-Hee Bae (73-71), Momoko Ueda (72-72), Lala Anai (70-74)
T28/+1 Asako Fujimoto (74-71), Riko Higashio (74-71), Miki Sakai (73-72), Kaori Ohe (70-75)
T33/+2 Rui Kitada (74-72), Miki Saiki (72-74), Soo-Yun Kang (72-74), Kumiko Kaneda (71-75), Na-Ri Lee (70-76), Yuki Ichinose (70-76)
T42/+3 Shinobu Moromizato (75-72), Ah-Reum Hwang (75-72), He-Yong Choi (72-75), Ritsuko Ryu (69-78), Yukari Baba (67-80)
T49/+4 Yun-Jye Wei (76-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-73), Maiko Wakabayashi (75-73), Miho Koga (73-75), Erina Hara (73-75), Julie Lu (73-75)

MC: Pei-Ying Tsai (77-72), Kaori Aoyama (76-73), Akiko Fukushima (75-74), Meena Lee (73-76), Li-Ying Ye (79-71), Nikki Campbell (74-76), Megumi Kido (75-76), Sakurako Mori (74-77), Rui Yokomine (77-75), Teresa Lu (78-75), Rikako Morita (78-76), Yuki Sakurai (77-77), Esther Lee (76-78), Miki Uehara (78-77), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (77-78)

As you can see, Shin was the only one among the 1st-round leaders not to implode on moving day. Even those playing well today often couldn't sustain their charges. Sakura Yokomine, for instance, went out in bogey-free 33 but came home in birdie-less 38 to fall 3 off the pace set by Fudoh and Shin. Tamie Durdin was -6 after 27 holes, thanks to a bogey-free 33, but she finished even worse than Yokomine, making 5 bogeys on her way to a 40. A pair of doubles and a bogey on the back derailed Mi-Jeong Jeon's effort to move to the top of the leaderboard. Mayu Hattori, meanwhile, made like Yokomine and Durdin, going fro bogey-free 33 to birdie-less 39. And Momoko Ueda finished bogey-triple-birdie for a roller-coaster 72 that left her 6 shots out of the lead.

All of which leads me to believe we should see a really exciting finish tomorrow. Will Fudoh and Shin pull away from the field or open the door for someone to make a comeback from 3 or more shots behind them? Stay tuned!

Avnet LPGA Classic Friday: Sandra Gal Goes Low, Takes Lead

The 5 birdies in her last 8 holes by Sandra Gal live and en direct on Golf Channel must have gotten Stephanie Wei excited, as she beat the rest of us to posting on the 2nd round of the Avnet LPGA Classic! Let's hope for Gal's sake that making her 13th birdie of the week on the penultimate hole of her Friday round doesn't bode ill for her chances on the weekend. With Amy Yang 1 shot behind on the strength of her back-9 31 (which, because it was her 1st 9, we didn't get to see on tv!), Stacy Lewis, Song-Hee Kim, and Karen Stupples 2 back, Suzann Pettersen (who matched Yang's 31 on the back but got some good tv time because of her starting time), Se Ri Pak, Sarah Kemp, and Jenny Suh 3 back, and a total of 20 golfers within 5 shots of the lead heading into moving day today, Gal doesn't need any bad luck over her next 36 holes. Not with Na Yeon Choi, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel, and Lexi Thompson (as well as Grace Park and Mi Hyun Kim) in the mix!

At least the leaders can breathe some small sighs of relief that world #1 Ya Ni Tseng's birdie barrage on the back 9--5 birdies in her last 6 holes--still left her a couple of shots on the wrong side of the cut line. And that Michelle Wie's 2 birdies in her last 4 holes on the front left her 1 shot away from making the cut. Others missing the cut include Ai Miyazato, who had trouble with her approach shots and short game this week, Vicky Hurst, who at least did 10 shots better on Friday than Thursday, and Mika Miyazato, whose 5th bogey of the day on the 17th hole was the one that finally kept her from playing golf this weekend. (Hey, at least the Miyazatos get to leave early for Japan and have some extra time to prepare for the Salonpas Cup next week!)

For the leaders to have golfers of this caliber safely in the rear-view mirror is important, because even a 10-shot lead at the Crossings Course can evaporate in virtually 1 cold 9 by the leader and 1 hot 9 by the chaser. So even though Jennifer Song, Hee Kyung Seo, and Mina Harigae are 10 back, Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr, and Kristy McPherson are 9 back, Anna Nordqvist, Jee Young Lee, and Brittany Lang are 8 back, Angela Stanford, Laura Davies, and Hee Young Park are 7 back, and Paula Creamer, Katherine Hull, and Juli Inkster are 6 back, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them move within striking range of the lead today. It seems like Magnolia Grove is vulnerable to birdie runs from golfers who get hot with their irons and putters, particularly on the back. Stacy Lewis, Song-Hee Kim, and Na Yeon Choi seem to be the only golfers playing steadily and avoiding lots of bogeys thus far this week. If any of them can catch a ride on the birdie train at any time over the weekend, the rest of the field had better watch out!

[Update 1 (7:00 am): Hound Dog just finished his 2nd-round post, and he has details on who qualified for the Sybase in mid-May and much more worth reading. See's 2nd-round notes and interviews page for even more.]

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cyber Agent Ladies Friday: Mihoko Iseri Matches Career Low Round, Takes Lead

Before today, 25-year-old Mihoko Iseri had broken 75 only twice in 7 rounds on the JLPGA this year. Her best finish in a tournament in her 5-year JLPGA career was 7th, way back in 2007, the only year she finished high enough on the money list not to have to return to Q-School. Last season, she broke 70 only 4 times in 54 rounds, bringing her total to 12. So of course she went out today in Chiba at the Cyber Agent Ladies and matched her career low of 66 (set back in 2008), taking a 1-shot lead on Yukari Baba and Hiromi Mogi, a 2-shot lead on Ji-Yai Shin and Ji Na Lim, and a 3-shot lead on Saiki Fujita and Ritsuko Ryu. With big names from both the JLPGA and KLPGA like Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Bo-Mee Lee, Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, and He-Yong Choi at par or better, Iseri had better keep the pedal to the metal tomorrow.

Here how the leaders and notables stood after 18 holes:

1st/-6 Mihoko Iseri (66)
T2/-5 Yukari Baba, Hiromi Mogi (67)
T4/-4 Ji-Yai Shin, Ji Na Lim (68)
T6/-3 Saiki Fujita, Ritsuko Ryu (69)
T8/-2 Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Tamie Durdin, Mie Nakata, Mayu Hattori, Na-Ri Kim, Na-Ri Lee, Yuki Ichinose, Kaori Ohe, Chieko Amanuma, Lala Anai (70)

T19/-1 Ji-Hee Lee, Bo-Mee Lee, Akane Iijima, Kumiko Kaneda (71)
T24/E Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, He-Yong Choi, Miki Saiki, Soo-Yun Kang, Ji-Woo Lee (72)
T31/+1 Chie Arimura, Miho Koga, Ayako Uehara, Meena Lee, Erina Hara, Jae-Hee Bae, Julie Lu, Miki Sakai (73)
T47/+2 Rui Kitada, Nikki Campbell, Asako Fujimoto, So-Hee Kim, Sakurako Mori, Riko Higashio (74)
T60/+3 Akiko Fukushima, Shinobu Moromizato, Hyun-Ju Shin, Maiko Wakabayashi, Ah-Reum Hwang, Megumi Kido (75)
T72/+4 Yuko Mitsuka, Kaori Aoyama, Yun-Jye Wei, Esther Lee (76)
T82/+5 Yuki Sakurai, Rui Yokomine, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Pei-Ying Tsai (77)
T92/+6 Teresa Lu, Rikako Morita, Miki Uehara (78)
T99/+7 Li-Ying Ye (79)

Iseri bogeyed her 1st hole of the day, the 10th, but bounced back with 7 birdies and no other bogeys the rest of her round, including a 5-birdie 32 on the back. Mogi matched Iseri's birdie total but took 1 more bogey for the day, while Baba was the only player besides Yokomine and Ichinose to play bogey-free golf all day. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the field responds to the absence of Sun-Ju Ahn and Inbee Park this week. Play's already begun in round 2, so time to call it quits on this post!

Avnet LPGA Classic Thursday: Song-Hee Kim Joins Grace Park at the Top

Hound Dog, bangkokbobby, and provide excellent overviews of the 1st round of the Avnet LPGA Classic, in which Grace Park and Song-Hee Kim jumped out to a 1-shot lead on Stacy Lewis and Karen Stupples and a 2-shot lead on Na Yeon Choi, Se Ri Pak, and Angela Oh on the strength of sizzling 67s.

The conditions were tough, with the course playing long, changing breezes affecting approach shots, and very hard greens making it difficult to get the ball close to the pin. You'd think that players who hit it longer and higher would have an advantage under such conditions, but with Vicky Hurst opening with an 81, Ya Ni Tseng and Kimberly Kim with 77s, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie with 76s, and Jessica Korda with a 75, things were pretty much tough all over. That makes it even more exciting that Park played so great, despite having to pull out of the Wednesday pro-am to protect her back. And that Stupples was able to play such good golf despite her and her husband(/caddy) having to find last-minute day care for their son, who was sick. In fact, many near the top of the leaderboard were making comebacks of various kinds: Kim from a cold start to 2011, Angela Oh and Sarah Kemp from far more frigid ones, Stacy Prammanasudh and Christina Kim from what feels like years of uninspired golf, and Marcy Hart from maternity leave. The only golfers I expected to do well (and who actually exceeded my expectations) were Choi, Lewis, and Pak.

Golf Channel coverage started off with a bang: Jenny Suh's great hole-in-1, but it was disappointing that they couldn't shoot any footage of the groups starting on the back before the tv window opened up. They missed Park's great start and basically had to mumble over her name whenever they showed the leaderboard because they had no images to go with it. Still, I enjoyed watching things like Laura Davies's roller-coaster even-par round, Paula Creamer's comeback for a 71, Amanda Blumenherst's eagle putt from way off the 16th green, and even Wie's off-tempo swing which led to some really great and really awful shots.

Personally, I was sad to see that Ai Miyazato couldn't sustain her comeback on the back or Tiffany Joh hers on the front, that Mika Miyazato, Jee Young Lee, Brittany Lang, and Moira Dunn fell apart at the end of their respective rounds, that Jane Park never got anything going, and that it went even worse for Seon Hwa Lee, Mina Harigae, and Mariajo Uribe (imagine how bad her round would have been if she hadn't snuck that eagle in!). Here's hoping they turn it around today!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Avnet LPGA Classic Update: Grace Park Opens with a 67!!

Grace Park opened the Avnet LPGA Classic going par-par-birdie-eagle and never looked back. Today's 67 is her 1st under-par round of the year and the best number she's put up since last year's ShopRite Classic. Pretty exciting stuff!

How 'bout That Patrick Chan?

Total domination is too lukewarm a phrase to convey Patrick Chan's obliteration of his competition in the ISU World Figure Skating Championships this week in Moscow. We're a loyal Daisuke Takahashi family here in the Constructivist household, but even we have to admit Dai-chan was completely overshadowed by Chan's world-record setting performance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lydia Ko Just Keeps on Winning

Lydia Ko, now 14 as of last Sunday, just denied fellow teenager Cecelia Cho in her bid to make it 3 wins in a row at the New Zealand Women's Amateur Match-Play Championship; now Ko's the youngest-ever winner of the event and holds just about every major amateur title in that corner of the world, including Australia and New Zealand women's stroke-play championships. Keep an eye on this kid!

Avnet LPGA Classic Preview, Pairings, Predictions

With, Hound Dog, and Tony Jesselli already coming through with excellent previews of the Avnet LPGA Classic, and with Tommy Hicks doing his usual amazing job (see his profiles of Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, and Na Yeon Choi), I don't have all that much to add except to say that although moving this event before the JLPGA's Salonpas Cup was a good idea, that move did put it in conflict with a JLPGA event at which Ji-Yai Shin is obligated to defend her title, the CyberAgent Ladies Cup BAD Ladies (great name!) [update: but now they're using the original name!]. Given that this is the only LPGA event in April and there's another big break before the Sybase, I'm actually a little bit surprised that only Shin, Inbee Park, Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, Meena Lee, and Teresa Lu among the dual LPGA/JLPGA members are not making the trip over to Mobile. Kudos to Ai Miyazato, Hee Young Park, Shanshan Feng, and Lindsey Wright for sticking with the LPGA this week! Oh, and it's interesting that Harukyo Nomura was one of the 2 Monday qualifiers for the event, given that Mika Miyazato, who blazed the path for Japanese golfers starting their pro careers on the LPGA, is also in the Avnet field.

Hound Dog's Hot 20 and last year's results should give you a good sense of who's got the best odds of doing well on the Robert Trent Jones-designed Magnolia Grove Crossings course. Me, I'm going to rely on yesterday's Best of the LPGA rankings, which is now much more heavily weighted toward recent results with the addition of a pair of 2011-only systems (including Tony Jesselli's) to my own mash-up of 4 others, to generate my predictions for this week's PakPicker:

1. Tseng
2. Webb
3. Lincicome
4. Creamer
5. Wie
6. Choi Na Yeon
7. Lewis
8. Stanford
9. Pettersen
10. Kerr
11. Yoo
12. Pak Se Ri

Alts: Morgan Pressel, Song-Hee Kim, Lexi Thompson

The 1st-round pairings are a great mix of marquee and up-and-coming groups (former winners at Magnolia Grove are bolded). My top big-name pairings include:

1st tee, 8:29 am: Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford
10th tee, 12:12 pm: Ya Ni Tseng, Karrie Webb, Beatriz Recari
1st tee, 8:40 pm: Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Hee Kyung Seo
1st tee, 8:18 am: Se Ri Pak, Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis
10th tee, 12:01 pm: Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Christina Kim
10th tee, 11:50 am: Stacy Lewis, Sandra Gal, Azahara Munoz
1st tee, 12:23 pm: Na Yeon Choi, Hee Young Park, Eun-Hee Ji
10th tee, 8:51 am: Grace Park, Hee-Won Han, Seon Hwa Lee
1st tee, 8:07 am: Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, Amanda Blumenherst
1st tee, 11:50 am: Mi Hyun Kim, Amy Yang, Sun Young Yoo

My top "no-name" (just kidding, y'all!) pairings include:

1st tee, 12:45 pm: Moira Dunn, Ryann O'Toole, Chella Choi
10th tee, 12:56 pm: Tiffany Joh, Jessica Korda, Kimberly Kim
10th tee, 1:18 pm: Mina Harigae, Mariajo Uribe, Young-A Yang
10th tee, 1:07 pm: Leta Lindley, Jennifer Song, Mindy Kim
1st tee, 7:56 am: Lexi Thompson, Pernilla Lindberg, Stephanie Louden
1st tee, 7:45 am: Alison Walshe, Jaclyn Sweeney, Sara Brown
1st tee, 7:34 am: Cindy LaCrosse, Pornanong Phatlum, Dorothy Delasin

I'll also be keeping an eye on Jane Park (10th tee, 7:12 am), Mika Miyazato (10th tee, 8:18 am), and the dark horse pairings of Maria Hjorth, Shanshan Feng, and Shi Hyun Ahn (10th tee, 12:23 pm) and Song-Hee Kim, Karine Icher, and Amy Hung (1st tee, 12:34 pm). But perhaps my closest focus will be on Jee Young Lee (10th tee, 12:34 pm), who hasn't yet made a cut on the LPGA in 2011 but fired 2 66s here last year on the way to a T4 finish. She played decently in Korea last week, so I'm hoping she's getting over whatever caused her to cut last season so short and start this season so slow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here Are My Picks for Tournament Number Six

The Avnet Classic, tournament number 6 of 24 will be played this week in Mobile, Alabama. It will feature 8 of the top 10 players in the world.

The 2 sponsors exemptions went to Lexi Thompson and Blair O'Neill.

The 2 Monday Qualifiers are Jaclyn Sweeney (shot a 69) and Haru Nomura (shot 70).

Here are my top 10 picks for this week:

1- Paula Creamer - Won the Tournament of Champions on this course in 2007.
2- Morgan Pressel - A short course and she has played well.
3- Yani Tseng - Aren't we required to pick her in the top 3 every week?
4- Song-Hee Kim - She is too good to be kept down for long.
5- Stacy Lewis - Coming off major win.
6- Na Yeon Choi - She finishes in the top 10 every week.
7- Karrie Webb - Has won twice. Will not win this week.
8- Cristie Kerr - It's about time that putter woke up.
9- Suzann Petterson - Much too good not to contend on this course.
10-Lexi Thompson - Her first tournament of the year will be a good one.

As previously explained, this tournament takes on special significance as after two rounds the top 10 finishers not already in the Sybase Classic will qualify for that event. Also at this tournament's end the top 4 players on this year's money list not already qualified for Sybase will get in.

There is no shortage of notable players not playing this event. Those players include Jiyai Shin, I.K. Kim, Inbee Park, Catriona Matthew, Momoko Ueda and Sophie Gustafson.

The strength of field for my player of the year will be only 56% as only 28 of the top 50 players in the world will be playing.

The Best of the LPGA: April 2011 Edition

I finally have time to update my Best of the LPGA ranking from the end of last season! For the 1st time, I'll be adding Tony Jesselli's and Thomas Atkins's rankings (both of which focus exclusively on the 2011 LPGA season) to my usual mash-up of the LPGA money list, the latest Hound Dog Top 70 (which focuses exclusively on LPGA performances and results from 2011 and 2010), and the current Rolex Rankings (which assigns points based on results over the last 104 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour) and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (which ranks players based on relative finishes over the last 52 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour). I'll be using these very different systems to divide LPGA players into tiers, then using my own judgment to rank them within each tier.

Thanks to Ya Ni Tseng's hot start to 2011, we have the 1st (close to) dominant #1 on the LPGA since Lorena Ochoa. Just imagine how big Tseng's lead would have been had she been able to hold on to win the KNC instead of Stacy Lewis! Lewis's win, however, ensures that the girl gang dominating the LPGA keeps growing and growing, even if Ai Miyazato and Song-Hee Kim have dropped back into the lead chase pack.

1. Ya Ni Tseng: #1 money ($570.5K), #1 RR (12.14), #6 GSPI (69.25), #1 HD, #1 TJ (83.68), #2 TA. Let's see, she leads or co-leads the LPGA in top 10s, birdies, birdie rate, scoring average, rounds in the 60s, and rounds under par, which helps explain why she sits atop the money list, the Rolex Rankings, and her LPGA generation--and is tied with Karrie Webb with the most Player of the Year points in 2011. Lewis showed why it's too soon to christen this era the "Tseng Dynasty," but the rest of the LPGA's girl gang is going to have to step it up like she did to deny Tseng a lot more wins.
2. In-Kyung Kim: #5 money ($271.1K), #7 RR (7.75), #5 GSPI (69.14), #6 HD, #4 TJ (54.66), #5 TA. She's the only player besides Tseng to rank in the top 10 in every single system I'm mashing up and the only player on tour to finish in the top 10 in every event she's competed in this season. In fact, she's on a run of 7 top 10s in a row and counting, dating back to last October, plus she's finished in the top 10 in the last 4 majors. So even though she hasn't won since last November at Lorena's tournament, I'm putting her right behind Tseng.
3. Karrie Webb: #2 money ($486.4K), #8 RR (7.12), #11 GSPI (69.91), #10 HD, #3 TJ (72.10), #1 TA. Thanks to her bronze and 2 golds to start the 2011 season, she's already surpassed her winnings over the entire 2010 season. She's already reached #1 in one of the ranking systems I'm using to generate this one. Can she do the same in the others?
4. Cristie Kerr: #9 money ($205.5K), #3 RR (9.11), #4 GSPI (69.12), #2 HD, #12 TJ (32.32), #9 TA. Her missed cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship was a shocker, breaking a run of 10-straight top 20s (6 of which were top 5s). But I expect her to shake it off and get right back to playing great golf.
5. Michelle Wie: #6 money ($258.9K), #9 RR (7.03), #14 GSPI (69.96), #9 HD, #5 TJ (49.64), #8 TA. It's amazing that as a part-timer on the LPGA she's ranked in the top 5 in every system I'm mashing up here but one. And it's even more amazing that she's accomplished that without ever really getting her putter going (relative to how many good birdie chances she's been giving herself, that is; she is averaging 1.77 putts per green in regulation).
6. Ji-Yai Shin: #7 money ($217.1K), #2 RR (9.79), #2 GSPI (69.03), #4 HD, #22 TJ (21.08), #11 TA. She's gotten longer and stronger but is having issues with distance control with her irons and for the 1st time in her career isn't playing all that well on Sundays. It's ironic that a cold putter cost her her 10th career LPGA victory when she's averaging a sizzling 1.75 PPGIR on the season.
7. Morgan Pressel: #8 money ($211.7K), #15 RR (5.13), #8 GSPI (69.69), #12 HD, #6 TJ (49.32), #6 TA. Yes, In-Kyung Kim leapfrogged her to keep her at #4 in her generation, and, yes, she still hasn't followed up her major victory at last year's Salonpas Cup on the JLPGA with any wins on the LPGA, and, yes, she played very very good and horrid golf in the same day at the KNC's final round, but I'm telling you, she is ready to break through in a big way.
8. Paula Creamer: #10 money ($194.1K), #10 RR (6.51), #15 GSPI (69.97), #8 HD, #18 TJ (24.94), #7 TA. Yet another American playing some really good golf to start the 2011 season. She struggled by her high standards at home in California, but she sure loves Alabama. Watch out for her this week!

Consider this grouping the girl gang's junior auxiliary, or something like that. They've racked up 3 top 10s in the 6 systems I'm surveying, either by playing great for a long time or to start the new season.

9. Na Yeon Choi: #14 money ($144.0K), #4 RR (8.87), #1 GSPI (68.92), #3 HD, #16 TJ (27.06), #16 TA. Her T47 at the KNC snapped a 16-event top-20 run that started with her 1 and only missed cut on the LPGA at last year's LPGA Championship. Once she gets her putter going this season, watch out for her. She's #2 in her generation and I expect her to become Tseng's top challenger on tour very soon.
10. Suzann Pettersen: #19 money ($107.0K), #5 RR (8.85), #3 GSPI (69.03), #7 HD, #17 TJ (26.40), #17 TA. Sure, she's extended her top-20 run from last season to 8-straight starts and counting (and has 16 top-25s in a row and counting, too), but the frustration of coming so close so often seems to be taking the fun out of the game for her.
11. Stacy Lewis: #3 money ($371.7K), #14 RR (5.16), #21 GSPI (70.47), #17 HD, #2 TJ (77.08), #3 TA. Who was it who said that "she's ready for a quantum leap in '11." Oh, yeah, that was me! Now that she's gotten a taste of winning on the LPGA, don't expect her to stop any time soon.
12. Sandra Gal: #4 money ($302.4K), #38 RR (2.83), #91 GSPI (72.29), #50 HD, #7 TJ (43.96), #4 TA. How much is beating the Final Round Queen on a Sunday worth? Would you believe a jump up 57 spots from my final 2010 ranking...? Hmmm, sounds like a lot to me, too. But maybe she can keep the great golf rolling. Let's see how soon she can break the $1M barrier in career winnings!

Right behind the contenders for leader of the pack of the LPGA's girl gang is a large lead chase pack with top 10s in at most 2 of the 5 systems and/or top 20s in at least 3 of them.

13. Ai Miyazato: #26 money ($62.2K), #6 RR (7.85), #16 GSPI (70.03), #5 HD, #40 TJ (5.44), #32 TA. Instead of putting together the best of her previous 2 seasons like I predicted (and still believe will happen), she's dealing with a cold putter at the same time she's trying to groove a swing change. Not a fun combination for anyone, but at least she's had plenty of time to practice and turn the pain of Japan's multiple disasters into resolve.
14. Angela Stanford: #11 money ($174.7K), #22 RR (4.08), #20 GSPI (70.43), #16 HD, #9 TJ (38.64), #10 TA. If we can trust's performance stats (which I have serious doubts about), she's worked out the kinks in her irons and is ready to start contending often again. If not, this may be the highest she's ranked all season.
15. Brittany Lincicome: #12 money ($162.7K), #21 RR (4.15), #10 GSPI (69.91), #15 HD, #13 TJ (31.64), #13 TA. This formerly mercurial player hasn't missed a cut since last year's Kia Classic and she's been racking up a lot of top 20s in the past year. She's become a consistently-excellent enough player to start raising expectations, so she was probably severely disappointed by her weak weekend at the KNC. Like Creamer, she's gotta be happy to be leaving California and heading to Alabama--she finished 2nd twice there last season. Let's see what she can do this week and in the weeks to come!
16. Mika Miyazato: #17 money ($118.0K), #19 RR (4.19), #22 GSPI (70.63), #19 HD, #8 TJ (38.70), #18 TA. Speaking of raising expectations, she'll be trying to extend a 7-event LPGA top-20 streak and 12-event top-25 run this week in Alabama. Factor in her gold at the Japan Women's Open and silver at the Ricoh Cup, and she's 1 of the hottest golfers on the planet right now.
17. Amy Yang: #18 money ($109.1K), #25 RR (3.78), #9 GSPI (69.90), #13 HD, #21 TJ (22.30), #15 TA. Another young player who's starting to meet the expectations placed on her--and play as well on the LPGA as she has on the LET.
18. Sun Young Yoo: #13 money ($157.9K), #29 RR (3.46), #28 GSPI (70.90), #18 HD, #14 TJ (30.26), #12 TA. At the end of last season, I asked, "Is she the most underrated player on tour or is she close to peaking?" Her play so far in 2011 has convinced me of the former.
19. Song-Hee Kim: #27 money ($59.4K), #13 RR (5.76), #7 GSPI (69.44), #11 HD, #34 TJ (7.48), #25 TA. It's too soon to tell whether her unexpectedly cold start to the season is just a blip or the 2nd coming of her rookie-year slump. I'm leaning toward the former and don't expect her to sink any lower in these rankings this season.
20. Anna Nordqvist: #20 money ($86.0K), #20 RR (4.16), #27 GSPI (70.83), #21 HD, #20 TJ (23.76), #20 TA. Her 2nd-straight T10 at the KNC leads me to believe she's ready to move from consistently good to consistently better.
21. Inbee Park: #33 money ($50.3K), #11 RR (6.32), #17 GSPI (70.13), #14 HD, #51 TJ (2.72), #35 TA. She's already won on the JLPGA this year, but hasn't been able to play as well on the LPGA.
22. Juli Inkster: #16 money ($118.5K), #36 RR (2.90), #23 GSPI (70.67), #24 HD, #15 TJ (30.20), #14 TA. She's the Energizer Bunny of the LPGA Tour. I don't see any reason for her not to compete in the Solheim Cup if she qualifies on points.

The large number of players with at most 2 top 20s or at least 3 top 30s shows just how closely-packed the top players on the LPGA are. But can the newbies in the top 31 build on their relatively fast starts to 2011?

23. Maria Hjorth: #23 money ($76.0K), #27 RR (3.72), #70 GSPI (71.85), #25 HD, #27 TJ (14.16), #22 TA.
24. Catriona Matthew: #22 money ($82.6K), #34 RR (3.05), #71 GSPI (71.98), #30 HD, #24 TJ (18.66), #29 TA.
25. Katherine Hull: #38 money ($47.7K), #24 RR (4.03), #26 GSPI (70.82), #20 HD, #54 TJ (2.64), #48 TA.
26. Shanshan Feng: #29 money ($54.4K), #69 RR (1.91), #35 GSPI (71.15), #26 HD, #47 TJ (3.96), #24 TA.
27. Sophie Gustafson: #25 money ($62.5K), #40 RR (2.76), #44 GSPI (71.39), #51 HD, #26 TJ (14.20), #28 TA.
28. Katie Futcher: #15 money ($128.6K), #76 RR (1.75), #86 GSPI (72.19), #44 HD, #11 TJ (33.88), #21 TA.
29. Stacy Prammanasudh: #24 money ($66.6K), #87 RR (1.53), #56 GSPI (71.61), #39 HD, #29 TJ (10.20), #23 TA.
30. Mindy Kim: #21 money ($84.3K), #117 RR (1.10), #105 GSPI (72.60), #60 HD, #25 TJ (17.24), #26 TA.
31. Julieta Granada: #32 money ($50.6K), #127 RR (1.03), #183 GSPI (73.82), n.r. HD, #19 TJ (24.60), #86 TA.

The large group with at most 2 top 30s or at least 3 top 40s is ready to pounce if those ahead of them falter.

32. Se Ri Pak: #30 money ($53.3K), #35 RR (3.04), #58 GSPI (71.65), #35 HD, #23 TJ (19.68), #47 TA.
33. Jimin Kang: #34 money ($49.3K), #46 RR (2.55), #37 GSPI (71.15), #23 HD, #42 TJ (4.92), #27 TA.
34. M.J. Hur: #31 money ($52.4K), #50 RR (2.38), #50 GSPI (71.47), #36 HD, #32 TJ (9.24), #31 TA.
35. Hee Kyung Seo: #55 money ($32.5K), #28 RR (3.63), #42 GSPI (71.29), #29 HD, n.r. TJ, #58 TA.
36. Beatriz Recari: #28 money ($55.3K), #51 RR (2.37), #117 GSPI (72.87), #41 HD, #35 TJ (7.34), #37 TA.
37. Karine Icher: #37 money ($48.0K), #59 RR (2.19), #34 GSPI (71.14), #27 HD, #55 TJ (2.64), #38 TA.
38. Kristy McPherson: #35 money ($49.2K), #45 RR (2.59), #55 GSPI (71.58), #37 HD, #52 TJ (2.72), #40 TA.
39. Seon Hwa Lee: #42 money ($42.3K), #77 RR (1.74), #48 GSPI (71.45), #38 HD, #39 TJ (5.72), #34 TA.
40. Momoko Ueda: #39 money ($46.4K), #53 RR (2.28), #73 GSPI (72.08), #40 HD, #57 TJ (2.64), #36 TA.
41. Kyeong Bae: #45 money ($40.1K), #85 RR (1.56), #69 GSPI (71.85), #62 HD, #48 TJ (3.96), #30 TA.
42. Christel Boeljon: #41 money ($43.0K), #102 RR (1.29), #156 GSPI (73.53), n.r. HD, #28 TJ (11.48), #70 TA.
43. Marcy Hart: #40 money ($46.0K), #255 RR (.40), n.r. GSPI (73.89) [not enough events in database], n.r. HD, #30 TJ (10.20), #60 TA.
44. Jee Young Lee: n.r. money ($0), #43 RR (2.63), #32 GSPI (71.12), #22 HD, n.r. TJ, n.r. TA.
45. Jeong Jang: n.r. money ($0), #106 RR (1.27), #29 GSPI (71.01), #45 HD, n.r. TJ, n.r. TA.

There are a lot of young players with at most 2 top 40s and/or at least 3 top 50s:

46. Azahara Munoz: #57 money ($31.6K), #44 RR (2.61), #38 GSPI (71.22), #32 HD, n.r. TJ, #51 TA.
47. Meena Lee: #67 money ($25.3K), #72 RR (1.80), #40 GSPI (71.24), #34 HD, #44 TJ (4.08), #91 TA.
48. Candie Kung: #51 money ($35.2K), #79 RR (1.73), #51 GSPI (71.48), #46 HD, #45 TJ (4.08), #39 TA.
49. Amanda Blumenherst: #36 money ($49.0K), #82 RR (1.59), #93 GSPI (72.29), #66 HD, #36 TJ (6.80), #46 TA.
50. Amy Hung: #53 money ($33.3K), #97 RR (1.40), #36 GSPI (71.15), #43 HD, n.r. TJ, #45 TA.
51. Sarah Jane Smith: #62 money ($27.8K), #112 RR (1.14), #88 GSPI (72.24), #48 HD, #41 TJ (5.28), #44 TA.
52. Hee Young Park: #69 money ($20.9K), #55 RR (2.25), #57 GSPI (71.58), #33 HD, n.r. TJ, #49 TA.
53. Pornanong Phatlum: #50 money ($35.3K), #157 RR (.83), #122 GSPI (72.95), n.r. HD, #31 TJ (9.90), #33 TA.
54. Chella Choi: #48 money ($28.0K), #124 RR (1.05), #81 GSPI (72.17), #70 HD, #37 TJ (6.80), #71 TA.
55. Paige Mackenzie: #49 money ($37.3K), #164 RR (.81), #104 GSPI (72.58), n.r. HD, #38 TJ (6.80), #52 TA.

A good mix of golfers have at most 2 top 50s and/or at least 3 top 60s:

56. Christina Kim: #60 money ($30.3K), #54 RR (2.26), #54 GSPI (71.56), #42 HD, #43 TJ (4.08), #53 TA.
57. Brittany Lang: #59 money ($31.4K), #60 RR (2.16), #66 GSPI (71.79), #47 HD, #46 TJ (3.96), #56 TA.
58. Vicky Hurst: #46 money ($39.3K), #61 RR (2.12), #94 GSPI (72.33), #53 HD, #56 TJ (2.64), #41 TA.
59. Eun-Hee Ji: #58 money ($31.4K), #67 RR (1.95), #49 GSPI (71.47), #57 HD, n.r. TJ, #59 TA.
60. Natalie Gulbis: #44 money ($40.3K), #105 RR (1.28), #62 GSPI (71.74), #58 HD, #58 TJ (2.64), #43 TA.
61. Karen Stupples: #43 money ($41.1K), #93 RR (1.45), #74 GSPI (72.09), #49 HD, n.r. TJ, #65 TA.
62. Meaghan Francella: #47 money ($38.8K), #119 RR (1.10), #75 GSPI (72.11), #64 HD, n.r. TJ, #42 TA.
63. Jennifer Song: #88 money ($7.4K), #116 RR (1.10), #46 GSPI (71.40), n.r. HD, n.r. TJ, #79 TA.
64. Shi Hyun Ahn: #83 money ($9.0K), #120 RR (1.09), #47 GSPI (71.43), #54 HD, n.r. TJ, #94 TA.
65. Wendy Ward: #56 money ($32.1K), #103 RR (1.28), #89 GSPI (72.25), n.r. HD, n.r. TJ, #50 TA.
66. Mina Harigae: #63 money ($25.9K), #145 RR (.91), #97 GSPI (72.41), #63 HD, #49 TJ (3.96), #72 TA.
67. Jenny Shin: #73 money ($15.4K), #263 RR (.38), #82 GSPI (72.18), n.r. HD, #50 TJ (3.96), #99 TA.

A good number of golfers have at most 2 top 60s and/or at least 3 top 70s:

68. Pat Hurst: #54 money ($33.2K), #118 RR (1.10), #110 GSPI (72.71), n.r. HD, #59 TJ (1.32), #61 TA.
69. Alena Sharp: #52 money ($33.9K), #121 RR (1.09), #76 GSPI (72.11), #61 HD, n.r. TJ, #66 TA.
70. Heather Bowie Young: #62 money ($143.0K), #132 RR (1.01), #63 GSPI (71.75), #59 HD, n.r. TJ, #84 TA.
71. Lindsey Wright: #68 money ($24.0K), #81 RR (1.62), #85 GSPI (72.19), #69 HD, n.r. TJ, #63 TA.
72. Laura Davies: #84 money ($8.6K), #52 RR (2.30), #79 GSPI (72.15), #65 HD, n.r. TJ, #81 TA.
73. Na On Min: #101 money ($5.0K), #149 RR (.89), #98 GSPI (72.46), #55 HD, n.r. TJ, n.r. TA.
74. Hee-Won Han: #71 money ($16.8K), #88 RR (1.52), #83 GSPI (72.19), #56 HD, n.r. TJ, n.r. TA.
75. Reilley Rankin: #65 money ($25.8K), #206 RR (.59), #173 GSPI (73.83), n.r. HD, #53 TJ (2.72), #75 TA.
76. Leta Lindley: #61 money ($28.2K), #223 RR (.52), #102 GSPI (72.56), n.r. HD, n.r. TJ, #54 TA.
77. Becky Morgan: #64 money ($25.8K), #174 RR (.77), #130 GSPI (73.01), n.r. HD, n.r. TJ, #57 TA.
78. Stephanie Louden: #72 money ($15.8K), #291 RR (.30), #92 GSPI (72.29), #52 HD, n.r. TJ, #64 TA.

A few players have at most 2 top 70s and/or at least 3 top 80s:

79. Gwladys Nocera: #76 money ($14.1K), #98 RR (1.40), #129 GSPI (73.01), #68 HD, n.r. TJ, #95 TA.
80. Pernilla Lindberg: #70 money ($17.9K), #183 RR (.72), #139 GSPI (73.16), n.r. HD, n.r. TJ, #74 TA.
81. Teresa Lu: n.r. money ($0), #107 RR (1.21), #95 GSPI (72.36), #67 HD, n.r. TJ.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Best of the Young Guns: April 2011 Edition

As we inch closer to the LPGA's 1st and only event of April, the Avnet Classic, let's take another look at my recent rankings of the classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008 in order to update last June's ranking of the Best of the Young Guns generation on the LPGA. I'm doing something a little bit different this time around, creating more categories and taking recent trends more into account than in past rankings. Hopefully this will give a better sense of whose career is on the upswing, whose is stuck in neutral, and whose is on the decline relative to the best of their generation.

Simply the Best

1. Ya Ni Tseng: The best in her generation got off to the best start of anyone in 2011 and at #1 in the Rolex Rankings is the 1st in the post-Ochoa era to actually have a healthy lead on her lead chase pack. Let's see if she comes back from the LPGA's break refreshed and ready to bounce back from losing her 3rd-round lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship to New Blood generation star-in-the-making Stacy Lewis.
2. Na Yeon Choi: She's been chasing Ya Ni Tseng her entire LPGA career and I wouldn't be surprised to see her move up to world #2 in the 1st half of the season. If she can get as motivated by her mere top 50 at the KNC as she was by her missed cut at last year's LPGA Championship, watch out for her the rest of 2011!
3. Ai Miyazato: Sure, she hasn't been putting herself in contention all that often lately, much less winning in bunches like she did in the 1st half of 2010, but she's due for a comeback soon.
4. In-Kyung Kim: She's made almost as much as former #1 in her generation and former #1 player in the Class of 2006 Seon Hwa Lee in 35 fewer LPGA starts and has that much time in which to match or surpass her total of 4 wins, plus she's been playing a lot better than Lee for awhile now, so it's about time she moved up these rankings. Although she doesn't have a major like Morgan Pressel, she's still got 24 more starts to get one, so I'm leapfrogging her ahead of Pressel, too. To move any higher, though, Kim is going to have to convert more good starts to wins.
5. Morgan Pressel: She's off to Japan in early May to defend her Salonpas Cup title, where I expect her to play as well as she has been on the LPGA (fluke disasters in the midst of a Sunday charge at the KNC notwithstanding). She's probably playing the best golf of her career right now.
6. Seon Hwa Lee: She's shown some signs this season of coming out of the 1st real slump of her LPGA career, but it's too soon to tell.

The Contenders

7. Jee Young Lee: She most likely got hurt at the end of last season and hasn't started this season well at all. I wonder if she's still hurt?
8. Song-Hee Kim: Clearly the best player on the LPGA without a win, she's gotten off to a slow start in 2011, too.
9. Eun-Hee Ji: She showed some real signs of life this winter Down Under, so I'm betting she's about ready to fully emerge from under the shadow of her post-U.S. Women's Open jinx.
10. Inbee Park: Although she couldn't make it 3 wins in a row on the JLPGA dating back to their last tournament of last season, she's a threat to win there any time she plays. I'm still waiting for her to play as well on the LPGA.
11. Sun Young Yoo: She's been playing great in 2011 and seems primed to defend her title at the Sybase Match Play Championship in mid-May. May be the most underrated player on the LPGA right now.
12. Amy Yang: She's also been playing great lately and shows no signs of slowing down. Only 4 players in her generation make cuts more regularly than she does and she's finally started posting top 20s and better finishes in bunches. Look out for her in 2011!

Quantum Leap Candidates

13. Brittany Lang: She's fighting for a spot on the 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup team and will need to fight her way out of the 2nd major slump of her LPGA career to do so.
14. Kristy McPherson: She had surgery over the off-season and needs a push to make her 2nd Solheim Cup team, so I'm demoting her to this category for now, as well.
15. Hee Young Park: The Rocket hasn't really taken off yet in 2011, but she's still on pace to catch the Americans in her generation immediately ahead of her this season.
16. Momoko Ueda: Her strategy of dividing her time almost equally between the LPGA and JLPGA has been netting her diminishing returns this season and last--lately she's started missing the cut far too regularly at home. Let's see if she can get the problems with her game ironed out in time for the JLPGA's 1st major of 2011, the Salonpas Cup, in early May, and the 1st LPGA event she'll be playing in a long while, the Sybase Match Play Championship in mid-May.
17. Ji Young Oh: I know, it's a little bit of an insult to put a 2-time LPGA winner so low in this category, but with fewer top 10s and top 20s than virtually everyone ranked ahead of her, and few good recent results, I don't think it's unfair to put her here.
18. Sandra Gal. Her recent win over Ji-Yai Shin and better career made-cut rate leapfrogs her ahead of Shanshan Feng.
19. Shanshan Feng: She's come back from the 2nd slump of her short career and seems to be playing some pretty good golf again, so let's see if she can start racking up more good finishes and putting herself in contention.
20. Jane Park: Let's see if she can get some mo' going with her back apparently healthier this season than it's been in recent years.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

21. Julieta Granada: Yes, her career stats aren't all that terrible (except for her made-cut rate), but even with her top 10 at the KNC, I can't justify putting her in any category but this one.
22. Kyeong Bae: She's off to a solid start in 2011 on the LPGA, but she'll need to improve on it to move up these rankings.
23. Meaghan Francella: Ditto.
24. Teresa Lu: She made the cut at the KNC, but she's spending most of her time this season on the JLPGA (even with their reduced schedule), so I expect to see her fall further behind her peers this year.

On the Outside, Looking In

25. Angela Park: Having lost her LPGA membership and not playing on the Futures Tour or anywhere else I can ascertain, I'm wondering if this former Rookie of the Year's professional career is already over?


For your reference, here's how the top 25 Young Guns stack up, stats-wise.

[Note: *=non-member win (not counted toward other stats).]

1. Ya Ni Tseng, $5.19M (#30), 78/3/6/21/36/54/0/0/3/75 (.962)
2. Ai Miyazato, $4.77M (#33), 116/0/6/14/39/57/1/0/15/100 (.862)
3. Na Yeon Choi, $4.45M (#35), 80/0/4/16/37/57/0/0/1/79 (.988)
4. Seon Hwa Lee, $3.96M (#40), 137/0/4/11/30/60/2/0/11/124 (.905)
5. In-Kyung Kim, $3.95M (#41), 102/0/3/13/38/51/0/0/14/88 (.863)
6. Morgan Pressel, $3.76M (#44), 126/1/2/11/38/62/0/0/13/113 (.897)
7. Song-Hee Kim, $3.36M (#49), 96/0/0/10/34/51/0/0/15/81 (.844)
8. Jee Young Lee, $3.29M (#51), 127/0/1*/9/35/65/5/0/10/112 (.882)
9. Inbee Park, $2.67M (#64), 99/1/1/5/22/32/1/1/19/78 (.788)
10. Brittany Lang, $2.52M (#70), 134/0/0/6/26/50/0/0/28/106 (.791)
11. Sun Young Yoo, $2.48M (#72), 131/0/1/4/18/42/1/0/25/105 (.802)
12. Julieta Granada, $2.32M (#79), 129/0/1/5/11/23/0/1/46/72 (.558)
13. Eun-Hee Ji, $2.30M (#80), 81/1/2/5/15/25/0/3/10/68 (.840)
14. Angela Park, $2.12M (#87), 84/0/0/8/18/25/5/0/18/61 (.726)
15. Kristy McPherson, $1.77M (#100), 95/0/0/4/16/30/0/0/21/74 (.779)
16. Ji Young Oh, $1.49M (#111), 98/0/2/2/8/18/1/0/29/68 (.694)
17. Hee Young Park, $1.49M (#112), 79/0/0/2/16/26/0/0/16/63 (.797)
18. Kyeong Bae, $1.33M (#124), 121/0/0/2/9/20/4/0/33/84 (.694)
19. Amy Yang, $1.24M (#129), 57/0/0/2/10/22/0/0/6/51 (.895)
20. Meaghan Francella, $1.13M (#140), 99/0/1/1/7/15/0/0/31/68 (.687)
21. Teresa Lu, $1.13M (#142), 105/0/0/1/7/22/2/0/23/80 (.762)
22. Momoko Ueda, $1.11M (#145), 58/0/1*/1/7/19/0/0/9/49 (.845)
23. Jane Park, $.99M (#162), 75/0/0/3/6/11/4/0/16/55 (.733)
24. Shanshan Feng, $.93M (#172), 70/0/0/1/9/14/1/0/22/47 (.671)
25. Sandra Gal $.89M (#176), 70/0/1/1/4/17/2/0/16/52 (.743)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Sunday: Kumiko Kaneda's 66 Vaults Her to 1st JLPGA Victory

After 2 days of difficult scoring conditions, a shootout broke out in the final round of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. 21-year-old Kumiko Kaneda, whose best finish ever on the JLPGA was 6th in her rookie year 2 seasons ago, charged out of the gates with a bogey-free 31 and took the lead at -4 when LPGA transplant Young Kim bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes. But when Kaneda's playing partner Saiki Fujita made her 4th birdie of the day in her 1st 10 holes and Yukari Nishiyama her 3rd in 11, Kim had some company 1 shot off the lead. One group ahead of Kaneda and Fujita, Mi-Jeong Jeon, too, had put on a charge with 4-straight birdies mid-way through the front, but dropped 5 off the pace with bogeys on the 13th and 14th. Inbee Park and Akane Iijima, who started the day at E and stayed there through 12 holes of grinding, must have been shocked to find themselves behind 8 other golfers!

What of 1st- and 2nd-round leader Sun-Ju Ahn? Despite a rough start, last year's money-list title-holder was right in the thick of things until a double bogey on the par-4 10th dropped her to +3 on the day, 3 shots behind Kaneda and tied with Akiko Fukushima, Ji-Hee Lee, and Megumi Shimokawa.

With 4 holes to play, then, Kaneda was on the verge of her 1st JLPGA win. But those holes had done in many players before her. 20-year-old Asako Fujimoto had to settle for a 69 after a walkoff bogey made it 2 in her last 5 holes. 21-year-old Megumi Kido bogeyed 2 of her last 4 on the way to her 71. Imagine how awesome Miki Saiki's 72 would have been if she hadn't finished par-double-bogey-bogey. And Julie Lu bogeyed her last 4 holes in a row to turn a 68 into a 72. So how would the much-ballyhooed Kaneda fare down the home stretch? Would she hold off her playing partner, whose 4th-career JLPGA win came last year in the Konica Minolta Cup? Would she beat back the challenge of Kim, whose only career victory since leaving the KLPGA in 2003 came in the 2007 LPGA Corning Classic? Or would she fall to the unheralded Nishiyama, who had made only 2 cuts in her 6 previous JLPGA starts since the 2008 season, her best, a T5, coming only the week before?

Well, she responded to the pressure with birdies on the par-4 15th and par-5 16th to get to -7 on the day and -6 for the tournament, opening up a 2-shot lead on Fujita, who could only birdie the 16th. Despite bogeying the par-3 17th, she extended that lead on her playing partner when Fujita bogeyed the 17th and 18th to finish with a 69 that left her stranded at -2. The next contender to finish was Ji-Hee Lee, but although she passed Fujita to take 2nd place with birdies at 15 and 16 and got to -3 for the week, she couldn't birdie either of the last 2 holes and ended up 2 shots behind Kaneda. Surprisingly, nobody else put up much of a fight down the stretch. Nishiyama imploded with 2 bogeys and a double over her last 5 holes, while Kim made a string of pars until a walkoff bogey dropped her back into a tie for 3rd with Fujita. Ahn followed up her double on the 10th with a bogey on the 13th and a double on the 17th to drop from 1st to T11 with Fukushima, who bogeyed 4 of her last 7 holes to drop from -2 to +2.

So the kid did it! After barely holding onto her card at last year's Q-School, Kumiko Kaneda has her 1st JLPGA victory! Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-5 Kumiko Kaneda (70-75-66)
2nd/-3 Ji-Hee Lee (73-72-68)
T3/-2 Saiki Fujita (71-74-69), Young Kim (72-69-73)
T5/+1 Asako Fujimoto (73-75-69), Shiho Oyama (73-73-71), Yukari Baba (72-74-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-76-72), Megumi Shimokawa (70-75-72), Yukari Nishiyama (69-75-73)

T11/+2 Akiko Fukushima (74-71-73), Bo-Bae Song (71-73-74), Sun-Ju Ahn (68-72-78)
T14/+3 Megumi Kido (71-77-71), Miki Saiki (71-76-72), Inbee Park (72-72-75)
T17/+4 Esther Lee (75-75-70), Ayako Uehara (74-74-72), Na-Ri Kim (74-74-72), Julie Lu (73-75-72), Chie Arimura (74-73-73), Akane Iijima (71-73-76)
T27/+5 Sakura Yokomine (76-71-74), Eun-A Lim (76-70-75), Hiromi Mogi (75-71-75), Shinobu Moromizato (70-75-76)
T31/+6 Lala Anai (74-75-73)
T33/+7 Maiko Wakabayashi (71-77-75)
T36/+8 Teresa Lu (75-75-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (71-79-74), Mie Nakata (76-72-76), Yumiko Yoshida (75-71-78), Miho Mori [a] (75-73-76)
T44/+9 Miki Sakai (74-76-75), Ritsuko Ryu (73-77-75), Hee Young Park (72-75-76)
T49/+10 Rui Kitada (76-74-76), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-76-76)
51st/ +11 Ji-Woo Lee (74-76-77)

With everyone previously ahead of her on the JLPGA money list either outplayed, struggling, or idle, Kaneda vaults from 13th to 1st!

1. Kumiko Kaneda ¥17.99M
2. Inbee Park ¥16.51M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥13.88M
4. Ji-Hee Lee ¥10.93M
5. Yukari Baba ¥8.82M
6. Miki Saiki ¥8.24M
7. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.26M
8. Saiki Fujita ¥6.88M
9. Ji-Woo Lee ¥6.66M
10. Young Kim ¥5.64M
11. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥5.30M
12. Bo-Mee Lee ¥5.20M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥4.93M
14. Asako Fujimoto ¥4.77M
15. Ji-Yai Shin ¥4.51M
16. Shinobu Moromizato ¥4.50M
17. Rikako Morita ¥4.17M
18. Akiko Fukushima ¥3.84M
19. Shiho Oyama ¥3.75M
20. Chie Arimura ¥3.71M
21. Megumi Shimokawa ¥2.97M
22. Yukari Nishiyama ¥2.67M
23. Akane Iijima ¥2.66M
24. Rui Kitada ¥2.64M
25. Hiromi Mogi ¥2.61M
26. Lala Anai ¥2.57M
27. Sakura Yokomine ¥2.57M
28. Momoko Ueda ¥2.40M
29. Na-Rim Kim ¥2.34M
30. Mie Nakata ¥2.16M

The JLPGA moves on to Chiba Prefecture with the CyberAgent Ladies next week. Ji-Yai Shin is the defending champion, but with no field list on the JLPGA or CyberAgent sites, I can't verify who's in it. More when I know!

[Update 1 (5:40 am): Kaneda has already blogged about her win!]

[Update 2< (4/25/11, 2:02 pm): Here's bangkokbobby's tournament overview!]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Way to Go, Lydia Ko!

Mostly Harmless regulars will remember 13-year-old Lydia Ko from her 1-shot loss to Caroline Hedwall early in the ALPG season and her T4 a few weeks later in the New Zealand Ladies Open. Well, Ko just became the 1st golfer in history to win the Australia and New Zealand stroke-play women's amateur championships in the same year when she beat fellow teenager and arch-rival Cecelia Cho by 9 shots yesterday. So happy 14th birthday tomorrow, Ms. Ko!

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Saturday: Sun-Ju Ahn Holds onto Lead in Terrible Scoring Conditions

On a day when only a handful of players could manage to get into red numbers today at the Fujisankei Ladies Classic and it seemed like most of the field failed to break 75, 1st-round leader Sun-Ju Ahn made 4 birdies and 4 bogeys to remain at -4, which was just good enough for a 1-shot lead on LPGA transplant Young Kim, who opened with a bogey-free 32 to get to -4 but bogeyed her final hole of the day for a 37 on the back. Akiko Fukushima's 71 brought her within 5 of Ahn's lead, while Sakura Yokomine was the only other big-name player to break par, although her 71 moved her only into the top 25, 7 off the pace.

But at least Yokomine made the cut, which is more than Momoko Ueda, Miho Koga, Yuko Mitsuka, and defending champion Mayu Hattori can say. Ueda shot a birdieless 74, which doesn't sound that bad--until you realize she made 2 bogeys in her last 5 holes of the week on the front to miss the cut by a single shot. Koga, playing the front last as well, eagled a short par-5 midway through but joined Ueda with a bogey on her next-to-last hole. Mitsuka went 72-80 and it wasn't even the most painful fall from grace--Meena Lee went 70-81! Meanwhile, Li-Ying Ye birdied 3 of her last 4 holes of the day on the front side, too, but also came up 1 shot shy of playing tomorrow.

Take a look at the general carnage in round 2:

1st/-4 Sun-Ju Ahn (68-72)
2nd/-3 Young Kim (72-69)
3rd/-1 Kaori Yamamoto (72-71)
T4/E Inbee Park (72-72), Bo-Bae Song (71-73), Akane Iijima (71-73), Yukari Nishiyama (69-75)
T8/+1 Akiko Fukushima (74-71), Ji-Hee Lee (73-72), Saiki Fujita (71-74), Shinobu Moromizato (70-75), Kumiko Kaneda (70-75), Megumi Shimokawa (70-75), Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-76)

T15/+2 Eun-A Lim (76-70), Hiromi Mogi (75-71), Yumiko Yoshida (75-71), Shiho Oyama (73-73), Yukari Baba (72-74)
T21/+3 Sakura Yokomine (76-71), Chie Arimura (74-73), Hee Young Park (72-75), Miki Saiki (71-76)
T26/+4 Mie Nakata (76-72), Miho Mori [a] (75-73), Ayako Uehara (74-74), Na-Ri Kim (74-74), Asako Fujimoto (73-75), Julie Lu (73-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-77), Megumi Kido (71-77)
T37/+5 Lala Anai (74-75)
T45/+6 Rui Kitada (76-74), Teresa Lu (75-75), Esther Lee (75-75), Ji-Woo Lee (74-76), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-76), Miki Sakai (74-76), Ritsuko Ryu (73-77), Hyun-Ju Shin (71-79)

MC: Li-Ying Ye (79-72), Miho Koga (78-73), Momoko Ueda (77-74), Yuki Ichinose (73-78), Meena Lee (70-81), Mayu Hattori (79-73), So-Hee Kim (76-76), Miki Uehara (76-76), Yuko Mitsuka (72-80), Kaori Aoyama (77-76), Jae-Hee Bae (76-77), Rikako Morita (76-78), Na-Ri Lee (76-78), Kaori Ohe (76-78), Yun-Jye Wei (81-74), Mika Takushima (79-76), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-81), Erina Hara (73-82), Pei-Ying Tsai (78-78), Yeo-Jin Kang (78-79), Hiroko Ayada (78-80), Tao-Li Yang (81-79), Hiromi Takesue (77-83), Mai Arai (84-80)

WD: Soo-Yun Kang (80-WD)

At this rate, anyone under par at the end of the day tomorrow has a great chance to win this one! Let's see if someone like Yokomine or Jeon can fight back from earlier stumbles, or if Ahn can hang on and make her 1st win of 2011 a wire-to-wire one.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Major News: Pressel at JLPGA's Salonpas Cup, Thompson at Wegmans LPGA Championship

With the weather remaining so wet and spring taking so long to take hold here in Western NY, it's great to hear some great news about upcoming majors in women's golf. Steve DiMeglio reports that Morgan Pressel has pledged half her winnings at her title defense in the JLPGA's 1st major of 2011, the Salonpas Cup in May, while James Johnson reports that Lexi Thompson has accepted a sponsor invitation into the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June.

Looking at the field list for the JLPGA major, it'll be interesting to see if recent Rolex #1s Ji-Yai Shin and Ai Miyazato can put together 4 good rounds, if Na Yeon Choi and Mika Miyazato can continue their hot play, or if Chie Arimura, Yukari Baba, and Sun-Ju Ahn will lead their fellow JLPGAers to the top of this year's leaderboard. Still waiting on more news on the field in Rochester--will pass it along when I find out!

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Friday: Sun-Ju Ahn Takes Her 1st Lead of 2011

The JLPGA's 2010 money-list title-holder, Sun-Ju Ahn, took her 1st lead of 2011 with a 5-birdie 68 at the 30th playing of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. With names like Mi-Jeong Jeon 1 back, Shinobu Moromizato and Meena Lee 2 back, Bo-Bae Song, Hyun-Ju Shin, and Miki Saiki 3 back, and Inbee Park, Yukari Baba, Young Kim, Hee Young Park, and Yuko Mitsuka 4 back, Ahn's lead is by no means secure. But almost as big a story as Ahn and her lead chase pack is how badly former money-list title-holders fared today. Sakura Yokomine opened with a 6-bogey 76, Momoko Ueda had a 2-double, 5-bogey 77, and Miho Koga made fewer birdies on her way to a 2-double, 3-bogey 78. It's only the 3rd tournament of the JLPGA season, so it's way too soon to hit the panic button, but it is a trend worth noticing. Even worse, defending champion Mayu Hattori didn't make a birdie all day, closed with a double bogey, and barely broke 80!

Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into moving day:

1st/-4 Sun-Ju Ahn (68)
T2/-3 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yukari Nishiyama (69)
T4/-2 Shinobu Moromizato, Meena Lee, Kumiko Kaneda, Megumi Shimokawa (70)
T8/-1 Bo-Bae Song, Hyun-Ju Shin, Miki Saiki, Akane Iijima, Saiki Fujita, Maiko Wakabayashi, Megumi Kido, Yui Mukaiyama, Nachiyo Ohtani (71)

T17/E Inbee Park, Yukari Baba, Young Kim, Hee Young Park, Yuko Mitsuka (72)
T26/+1 Ji-Hee Lee, Shiho Oyama, Asako Fujimoto, Yuki Ichinose, Ritsuko Ryu, Erina Hara, Julie Lu (73)
T37/+2 Chie Arimura, Akiko Fukushima, Ayako Uehara, Na-Ri Kim, Ji-Woo Lee, Ah-Reum Hwang, Miki Sakai, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Lala Anai (74)
T52/+3 Teresa Lu, Hiromi Mogi, Esther Lee, Miho Mori [a] (75)
T62/+4 Sakura Yokomine, Mie Nakata, Rikako Morita, Eun-A Lim, So-Hee Kim, Na-Ri Lee, Jae-Hee Bae, Kaori Ohe, Miki Uehara (76)
T76/+5 Momoko Ueda, Kaori Aoyama, Hiromi Takesue (77)
T86/+6 Miho Koga, Pei-Ying Tsai, Yeo-Jin Kang, Hiroko Ayada (78)
T91/+7 Mayu Hattori, Li-Ying Ye, Mika Takushima (79)
T98/+8 Soo-Yun Kang (80)
T101/+9 Yun-Jye Wei, Tao-Li Yang (81)
T107/+12 Mai Arai (84)

It was a round of could-have-beens for several players. Jeong birdied 3 of her last 4 holes and 4 of her last 7, but a bogey on the 17th kept her from co-leader status. Park had 2 doubles and closed with 2 bogeys in a row, while Baba suffered a walkoff double, so imagine how good their 72s might have been! Oyama opened with a bogey-free 33 but stumbled home with a double and a triple on the back. 19-year-old Riho Yamaguchi went 35-45 in her 1st-ever round on the JLPGA. Let's face it, golf is cruel and the course usually wins. But let's wait and see who can avoid moving backwards tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Player of the Year Rankings.

After reading Hound Dog's Top 70 I figured it was time to publish mine. The big difference between his and mine is that I use results of 2011 tournaments only.

My Player Rankings are based on the following:

1- Only players that finish in the top 20 of a tournament receive points. 40 points are awarded for finishing 1st, 20 for finishing 2nd, 19 for 3rd, 18 for finishing 4th, 17 for 5th all the way down to 2 for finishing 20th.

2- The points are then multiplied by the strength of field. Strength of field is determined by the number of players teeing it up that week in the top 50 of the current Rolex World Rankings. If 35 of the top 50 are playing then the the winner of that event would get 28 points (40 X 70%).

3- Points are doubled for major championships.

After the first 5 tournaments of the year here are the 61 players that have at least one top-20 finish.

1- Yani Tseng - 83.68 Points
2- Stacy Lewis - 77.08
3- Karrie Webb - 72.10
4- I.K. Kim - 54.66
5- Michelle Wie - 49.64
6- Morgan Pressel 49.32
7- Sandra Gal - 43.96
8- Mika Miyazato - 38.70
9- Angela Stanford 38.64
10-Chie Arimura - 38.20
11-Katie Futcher - 33.88
12-Cristie Kerr - 32.32
13-Brittany Lincicome - 31.64
14-Sun Young Yoo - 30.26
15-Juli Inkster - 30.20
16-Na Yeon Choi - 27.06
17-Suzanne Pettersen - 26.40
18-Paula Creamer - 24.94
19-Julieta Granada - 24.60
20-Anna Nordqvist - 23.76
21-Amy Yang - 22.30
22-Jiyai Shin - 21.08
23-Se Ri Pak - 19.68
24-Catriona Matthew - 18.66
25-Mindy Kim - 17.24
26-Sophie Gustafson - 14.20
27-Maria Hjorth - 14.16
28-Christel Boeljon - 11.48
29-Stacy Prammanasudh - 10.20
30-Marcy Hart - 10.20
31-Pornanong Phatlum - 9.90
32-M.J. Hur - 9.24
33-Ariya Jutanugarn - 9.24
34-Song Hee Kim - 7.48
35-Beatriz Recari - 7.34
36-Amanda Blumenherst - 6.80
37-Chella Choi - 6.80
38-Paige Mackenzie - 6.80
39-Seon Hwa Lee - 5.72
40-Ai Miyazato - 5.44
41-Sarah Jane Smith - 5.28
42-Jimin Kang - 4.92
43-Christina Kim - 4.08
44-Meena Lee -4.08
45-Candie Kung - 4.08
46-Brittany Lang - 3.96
47-Shanshan Feng - 3.96
48-Kyeong Bae - 3.96
49-Mina Harigae - 3.96
50-Jenny Shin - 3.96
51-Inbee Park - 2.72
52-Kristy McPherson - 2.72
53-Reilly Rankin - 2.72
54-Katherine Hull - 2.64
55-Karine Icher - 2.64
56-Vicky Hurst - 2.64
57-Momoko Ueda - 2.64
58-Natalie Gulbis - 2.64
59-Pat Hurst - 1.32
60-Samantha Richdale - 1.32
61- Jean Reynolds - 1.32

Here is what the stregnth of field was for the 5 tournaments:

Honda Classic 66% (33 of the current week's top 50)
HSBC 68%
Founders Cup 44% (only 22 of the top 50 played)
Kia Classic 68%
Kraft Nabisco 164% (41 of the top 50 played, percentage doubled for major tournament)

As you can see strength of schedule plays a big factor. Paula Creamer finished 2nd at the Founders Cup but only received 8.80 points (20 points X 44% Strength of field). On the other hand, Katie Futcher finished 3rd at the year's first Major and received 31.16 points (19 points X 82% Strength of field, doubled for major)

The following notable players have yet to finish in the top 20 this year and currently are pointless:

Jee Young Lee, Azahara Munoz, Hee Young Park and Gwladys Nocera.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As the World Turns II

Here's the second installment of my irregular Mostly Harmless feature, As the World Turns.

Woods Wins! Woods Wins! Woods Wins! Woods Wins! Cheyenne, not Tiger. And it was a big one: the ACC Championship. She's now the highest-ranked player on the Wake Forest women's golf team, at #25 one spot ahead of teammate Natalie Sheary. She's also moved up 3 dozen spots to #41 in the R&A's Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking and tied for 47th in Golfweek/'s latest ranking of women amateurs. For some context, check out my previous posts on Woods's development as an amateur golfer. If she can keep developing her game as Stacy Lewis did over her collegiate career at Arkansas, Woods may yet have a bright LPGA future ahead of her.

The Year of the Americans? Speaking of Lewis, Shane Bacon deserves a lot of credit for predicting an American win at the 1st major of the year, the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship, but I think he went too far to call this American domination. Let's face, it, Tseng had trouble with her distance control in the winds and couldn't get her putter going, either; most of Lewis's top competition had shot themselves out of the tournament in the 1st 3 rounds; Morgan Pressel had more disasters than Rory McIlroy at Amen Corner; Angela Stanford charged like Tiger on the front 9 on Sunday at Augusta but fizzled like him, too; Michelle Wie putted like Tiger on the back 9; and Katie Futcher leapfrogged Chie Arimura and Mika Miyazato, who had great chances for great finishes but ended up logging final-round 74s that dropped them to T7. So, yes, let's celebrate 5 Americans in the top 6 at Mission Hills, and yes, Lewis earned her win by facing down the #1 player in the world of women's golf, but let's not make too much of this!

Knocking on the Door. Have you noticed who has multiple wins on the women's world developmental tours? Sure, big names have won co-sponsored events with major tours, so it's no surprise Ya Ni Tseng leads with 3. Or that LPGA/ALPG member Katherine Hull won twice at home this winter. But did you know that Chella Choi is tearing it up in Florida, Joy Trotter in Phoenix, and, most impressive of all, Ryann O'Toole has won on both the ALPG and Futures Tour? Well, now you do.

Recommended Reading. If you haven't been reading Fairways and Forehands every day, you've been missing out on bangkokbobby's awesome photoblogging on golf and tennis. The guy's a dynamo! Speaking of dynamos, Hound Dog and tatkins at Hound Dog LPGA have been electrifying the intertubes with their powerful statistical analyses. I'm still swamped at work, so don't expect too much from me in the next few days. But check these guys out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Race to the Solheim Cup.

As we near the middle of a three-week LPGA break, I don’t think it is too early to take a look at who may and may not be on the 2011 Solheim Cup team. The Solheim cup will be played September 23rd through 25th at Killeen Castle in Ireland.

The United States team will be captained by Rosie Jones, who has appointed Julie Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer as her assistant captains. The United States has won the last 3 Cups but with this one being played on foreign soil, it figures to be a real challenge.

United States players accumulate points by finishing in the top 20 of an LPGA tournament. The higher you finish, the more points you get. Players started accumulating points in August of 2009 and will continue to do so through the Safeway Classic in August of this year. Points are increased for the tournaments played this year by 50% to put a special emphasis on the players who are hot going into the event. Points are doubled for all four major championships. The top 10 players are in automatically. The Captain gets to add 2 players of her choice.

There are just 10 more events before the cut-off, so let's take a look at how it stands to date:

1. Cristie Kerr – 522 points
2. Morgan Pressel – 344
3. Michelle Wie – 323.5
4. Angela Stanford 294.5
5. Stacy Lewis 290.5
6. Paula Creamer 260.5
7. Brittany Lincicome 244.00

The above 7 players appear to be a lock to make the team. The only newcomer who was not on the last team would be Stacy Lewis. Paula Creamer, the top point earner the last time this event was played, has earned her position in spite of missing a good part of 2010 after thumb surgery.

Now it gets interesting, as the following players are battling for the last 3 automatic spots:

8. Juli Inkster – 163
9. Brittany Lang – 159.5
10. Christina Kim – 137
11. Kristy McPherson – 130
12. Vicky Hurst – 108
13. Katie Futcher – 85
14. Stacy Prammanasudh – 67
15. Amanda Blumenherst – 63
16. Natalie Gulbis – 59
17. Wendy Ward – 59

No other player with points would seem to be a threat as of this writing.
Inkster had said last year that she would not participate again as a player. She seems to be having second thoughts now. Her Solheim Cup record is a very excellent 15-10-6.

Here are some of the other players who have had various degrees of success:

Paula Creamer 8-2-4 (has never lost a singles match)
Christina Kim 5-2-1
Michelle Wie 3-0-1 (a fabulous rookie debut)
Morgan Pressel 3-2-2
Natile Gulbis 5-4-1
Brittany Lang 1-0-2

And now the players who have not been as successful:

Cristie Kerr 9-10-2
Brittany Lincicome 2-4-1
Kristy McPherson 1-3-0
Angela Stanford 3-4-3

As you can see, if the top 10 remains the same and Inkster decides to play, picking two names off this list will be difficult.

McPherson, who has the next highest points total, has not fared well in the past and is not currently playing very well.

Hurst and Blumenherst are very erratic and need to step it up quickly to get considered.

I’m not sure anyone knew who Futcher was until her 3rd-place finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Does Jones pick Gulbis because of her experience and previous success in this event?

The answers to these questions will slowly unfold in the months to come, though I will tell you this, I’m glad I am not the one who has to make the upcoming difficult decisions.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nishijin Ladies Classic Sunday: Yuri Fudoh Gets JLPGA Win #49 in Playoff

While Ryo Ishikawa was turning a 1-shot deficit after 3 rounds of the Token Homemate Cup into a 3-shot loss and 3rd-place finish in his first JGTO event of 2011, Yuri Fudoh, the JLPGA's living legend and only Billion Yen Woman in its history, was losing an early 3-shot lead in the Nishijin Ladies Classic and fighting back to join and win a 3-way playoff with a birdie on the 1st extra hole that dispatched Ji-Woo Lee and Yukari Baba. Her 3rd win in Kumamoto and 49th of her career was quite the roller coaster: 1st, she fired off 3 birdies in her 1st 5 holes and got to -8, then she lost it with a bogey-par-bogey-double bogey run as she made the turn to fall to -4, and finally, as competitors were making runs at her--last year's JLPGA money-list title-holder Sun-Ju Ahn birdied 4 of her last 6 holes to fall 1 shot shy of the playoff when she failed to birdie the short par-5 18th, Yukari Baba played her last 14 holes bogey-free and birdied 3 of her last 6 holes, the last one on the final hole of regulation, to get into the playoff, and 1st-round leader and 2nd-round co-leader Ji-Woo Lee avoided making a bogey in her last 12 holes and birdied the par-4 17th to enter the playoff--Fudoh bounced back with birdies on the par-5 11th and par-3 16th to offset her bogey on the par-4 14th and fight back to -5, which got her into the playoff, as well.

For all the action at the top of the leaderboard, few players close to the lead after 36 holes were able to join in the fun. Yes, Shinobu Moromizato was right in the mix until she bogeyed the 17th to close with a disappointing 37 and finish 1 shot out of the playoff, spoiling her best chance for her 1st win since 2009. And it was a bogey on the 14th that did in Ji-Hee Lee's chances to enter the playoff. But at least they were in the arena. Chie Arimura, one of the hottest players in the world of women's golf, was utterly cold today, making 17 pars and 1 bogey to end the tournament at -3. Ji-Yai Shin, the Final Round Queen, opened with a 40 on the front to fall from -3 to +1, where she stayed. Inbee Park, playing in a title defense and looking for her 3rd straight win on the JLPGA dating back to the end of last season, could manage only an anemic 71 to also end the tournament 6 shots off the pace. And 2009 money-list title-holder and #2 golfer on the JLPGA in 2010 Sakura Yokomine needed a birdie on the 17th to salvage a 75 and a top-25 finish. (Let's not even talk about Yuko Mitsuka and Teresa Lu.) It was up to Mi-Jeong Jeon, Na-Ri Kim, and Hee Young Park to make charges from back in the pack, but despite shooting a bogey-free 68, Jeon couldn't made another birdie after she got to -2 with her 4th in her 1st 8 holes, Kim needed 3 birdies in her last 5 holes just to post her 69 and fight back to E for the week, and Park's bogey-free 69 was too little, far too late after barely making the cut following an opening 79 from last year's JLPGA Q-School medallist. In the end, it was up to the JLPGA's money-list title-holder from 2000 through 2005 to show the youngsters how to finish a tournament.

1st/-5 Yuri Fudoh (70-69-72) [won in playoff]
T2/-5 Yukari Baba (68-72-71), Ji-Woo Lee (66-73-72)
T4/-4 Sun-Ju Ahn (70-72-70), Ji-Hee Lee (68-73-71), Shinobu Moromizato (74-66-72)
T7/-3 Rui Kitada (72-70-71), Chie Arimura (71-69-73)
T9/-2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-72-68), Asako Fujimoto (73-68-73)

T11/-1 Yeo-Jin Kang (76-66-73)
T12/E Na-Ri Kim (76-71-69), Kumiko Kaneda (74-71-71), Yuki Ichinose (73-71-72)
T15/+1 Mayu Hattori (75-71-71), Inbee Park (71-75-71), Li-Ying Ye (72-72-72), Na-Ri Lee (70-75-72), Ji-Yai Shin (71-70-76)
T20/+2 Hee Young Park (79-70-69), Hiromi Mogi (75-69-74), Maiko Wakabayashi (74-70-74)
T25/+3 Bo-Bae Song (73-73-73), Sakura Yokomine (75-69-75)
T27/+4 Akane Iijima (75-73-72), Kaori Ohe (74-73-73), Rikako Morita (75-70-75), Pei-Ying Tsai (72-73-75), Jae-Hee Bae (73-71-76)
T33/+5 Kaori Aoyama (76-71-74)
T35/+6 Shiho Oyama (78-71-73), Teresa Lu (71-75-76), Yuko Mitsuka (73-71-78)
41st/+8 Saiki Fujita (75-73-76)
T42/+9 So-Hee Kim (74-73-78), Mie Nakata (73-74-78)
T46/+10 Mika Takushima (74-73-79)

With so many players who did well in Okinawa to kick off the season either skipping or missing the cut in Kumamoto, the JLPGA money list is pretty bunched:

1. Inbee Park ¥15.31M
2. Yuri Fudoh ¥13.88M
3. Miki Saiki ¥7.04M
4. Ji-Woo Lee ¥6.32M
5. Yukari Baba ¥6.15M
6. Bo-Bae Song ¥5.82M
7. Bo-Mee Lee ¥5.20M
8. Ji-Yai Shin ¥4.51M
9. Rikako Morita ¥4.17M
10. Ji-Hee Lee ¥3.89M
11. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥3.86M
12. Shinobu Moromizato ¥3.83M
13. Kumiko Kaneda ¥3.59M
14. Chie Arimura ¥2.90M
15. Akiko Fukushima, Momoko Ueda ¥2.40M
17. Rui Kitada ¥2.28M
18. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥2.26M
19. Asako Fujimoto ¥2.10M
20. Hiromi Mogi, Lala Anai ¥1.95M
22. Sakura Yokomine ¥1.90M
23. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥1.86M
24. Akane Iijima ¥1.85M
25. Saiki Fujita ¥1.68M
26. Mie Nakata ¥1.65M
27. Yuki Ichinose ¥1.55M
28. Na-Ri Kim ¥1.52M
29. Na-Ri Lee ¥1.44M
30. Junko Omote ¥1.36M

Let's see how LPGAers (or ex-LPGAers) Inbee Park, Momoko Ueda, Hee Young Park, Shanshan Feng, Shiho Oyama, Young Kim, Meena Lee, Soo-Yun Kang, Na-Ri Kim, and Onnarin Sattyabnphot do in the 30th playing of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic next week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nishijin Ladies Classic Saturday: Yuri Fudoh Catches Ji-Woo Lee, Barely Ahead of a Crowd

Yuri Fudoh birdied 3 of her last 6 holes in the 2nd round of the Nishijin Ladies Classic to catch struggling 1st-round leader Ji-Woo Lee at -5 and join her 1 shot ahead of Chie Arimura, Shinobu Moromizato, and Yukari Baba, and 2 shots up on Ji-Yai Shin, Ji-Hee Lee, and Asako Fujimoto. Moromizato shared low round of the day honors with Yeo-Jin Kang, as each replicated Lee's 7-birdie 66 from the 1st round, while the 20-year-old Fujimoto birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to catch the world #2 and one of the most successful golfers in JLPGA history. Still, with a total of 18 players--including Sakura Yokomine, Sun-Ju Ahn, and Yuko Mitsuka--within 5 shots of the lead, I wouldn't be surprised if the eventual winner makes a charge from well back at the start of the final round.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand after 36 holes of golf in Kumamoto:

T1/-5 Yuri Fudoh (70-69), Ji-Woo Lee (66-73)
T3/-4 Shinobu Moromizato (74-66), Chie Arimura (71-69), Yukari Baba (68-72)
T6/-3 Asako Fujimoto (73-68), Ji-Yai Shin (71-70), Ji-Hee Lee (68-73)
T9/-2 Yeo-Jin Kang (76-66), Rui Kitada (72-70), Sun-Ju Ahn (70-72)

T12/E Sakura Yokomine (75-69), Hiromi Mogi (75-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (74-70), Yuko Mitsuka (73-71), Yuki Ichinose (73-71), Jae-Hee Bae (73-71)
T19/+1 Rikako Morita (75-70), Kumiko Kaneda (74-71), Li-Ying Ye (72-72), Pei-Ying Tsai (72-73), Na-Ri Lee (70-75)
T25/+2 Mayu Hattori (75-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-72), Bo-Bae Song (73-73), Inbee Park (71-75), Teresa Lu (71-75)
T32/+3 Na-Ri Kim (76-71), So-Hee Kim (74-73), Kaori Ohe (74-73), Mika Takushima (74-73), Kaori Aoyama (76-71), Mie Nakata (73-74),
T40/+4 Akane Iijima (75-73), Saiki Fujita (75-73)
T47/+5 Hee Young Park (79-70), Shiho Oyama (78-71)

MC: Esther Lee (77-73), Akiko Fukushima (76-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-75), Ah-Reum Hwang (75-75), Julie Lu (75-75), Miki Saiki (77-74), Miki Sakai (75-76), Nikki Campbell (74-77), Soo-Yun Kang (74-77), Ritsuko Ryu (73-78), Momoko Ueda (81-71), Ayako Uehara (80-72), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (79-73), Yuki Sakurai (77-75), Tamie Durdin (74-78), Yun-Jye Wei (77-76), Miho Koga (75-78), Young Kim (78-76), Riko Higashio (78-76), Erina Hara (77-77), Eun-A Lim (74-80), Hiromi Takesue (77-78), Miki Uehara (79-79), Ai-Yu Tu (83-76)

I'm curious to see if Arimura, who's played great in her 2 LPGA starts this season, can take the title in her 2nd JLPGA start of the year away from the JLPGA's one and only Billion Yen Woman. Or will Moromizato bounce back from an off-year with her 1st win since her 6-win season in 2009? Perhaps Shin will live up to her Final Round Queen nickname? All I know is that 3 bogeys in her last 4 holes today make it very unlikely that Inbee Park will extend her JLPGA winning streak to 3 events tomorrow, but at least she has a fighting chance. With the quality and quantity of players missing the cut this week, I'm wondering if the JLPGA ought to extend its cut line to the top 60 and ties rather than top 50 in the field each week. 10 more notables would have been among the 68 players going on to the final round under that system.

[Update 1 (5:05 am): Interesting that Bo Mee Lee, He Yong Choi, and Ji Na Lim chose to play on the KLPGA this week. For more on what to expect on that tour this season, check out Happy Fan's awesome preview.]

[Update 2 (10:10 am): As always, head on over to Golf Digest Online for the consistently best coverage of the JLPGA in Japanese. Once I get home from the girls' Japanese school and Japan Day festivities/fundraising, I'll try to pass along some of the best tidbits.]

[Update 3 (10:11 am): I should mention that Inbee Park is not only trying for her 3rd straight win on the JLPGA, but it also looking to defend her title. Las year's final round was amazing. Hope this year's is as dramatic!]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nishijin Ladies Classic Friday: Ji-Woo Lee Leads with 66

Before 4 JLPGA tournaments were cancelled due to the ongoing effects of Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, before this week's Nishijin Ladies Classic was renamed the East Earthquake Reconstruction Charity Classic, and right after Inbee Park won the 1st event of the 2011 season to follow up on her Ricoh Cup win to close out the 2010 season, the focus of many in the Japanese media--and seemingly, at the upper reaches of the JLPGA itself--was on the increasing success of international golfers in Japan. Well, it's looking like that "Korean Power Wave" is picking up right where it left off. Ji-Woo Lee fired a 7-birdie 66 to take a 2-shot lead on Ji-Hee Lee and Yukari Baba. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, eh? But take a look further down the leaderboard and you'll see what I mean:

1st/-6 Ji-Woo Lee (66)
T2/-4 Ji-Hee Lee, Yukari Baba (68)
T4/-2 Yuri Fudoh, Sun-Ju Ahn, Na-Ri Lee (70)
T7/-1 Ji-Yai Shin, Chie Arimura, Inbee Park, Teresa Lu, Megumi Shimokawa (71)

T12/E Rui Kitada, Li-Ying Ye, Pei-Ying Tsai (72)
T17/+1 Yuko Mitsuka, Bo-Bae Song, Mie Nakata, Asako Fujimoto, Yuki Ichinose, Ritsuko Ryu, Jae-Hee Bae (73)
T26/+2 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shinobu Moromizato, Nikki Campbell, Tamie Durdin, Soo-Yun Kang, So-Hee Kim, Eun-A Lim, Maiko Wakabayashi, Kumiko Kaneda, Kaori Ohe, Mika Takushima (74)
T45/+3 Sakura Yokomine, Miho Koga, Akane Iijima, Saiki Fujita, Hiromi Mogi, Mayu Hattori, Hyun-Ju Shin, Rikako Morita, Miki Sakai, Julie Lu (75)
T59/+4 Akiko Fukushima, Na-Ri Kim, Kaori Aoyama (76)
T68/+5 Miki Saiki, Erina Hara, Hiromi Takesue, Yun-Jye Wei, Esther Lee, Yuki Sakurai (77)
T81/+6 Shiho Oyama, Young Kim, Riko Higashio (78)
T91/+7 Hee Young Park, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Miki Uehara (79)
T97/+8 Ayako Uehara (80)
T100/+9 Momoko Ueda (81)
T106/+11 Ai-Yu Tu (83)

Just as big a story, however, is how much rust how many highly-ranked players have to scrape off. Round 2 has already begun in Japan, so let's see who among them can bounce back to make the cut or get into contention!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 2011 Worldwide Women's Developmental Tour Schedule

Here's an update to my guide to playing opportunities custom-made for up-and-coming female pros, from the major tour-affiliated organizations like the Futures Tour in the USA, the Step-Up Tour in Japan, the Dream Tour in Korea, and the LET Access Series in Europe to mid-size tours like the ALPG in Australia, the LAGT in Asia, and the CLPGA in China, to the even smaller ones like the TLPGA in Taiwan, the CN Canadian Women's Tour in Canada, the Generali Ladies Tour in Europe, the Cactus Tour in Phoenix, AZ, and the SunCoast Series in Florida. You'll note from the list of winners and links to leaderboards that a good number of well-established and even big-time players will often compete on these developmental and mini-tours, so pay attention!


2-3 St. Georges Basin Country Club Pro-Am (ALPG) JOANNE MILLS

17-19: Hyundai China Ladies Open (CLPGA/KLPGA) HYE YOUN KIM


6-8 Royal Open (TLPGA) MI RIM LEE
8-9 Xstrata Coal Branxton Golf Club Pro-Am (ALPG) RACHEL BAILEY

12 NRE Gujarat Russell Vale Challenge Cup (ALPG) RYANN O'TOOLE
13-14 Moss Vale Golf Club Classic (ALPG) KATHERINE HULL
14-16 Taifong Open YA NI TSENG

16-17 Mount Broughton Classic (ALPG) KATHERINE HULL
18-20 Orange Tree Country Club (SCS) CINDY LACROSSE
21-23 Bing Lee Samsung NSW Women's Open (ALPG) CAROLINE HEDWALL; Hitachi Classic (TLPGA) PORNANONG PHATLUM

24-26 West Orange Country Club (SCS) LAURA DIAZ
28-30 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Ladies Classic (ALPG) ASHLEY ONA [a]
31-2/2 The Legacy (CT) MINDY KIM


1-3 Red Tail Country Club (SCS) MOIRA DUNN
3-6 Women's Australian Open (ALPG/LET) YA NI TSENG

7-9 Papago (CT) JULIE YANG [a]
8-10 Magnolia Plantation (SCS) CHELLA CHOI
10-13 ANZ RACV Ladies Masters (ALPG/LET) YA NI TSENG

14-16 Wigwam Red (CT) ALENA SHARP
15-17 Mission Inn Resort--Las Colinas (SCS) HYUN-JI KIM
17-20 Pegasus New Zealand Women's Open (ALPG/LET) KRISTIE SMITH

22-24 CC of Mount Dora (SCS) KRIS TAMULIS
24 Lady Anne Funerals Ryde Parramatta Pro-Am (ALPG) SARAH KEMP
24-26 Yumeya Championship (LAGT) SAKURA YOKOMINE

28-3/2 Ocotillo (CT) MINA HARIGAE

MARCH 2011

1-3 LPGA International--Champions (SCS) PAIGE MACKENZIE

7-9 Florida Women's Open (CT) ISABELLE BEISIEGEL

14-15 Encanterra (CT) JENNIFER JOHNSON
16-18 Terre Blanche Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT) HENRIETTA ZUEL

21-23 Palm Valley--Palms (CT) JOY TROTTER
25-27 Florida's Natural Charity Classic (FT) TZU-CHI LIN

29-31 Mission Inn Resort--El Campeon (SCS) RACHEL CONNOR

APRIL 2011

1-3 Daytona Beach Invitational (FT) HARUKYO NOMURA; Shanghai Classic (CLPGA) LI YING YE; Q-School [for foreign players] (CLPGA)
5-7 Falcons Fire GC (SCS) NICOLE HAGE

8-10 Santorini Riviera Navarit Classic (FT) RYANN O'TOOLE
11-13 Seville (CT) JOY TROTTER
12-14 Rock Springs Ridge (SCS) CHELLA CHOI
13-15 La Nivelle Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT) ANNE-LISE CAUDAL

22-24 Yangzhou Challenge (CLPGA) PORANI CHUTICHAI

25-26 KLPGA Dream Tour #1 HYE NA JUNG
25-27 The Legacy (CT) JOY TROTTER
26-28 Harmony Golf Preserve (SCS) RENEE SKIDMORE
29-5/1 Symetra Classic (FT) LISA FERRERO

MAY 2011

2-4 Southern Dunes (CT) DINA AMMACCAPANE
3-5 Eastwood GC (SCS) LISA MELDRUM

9-11 Ocotillo (CT) KENDALL DYE
10-12 Stoneybrook East GC (SCS) MARIA HJORTH
11-12 KLPGA Dream Tour #2 HAE RIM KIM
13-15 Kansas City Championship (FT)

16-18 Squamish Valley GC (CWT) JESSICA SHEPLEY
20-22 Beijing Renji Challenge (CLPGA) PORANI CHUTICHAI

25-27 Timacuan GC (SCS)
27-29 Beijing Pearl Challenge (CLPGA)
30-31 KLPGA Dream Tour #3

JUNE 2011

2-3 Grand Course Rijasukuresuto (SUT)
3-5 Ladies Titan Tire Challenge (FT)

7-8 KLPGA Dream Tour #4
8-10 Forest Lake GC (SCS)
10-12 Teva Championship (FT)

13-14 KLPGA Dream Tour #5
13-15 Club de Golf Beloeil (CWT)
16-19 Tate & Lyle Players Championship (FT)

24-26 Island Resort Championship (FT); Caofeidian Challenge (CLPGA)

27-29 Blue Springs GC (CWT)
30-7/2 South Shore Championship at White Hawk (FT)

JULY 2011

1-3 Yantai Yangmadao Challenge (CLPGA)

5-7 Stoneybrook West GC (SCS)
7-8 ANA Princess Cup (SUT)

12-14 LPGA International (SCS)
13-14 KLPGA Dream Tour #6
15-17 ING New England Golf Classic (FT)

19-21 TBA (SCS)
22-24 The International at Concord (FT)
25-26 KLPGA Dream Tour #7

27-28 Kasutororuredisu (SUT)
29-31 Alliance Bank Golf Classic (FT)


1-2 KLPGA Dream Tour #8
2-4 TBA (SCS)
4-7 Imperial Springs LPGA (CLPGA/LPGA)
5-7 Pennsylvania Classic (FT)

8-9 KLPGA Dream Tour #9
9-11 Orange County National (SCS)
8-10 Whirlwind (CT)
12-14 Eagle Classic (FT); China vs. Korea (CLPGA/KLPGA)

15-17 Ocotillo (CT)
16-18 TBA (SCS)

22-23 KLPGA Dream Tour #10
22-24 The Legacy (CT)
26-28 Vidalia Championship (FT)

29-31 Wigwam Red (CT)


1-4 "WO" China Golf Pro-Am Championship (CLPGA)

6-8 Southern Dunes (CT); Reunion Resort (SCS)
7-8 KLPGA Dream Tour #11
9-11 Price Chopper Tour Championship (FT); China vs. Chinese Taipei (CLPGA/TLPGA)

13-15 Reunion Resort (SCS)
16-18 Wenzhou Yangyi Challenge (CLPGA)
17-18 Women's Cup Sanyou Newspapers (SUT)

20-22 Reunion Resort (SCS)
21-23 Dinard Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT)
23-25 Wuhan Challenge (CLPGA)
27-28 KLPGA Dream Tour #12


6-7 KLPGA Dream Tour #13

11-13 TBA (CT)
12-13 KLPGA Dream Tour #14
13-14 Aso Guranvirioredisu Rutoinkappu (SUT)
13-15 Trophee Preven's (LETAS)

17-20 AZ Open (CT)
18-20 TBA (SCS)
19-20 KLPGA Dream Tour #15
21-23 Sanya Ladies Open (LAGT/CLPGA/LET)

24-26 Palm Valley--Palms (CT)
25-27 TBA (SCS)
28-30 Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open (LAGT/CLPGA/LET)


7-9 Ocotillo (CT)

14-16 Legacy (CT)
16-18 LPGA International (SCS)
17-19 Murcia Ladies Open (LETAS)
18-20 Zhuhai Challenge (CLPGA)

21-23 LPGA International (SCS)


9-11 Hero Honda Women's India Open (LAGT/LET)

16-18 Ladies Indonesia Open (LAGT); China Ladies Open (CLPGA/KLPGA)