Monday, December 31, 2012

Top LPGA Stories of 2012

As I patiently wait for the LPGA to announce its 2013 schedule, I would like to look back at what I consider the top stories of 2012.

I have narrowed my list to ten, although I know there were many more. Of course this list is very subjective, depending on who your favorite golfers are. A top story for me may be a story someone else would want to forget.

Feel free to add your own top stories in the comments section if you feel that I missed one.

So in reverse order, here we go:

10- Rules Official Doug Brecht passes away.
Following a three month battle with the West Nile Virus, LPGA Rules Official Doug Brecht passed away at the age of 62. Doug may be the only person who hated slow play more than me. Doug became the center of controversy at the Sybase Match Play Championship in 2012, when Morgan Pressel after winning the 12th hole was informed she would lose that hole instead because of slow play. Doug was known for being tough but fair, and truly loved the LPGA. He will be missed.

9- Yani Tseng's slump at the age of 23.
Most golfers usually hit slumps sometime in their careers, but usually not at the age of 23.
Yani, at a very early age has already won 15 times with 5 of those wins major championships. She won 3 of the first 5 events of the year and then practically disappeared for the rest of the season. She failed to finish in the top 25 in 11 of the last 15 tournaments she played in. This is certainly worth keeping an eye on in 2013.

8- Morgan Pressel's loss of hole penalty.
After winning the 12th hole in her match with Azahara Munoz and taking a 3 hole lead with 6 to play, Morgan was informed she would be penalized the loss of that hole because of slow play. She was warned previously in the match. She was told that she took 129 seconds to play the twelfth hole, 39 more than allowed. Instead of a 3 hole lead, it was changed to one. She would go on to lose the match and Azahara would win the Championship. Morgan would not play well again the rest of the year.

7- Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin's 9 hole playoff.
Was this playoff golf at its best, or golf at its worst,  I am still not sure. I can only tell you that this was golf at its most exciting. After finishing tied at the Kingsmill Championship after 72 holes, they went to a playoff. After 8 playoff holes were played with still no winner, they had to stop because of darkness. The next day while everyone else flew to Europe for the British Open, Jiyai would come out victorious on the ninth playoff hole. While most people thought that arriving a day late would hurt the 2 players at the British Open, Jiyai would win that also, and Paula would finish 3rd.

6- Lydia Ko wins the Canadian Open at age 15.
This one speaks for itself. Lydia became the youngest player ever to win an LPGA event.

5- Two women granted membership to Augusta National.
Former United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Financier Darla Moore became the first two women ever to be granted membership to Augusta National. Not to take anything away from the great accomplishments of those two women, but wouldn't this have been a much bigger and more satisfying story if they would have chosen Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez instead?

4- Na-Yeon Choi shoots 65 in third round at the U.S. Open.
Why was this such a big story? It was the hottest and most humid day I have ever spent walking on a golf course. The average score for the day was ten strokes higher than what Na-Yeon shot. Yani Tseng and Suzann Pettersen shot 78. Stacy Lewis shot 80. Karrie Webb and Angela Stanford shot 81. Ms. Choi would go on to win the Championship.

3- Inbee Park's ten consecutive top 10 finishes.
I don't know that this has ever been done on the LPGA tour before. I don't know that it has been done on any tour. This is an accomplishment we may not see again for a very, very long time.

2- Stacy Lewis wins Player of the Year.
If your not an American you probably think that I rated this too high. Maybe I did. But this is still an American based tour, and I have been waiting since 1994 for this to happen.

1- I.K. Kim misses 12 inch putt and loses Kraft Nabisco Championship.
I honestly hate making this the top story of the year. Especially it being about someone as classy as I.K.
Problem is the criteria I used for my rankings here, is what story will I remember the longest. That look on her face. I think the whole country just wanted to hug her. Will any of you forget this anytime soon? I won't. Every time somebody has a small putt to win a championship, we will think of this.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Year - Final Look

It has been 3 months since I last took a look at the biggest gains and losses in the Rolex Rankings for the 2012 season. A lot has changed since then. Rolex ranks the ladies based on average points per tournament, on a rolling 2-year calender. For example, Yani Tseng, the #1 player in the world, has accumulated 561.10 points playing in 50 tournaments over that period, for an average of 11.22 points per tournament. I have gone back to the first published rankings of the year and compared them to the rankings released on 12/17/12. The only requirement for my list is that a player must have been in the top 100 at the start of the year, or be in the top 100 now.

The Year's Biggest Gains:

1- Inbee Park - 4.57 to 8.30 = Gain of 3.73 (move 23-4)
2- So Yeon Ryu - 4.15 to 7.02 = Gain of 2.87 (move 27-7)
3- Stacy Lewis - 6.59 to 8.78 = Gain of 2.19 (move 10-3)
4- Shanshan Feng - 5.61 to 7.57 = Gain of 2.16 (move 13-5)
5- Lydia Ko - 0.36 to 2.50 = Gain of 2.14 (move 295-43)
6- Hyo-Joo-Kim - 0.38 to 2.46 = Gain of 2.08 (move 289-44)
7- Azahara Munoz - 3.29 to 5.18 = Gain of 1.89 (move 40-16)
8- Carlotta Ciganda - 0.37 to 2.19 = Gain of 1.82 (move 291-50)
9- Mika Miyazato - 4.37 to 6.06 = Gain of 1.69 (move 24-10)
10- Jee-Yoon Yang - 0.45 to 2.10 = Gain of 1.65 (move 265-53)
11- Karine Icher - 1.71 to 3.16 = Gain of 1.45 (move 85-33)
12- Jessica Korda - 0.31 to 1.68 = Gain of 1.37 (move 314-77)
13- Haeji Kang - 0.95 - 2.31 = Gain of 1.36 (move 162-47)
14- Jenny Shin - 1.07 to 2.37 = Gain of 1.30 (move 147-46)
15- Lizette Salas - 0.23 to 1.51 = Gain of 1.28 (move 353-90)
16- Karen Sjodin - 0.48 to 1.75 = Gain of 1.27 (move 258-72)
17- Sun Young Yoo - 3.06 to 4.29 = Gain of 1.23 (move 44-23)
18- Chella Choi - 2.07 to 2.91 = Gain of 0.84 (move 70-36)
19- Lexi Thompson - 3.38 to 4.21 = Gain of  0.83 (move 39-24)
20 - Gerina Piller - 0.64 to 1.47 = Gain of 0.83 (move from 215-95)

The Year's Biggest Losses: 

1- Yani Tseng - 17.46 to 11.22 = Loss of 6.24 (move 1-1)
2- Cristie Kerr - 9.74 to 5.83 = Loss of 3.91 (move 4-11)
3- Michelle Wie - 5.08 to 1.98 = Loss of 3.10 (move 17-58)
4- Song-Hee Kim - 4.00 to 0.98 = Loss of 3.02 (move 30-147)
5- Maria Hjorth - 4.65 to 1.79 = Loss of 2.86 (move 22-70)
6- Suzanne Pettersen - 10.12 to 7.33 = Loss of 2.79 (move 2-6)
7- Morgan Pressel - 5.34 to 2.71 = Loss of 2.63 (move 16-38)
8- Paula Creamer - 7.97 to 5.53 = Loss of 2.44 (move 5-12)
9- Su Ju Ahn - 7.83 to 5.43 = Loss of 2.40 (move 6-13)
10- Yukari Baba - 4.29 to 2.07 = Loss of 2.22 (move 26-54)
11- I.K. Kim - 6.60 to 4.51 = Loss 2.09 (move 8-21)
12- Sakura Yokomine - 4.83 to 3.00 = Loss of 1.83 (move 20-34)
13- Brittany Lincicome - 6.57 to 4.84 = Loss of 1.73 (move 11-18)
14- Yuri Fudoh - 4.34 to 2.63 = Loss of 1.71 (move 25-39)
15- Shiho Oyama - 3.61 to 1.96 = Loss of 1.65 (move 34-63)
16- Julie Inkster - 2.52 to 1.02 = Loss of 1.50 (move 55-142)
17- Saiki FuJita - 2.80 to 1.39 = Loss of 1.41 (move 46-105)
18- Jimin Kang - 2.40 to 1.00 = Loss of 1.40 (move 59 to 144)
19- Ji- Hee Lee - 4.00 to 5.36 = Loss of 1.36 (move 15-25)
20-Cristina Kim - 0.58 to 1.74 = Loss of 1.16 (move 82-228)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Were My Pre-Season Questions Answered?

Way back in January, before the LPGA season began, I listed 10 questions that I hoped would be answered this year.

Below I have shown those questions again. Let's see whether or not they were actually ever answered.

1- We all know that Yani Tseng is the real thing, no question about that. The question here is can she be as dominant in 2012 as she was in 2011, or will someone else step up and challenge her for her crown?

This question was answered very definititively, Yani was nowhere near the player in 2012 that she was in 2011. After winning three of the first five titles of the year, she was hardly a factor. Yani failed to even finish in the top 25 in 11 of her last 15 tournaments, resulting in her almost blowing what was a huge lead in the Rolex rankings. Although still #1 in the world, her lead has shrunk to about one quarter of what it once was.
Stacy Lewis replaced her as player of the year, and Stacy and Inbee Park are going to make it very hard for Yani to remain the game's #1 ranked player next year.

2- Lexi Thompson will be 17 years old on February 10th. We all expect her to be an elite golfer soon. Is it expecting too much of her to think she can be a top 10 golfer this year?

At seventeen years old she is not a top ten golfer yet. But finishing #21 on the Money list is quite an accomplishment for a teenager. Lexi started the year ranked #39 in the world, and is now ranked #24.
Look for more upward movement in 2014.

3- No American player has won the Player of the Year award in 18 years. Will someone rise to the occasion in 2012?

We all know by now that Stacy Lewis became the first American to win the player of the year award since Beth Daniel in 1994.

4- Can Stacy Lewis and Sandra Gal, the golfers who in my opinion improved the most in 2011, continue to do so in 2012?

The Stacy Lewis part of this question has already been answered. As far as Sandra Gal is concerned, although she didn't break into the winner's circle, she had a very similar year to 2011. She finished in the top 25 on the money list both years.

5- Who will win the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award? Will it be one of the favorites (Lexi Thompson & So Yeon Ryu), or will someone else sneak up and pull off an upset?

There were some fine rookie seasons in 2012 (Sydnee Michaels, Lizette Salas, and Danielle Kang come to mind), but Ryu and Thompson were head and shoulders above the rest. You can now make a case for So Yeon Ryu being among the best in the game already.

6- Is Ryann O'Toole the real thing, or just a "flash in the pan"?

Writing unflattering things about my favorite players is probably the most difficult thing I have to do on here. That said, my crystal ball is leaning towards "flash in the pan".

7- Who is the real Song-Hee Kim? Is it the golfer that had 15 top 10 finishes in 2010, or the golfer who had only two in 2011?

I guess it's the golfer who had zero top tens in 2012, and lost her playing card.

8- Can Michelle Wie, who graduates from Stanford University this year, now focus on golf and move up to elite status?

Michelle dropped all the way down to #64 on the money list. Maybe a better question for next year will be, can Michelle play well enough to keep her card? This is turning into quite a sad story. It is too bad because
Michelle winning would be great for the LPGA.

9- Can Amy Yang and Brittany Lang, two golfers with so much talent, finally break through and get their first LPGA victory?

Brittany finally got her first victory, so did five other golfers. We are still waiting for Amy to break through.

10- Can Michael Whan, who has done a great job so far, continue adding tournaments and get the number up to 30 by 2013?

Mr. Whan added 3 more tournaments in 2012, bringing the number to 27. Sometime in the next three weeks I would imagine the 2013 schedule will be announced. Will it get to 30? Stay tuned.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Surprises & Disappointments 2012 - Final Look

It was back in July that I last looked at who I thought were the biggest surprises and the biggest disappointments of the 2012 season. Twelve more tournaments were played since then. Many things have changed.

The year ended with winners from eight different countries:
United States 8 - Stacy Lewis (4), Jessica Korda, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr
South Korea  8 - Inbee Park (2), Na Yeon Choi (2), Jiyai Shin (2), Sun Young Yoo, So Yeon Ryu
Japan 3 - Ai Miyazato (2), Mika Miyazato
Taiwan 3 - Yani Tseng (3)
Norway 2 - Suzann Pettersen (2)
Spain 1 - Azahara Munoz
China 1 - Shanshan Feng
New Zealand 1 - Lydia Ko

The year brought us six first time winners:
Jessica Korda
Azahara Munoz
Shanshan Feng
Brittany Lang
Mika Miyazato
Lydia Ko (non LPGA member)

Here are who I thought were the biggest surprises and disappointments of 2012.


1- So Yeon Ryu - Before the season started I picked her to win the Rookie of the Year Award, which she did quite easily. I just never thought that she would rise to elite status this quickly. Not only did she win in her first season (she had won the U.S. Open previously as a non LPGA player), but she had 12 top 5 finishes and 16 top tens. She only missed the cut one time in 24 starts.

2- Inbee Park - Coming into this season she had better results playing in Asia, than she had on the LPGA tour. Always considered a very good player, she also stepped it up to elite status this year. She started the season slowly, failing to register a top ten in her first 9 starts. She then went on a roll that few have ever seen before on any tour. She had ten consecutive finishes in the top ten. She finished the season with 2 victories, 10 top fives, and 12 top tens. Look for her to compete for the number one spot in the world next year.

3- Stacy Lewis - She was ranked number ten in the world when the year started, so her having a good year was not a big surprise. What was a surprise was just how big her year would be. Stacy became the first American player since 1994 to win the Rolex Player of the Year Award. Not only did Stacy win 4 times, but she had 12 top five finishes and 16 top tens. The Rolex Rankings are based on a rolling 2 year period, which means the 7 wins that Yani Tseng had in 2011 will be wiped off the board during the 2013 season. Look for Stacy to be the favorite to challenge for that # 1 position.

4- Shanshan Feng - Shanshan became the first player to ever win from mainland China. She tends to be a bit more streaky than the three listed ahead of her here. In her finest season to date, Shanshan had 7 top fives and 8 top tens.

5- Azahara Munoz - Azahara made her 3rd season on the LPGA, her finest season by far. The 2010 rookie of the year won the Sybase Match Play Championship, making that one of her five top fives and 9 top tens on the year.

6- Beatriz Recari - Just like Azahara above, Beatriz is also from Spain. In 2010 Beatriz finished 2nd to Azahara for the Rookie of the Year Award, and always seems to be in her shadow. In 2012 Beatriz had a fine year of her own that seemed to go unnoticed. She was one of only 5 players to make every cut (Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb, Na Yeon Choi, and Jiyai Shin were the others), in the 2012 season. She never finished out of the top 20 in her last 6 tournaments of the year.

7- Jenny Shin - Cooled off some the second half of the season, but her 2 top fives and her 5 top tens tell me she has a bright future. She missed only 2 cuts in her 25 starts.

8- Karen Sjodin - Was 2012 a fluke? In her first 6 years on the LPGA tour she was just a marginal player.
Very consistent in 2012, Karen had 9 top twenty finishes, and made 17 of 21 cuts.


1- Morgan Pressel - What happened to her? Everyone seems to have their own opinion. Was it the well publicized penalty she was given at the Sybase Match Play Championship that cost her a victory? Is she playing with an injury? Is her upcoming wedding distracting her? What we do know is that Morgan, who had missed very few cuts in her entire career, missed 8 cuts in her last 11 tournaments. We also know that she didn't have another top 10 after Sybase, covering 14 tournaments.

2- Christina Kim - One of the more popular players on tour, Christina has failed to play up to her standards for 2 years now. Things have finally hit rock bottom. She teed it up 19 times this year without a top 10, or even being in contention. She failed to make the cut in eleven of those tournaments. This poor play forced her to go back to Q-School to retain her playing privileges. She was not very successful there either. Finishing out of the top twenty she will retain her card, but her priority rating will be so poor that she will be fortunate if she gets into a half dozen events.

3- Michelle Wie - She will not be on this list next year because I am now giving up on my expectations for her. Is there any part of her game that is good right now? If the holes on the greens were the size of manhole covers, she still wouldn't make a putt. In 22 starts this year she had one top ten.

4- Sophie Gustafson - What happened to the lady that won all five of her matches at the Solheim Cup Championship last year? Sophie made 22 starts this year without registering a top 20. In her last 12 starts she didn't even have a top 30.

5- Amanda Blumenherst - It just hasn't been a disappointing year for Amanda, but it is now turning into a disappointing career. Coming out of Duke University 3 years ago, she was supposed to be the greatest thing since the invention of sliced bread. Unfortunatly the only thing I see slicing are her drives. Teeing it up 23 times in 2012, Amanda had just one top 10. In her last 16 events she missed 11 cuts, with her best finish being a tie for 33.

6- Mindy Kim - Mindy had a very poor year with only one top ten and missed 11 of 22 cuts. She could not finish any higher than 25th in her last 10 events.

7- Meena Lee - Always a solid player, Mindy had only 2 top tens in 26 starts

8- Amy Yang - I know her season wasn't all that bad. She did have 5 top tens. The fact remains that she starts every year as the the best player on tour without a win. In 2012 six more players got their first wins, and Amy is still without one.

9- Ryann O'Toole - Everything seemed to go right for Ryann in 2011, she had a hot streak in the middle of the year and was picked for the Solheim Team. Things turned ugly this year. Ryann never was in contention in her 21 starts. Her best finish in stroke play was 37th. She missed her last 8 cuts, and 13 on the season. Barely finishing in a position to retain her card, Ryann better step it up or go it's back to Q-School next year.

10- Tiffany Joh - Her successful rookie season led us to expect good things from her this year. That didn't happen. She failed to have a single top ten finish in 22 starts. She finished in the dreaded 101st spot on the money list, meaning she will miss some tournaments next year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

LPGA Q-School Shocking Results

The LPGA completed its schedule a couple of weeks back, but its most important event took place this past weekend. There was not a lot of coverage, that seems to be reserved for the men, but if you're an LPGA fan this was a most interesting weekend.

There were 124 players that teed it up for this 90 hole event. They would cut the field after the 72nd hole to the top 70 players and ties. There were players entered from all over the world. There were players from the LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, Symetra Tour, and players trying to earn their card for the first time. There were players trying to win back their card after losing it this past year because of poor play. Too put it simply, players' livelihoods were at stake.

This field of of 124 players were all fighting it out to finish in the top 20. You might have read that the top 45 players would receive LPGA cards. That is quite misleading. If you finish in the top 20 you receive Category 12 Priority Status. That means that you have earned full time playing privileges in 2013. If you finish in the number 21-45 spots you receive Category 17 Priority Status.  That means you actually have an LPGA card, but the chances of you ever getting into an event are slim to none. If you happen to get into an event and play well, you can improve your status during one of the two LPGA reshuffles next year. The problem is it is hard to improve your status if you don't get to tee it up.

Now more about those 20 ladies who did earn their full time privileges.

As you could imagine, with 124 participants and only 20 full time spots available, it would be a long shot for your favorite player to get in. To make it even more difficult there were several players from other tours that were already stars, and very highly ranked, that were sure shots to be one of the 20. Or so we thought.

Who in their right mind would have thought that Melissa Reid, one of the top players on the LET, would open with a 79 and shoot herself out of it in the first round?

Who would have thought that such seasoned veterans as Reilly Rankin and Meaghan Francella would not finish in the top 45 and lose their playing cards?

Did anyone think that Solheim Cup veteran Cristina Kim would finish 39th, leaving her with little or no chance of playing on the LPGA next season?

There were pleasant surprises also.

Kathleen Ekey suffered through back problems during her rookie season in 2012, barely making a cut.
She shot a tournament low 65 in the final round and finished in 4th place.

Rebecca Lee Bentham, who had a miserable rookie year making just 4 cuts, finished the co-leader.

There was also the expected.

Moira Jutanugarn was the other co-leader.
Japanese stars Ayako Uehara and Chie Arimura breezed in with little trouble.
Caroline Masson, the German born LET star, also made it in quite easily.

Here is the complete top 20 players who earned full playing status for 2013:

T1Rebecca Lee-Bentham-13
T1Moriya Jutanugarn-13
3Ayako Uehara-12
4Kathleen Ekey-10
T5Chie Arimura-8
T5Lisa McCloskey-8
7Felicity Johnson-7
T8Karlin Beck-6
T8Laura Diaz-6
10Stephanie Sherlock-5
T11Kayla Mortellaro-4
T11Kim Welch-4
T11Brooke Pancake-4
T11Austin Ernst-4
T11Caroline Masson-4
T11Marina Stuetz (a)-4
T17Lauren Doughtie-3
T17Irene Cho-3
T17Taylore Karle-3
T17Nicole Jeray-3

The  2013 Rookie of the Year race should be very competitive next year.
Chie Arimura is already ranked #19 in the Rolex World Rankings.
Caroline Masson is ranked #50, and at 23 years old has her best years ahead of her.
Ayako Uehara is ranked #69.
These 3 players will be the favorites.
Add to that  future stars, Esther Choe and Victoria Elizabeth, who earned their cards on the Symetra Tour, and Brook Pancake who led Alabama to the 2012 NCAA Championship, and we should have one hell of a race.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How My Top 30 Predictions Turned Out.

The LPGA talent is unquestionably at its highest level ever. With so many great players, it seemed we had a different winner every week. In fact the 27 tournaments played, brought us seventeen different winners. We had winners from eight different countries. The LPGA has truly become the international tour that Commissioner Michael Whan predicted it would be when he took the commissioner's job a few years back.
The number of tournaments has grown from 23, when Mr. Whan took the reigns, to 27 this year. In about 6 weeks the 2013 schedule will be released, and rumor has it that we could have 30 tournaments. In these troubled times for our economy, the LPGA is heading in the right direction.

Back in January, I released my top 30 predictions for the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year. It was a very strange year with the "sure shot" Yani Tseng crumbling the second half of the season, and players like Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu reaching levels we didn't think were possible. On the down side Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, and Song-Hee Kim, forgot what it was like to be on the leader board.

Let's take a look at how well my predictions went:

1- Yani Tseng - Everyone predicted this, and everyone was wrong. After winning 3 of the first 5 tournaments of the year, Yani failed to win again the rest of the season. With the exception of a brief period during the Asian swing, she wasn't even competitive the final two thirds of the season. Not many will be predicting her to be #1 in 2013.

2- Suzann Pettersen - After playing poorly most of the season, Suzann won twice to finish 10th and make my prediction look a little better.

3- Paula Creamer - Losing a nine hole playoff at the Kingsmill Classic was her high point of the year. Seven top tens would be a great season for most players, but not up to Paula's standards. Finishing 17th, made me look bad.

4- Stacy Lewis - I picked her higher than anyone I know. It just wasn't high enough. Four wins, 12 top fives, and 16 top tens, resulted in Stacy becoming the first American Player of the Year since 1994.

5- Na Yeon Choi - I was right on with this pick as Na Yeon finished 3rd.

6- Cristie Kerr - Even with her late win at the Lorena Ochoa Classic, she only finished 14th.

7- Brittany Lincicome - After winning twice in 2011, Brittany was shut out this year. She finished 19th.

8- I.K. Kim - If she could only have sunk that 18 inch putt, my prediction would have looked a whole lot better. As it turned out she missed it and never seemed to recover. She finished 21st in the Player of the Year race.

9- Ai Miyazato - Ai made me look good by finishing seventh.

10- Jiyai Shin - Not a bad prediction here, Jiyai finished 6th.

11- Angela Stanford - My streak continues with another good pick, Angela finished 13th.

12- Morgan Pressel - All good things must come to and end as this was amongst my worst picks. After her controversial 3rd place finish at the Sybase Match Play Championship, her year just completely fell apart. She finished 49th.

13- Lexi Thompson - Lexi had a fine rookie year, just not as good as I predicted. She finished at the #23 spot.

14- So Yeon Ryu - I knew she was good, that's why I picked this rookie this high. I just didn't think she would be this good this fast. She finished #5.

15- Amy Yang - She watched as Mika Miyazato, Jessica Korda, Lydia Ko, Brittany Lang, Shanshan Feng, and Azahara Munoz all won for the first time. Finishing in 18th place, Amy is still without a victory.

16- Michelle Wie - I have been a big defender of this girl for a long time. I now think she would lose to the thirteen year old version of herself. She finished an embarrassing 68th.

17 - Mika Miyazato - Won her first tournament, and finished 9th in Player of the Year rankings.

18- Brittany Lang - She also won her first tournament in 2012. I was pretty much on this one as she finished 22nd.

19- Maria Hjorth - Did anyone see the real Maria Hjorth in 2012? I didn't. She never earned a single player of the year point.

20- Catriana Matthew - Made me look good with her 23rd place finish.

21- Anna Nordqvist - Made me look even better with her 20th place finish.

22- Karrie Webb - I underestimate her every year. She finished 15th.

23- Sun Young Yoo - I.K's missed putt made me look bad here also. Sun Young wound up winning that major championship and finished 12th in the rankings.

24- Sandra Gal - Sandra had an up and down year, finishing 32nd.

25- Hee Kyung Seo - After a hot start she cooled off some, still finishing a solid 15th.

26- Azahara Munoz - Took it to another level in 2012 with her first victory. She finished a better than expected 11th.

27- Caroline Hedwall - After a hot start she just plain disappeared, leaving her at #47.

28- Numa Gulyanamitta - Every year I try to pick one rookie I think will be a surprise. Every year I pick the wrong rookie. I could have picked Sydnee Michaels or Lizette Salas, who scored some Player of the Year points, but of course my pick here didn't earn a single point.

29- Inbee Park - What can I say? Until this year she was just a good player. The people at the Seoul Sisters website must be laughing at me for this pick.  Did I mention she finished 2nd?

30- Song-Hee Kim - How bad was she? She will be going back to Q-School this week to try to get her playing card back.

I admit it, I am not the world's best prognosticator. But I do try to keep everyone entertained. Stay tuned, I do not give up, and will give you my 2013 picks soon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rating the Rookies Part 3 - Final Analysis

As we all know the 2012 LPGA season has come to its conclusion. It is time to take one final look at the 33 rookie players. These ratings are strictly based on how they fared on the LPGA tour this season. Any successes or failures on other tours are not considered here. Success in retaining their LPGA tour cards was the determining factor for my final grades.

The Best

So Yeon Ryu - The 2012 Rookie of the Year had one of the best rookie seasons of all time. She made 23 of 24 cuts, and was #6 on the money list. Winner of the Jaime Farr Toledo Classic, she had 12 top five finishes and 16 top tens. Already ranked #8 in the world, if she can turn some of those top 5's into victories she could climb all the way to the top.

Lexi Thompson - Even without a victory in 2012, Lexi had a terrific year. This seventeen year old star had 4 top 5 finishes and made 19 of 23 cuts. She finished #21 on the money list, which was better than some huge stars such as: Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang, Hee Kyung Seo, and I.K. Kim. She has already vaulted up the world rankings to #24.

Lizette Salas - When the season started who would have thought she would be rated this high? Who even knew who she was? We know now. She finished 9th in Malaysia and had 5 top 20 finishes. She made 16 of 18 cuts and finished # 51 on the money list.

Sydnee Michaels - Sydnee really struggled coming out of the gate missing the cut in 4 of her first 7 events. She then settled down and had a fine rookie season. Sydnee opened some eyes with her 7th place finish at the Shoprite Classic, and went on to have 5 top 20 finishes. She ultimately went on to make 13 of 19 cuts and finish #62 on the money list. The U.S. Open takes the top 70 players from the LPGA money list, so Sydnee has earned her spot for next year.

Danielle Kang - Just like Michaels above, Danielle also made 13 of 19 cuts. She was in contention on the last day of the Kingsmill Classic, and wound up finishing 3rd. She had 4 top 20 finishes and wound up #52 on the money list. This two time amateur champion is going to be a top ten player very soon.

Consider Them a Success

Mo Martin - A late bloomer at 30 years old, Mo had a very good season. Making 15 of 21 cuts enabled her to climb to #63 on the money list. Her best finish was 14th at the Walmart Classic. I'll be keeping an eye on her next year to see if she can duplicate this year's performance.

Maude-Aimee Leblanc - A serious back injury ended her season after just 8 tournaments. At the time of the injury she was in the top 60 on the money list. She made 5 of 8 cuts, and was leading the entire LPGA in driving distance when her season came to abrupt end. Because of her injury, her place on the Priority list will remain the same, so if she is healthy we will be seeing a lot of her next year. This lady is a real dark horse.

Veronica Felibert - Veronica made only 5 of 14 cuts, but her year was considered a success because of a 4th place finish at the Walmart Classic. That finish enabled her to finish #75 on the money list. Not good enough for the U.S. Open, but good enough to play most everywhere else.

Carlotta Ciganda - Already a superstar on the Ladies European Tour where she won three times this year, Carlotta only teed it up on the LPGA 3 times. She made the cut easily in all three events ( U.S. Open, Evian Masters, and British Open), and finished #85 on the LPGA money list. Already ranked #57 in the world, it remains to be seen if she will play more on the LPGA tour next year.

Just Barely Good Enough

Numa Gulyanamitta - Making 8 of 16 cuts, Numa finished #87 on the money list. Her best finish was 21st at the U.S. Open.

Jacqui Concolino - Her 11th place finish at the Jaime Farr Toledo Classic saved her season, and allowed her to retain her card. She made just 4 of 11 cuts, and finished #95 on the money list. She will still get into most full field events next year.

Jane Rah - Jane's season might have been a disaster if it wasn't for a 9th place finish at the CN Open. She missed her first 10 cuts of the season before straightening herself out and making 5 of the last 6. At #92 on the money list she will be teeing it up in most events next year.

Retaining Their Card Through the Symetra Tour

Mi Hyang Lee - Because of her low priority rating, Mi got into just 5 tournaments last year. Making just two cuts and a best finish of T53, she finished #149 on the money list. That ranking would have had her going back to qualifying schoool, if it wasn't for the fact she finished in the top ten on the Symetra tour. That Symetra Tour finish will guarantee her full time playing privileges on the LPGA next year.

Thidapa Suwannapura - Playing in only one tournament on the LPGA this year because of a bad priority ranking, she played most of the season on the Symetra tour. Finishing in the top ten on that tour enables her to retain her full playing card for next year.

They Are Going Back to Qualifying School

The following players did not play well enough this year, and have registered to go back to Qualifying School to try and get their LPGA cards for 2013. Judging by past years, most of these players will fail and we will not be seeing them again. Phase 3 of Q-School will be played from November 28th to December 2nd. 126 players will be teeing it up in that 90 hole event. Only the top 40 players will get playing cards. Of that 40, only the top 20 will have a priority rating good enough to get full time playing privileges next year.

Lacy Agnew - Made just 1 of 7 cuts. Best finish 64th. 162nd on money list.
Karlin Beck - Made just 3 of 14 cuts. Best finish 46th. 146th on money list.
Rebecca Lee-Bentham - Made only 4 of 14 cuts. Best finish 41st. 134th on money list.
Sandra Changkija - Made just 4 of 14 cuts. Best finish 10th. 112th on money list.
Cydney Clanton - Made just 4 of 15 cuts. Best finish 19th. 121st on money list.
Valentine Derrey - Made 1 of 3 cuts. Best finish 62nd. 160th on money list.
Kirby Dreher - Made 0 of 5 cuts.
Kathleen Ekey - Made just 3 of 15 cuts. Best finish 45th. 142nd on money list.
Katy Harris - Made just 1 of 6 cuts. Best finish 64th. 161st on money list.
Hanna Kang - Made just 1 of 7 cuts. Best finish 35th. 165th on money list.
Mitsuki Katahira - Made 1 of 4 cuts. Best finish 55th. 155th on money list.
P.K. Kongkraphan - Made 1 of 3 cuts. Best finish 67th. 151 on money list.
Stephanie Kono - Made 0 of 14 cuts.
Min Seo Kwak - Made just 1 of 7 cuts. Best finish 37th. 148 on money list.
Tzu-Chi Lin - Made 1 of 4 cuts. Best finish 70th. 164th on money list.
Elisa Serramina - Made just 1 of 13 cuts. Best finish 70th. 157 on money list.
Victoria Tanco - Made 5 of 15 cuts. Best finish 37th. 118th on money list.
Hannah Yun - Made just 4 of 14 cuts. Best finish 30th. 117th on money list

Juliana Murcia Ortiz - Played one tournament, missed cut, and lost playing card. Didn't register for Q-School.

Monday, November 12, 2012

CME Group Titleholders Preview & Pairings

A big congratulations goes out to Cristie Kerr for winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Cristie finished one stroke ahead of Inbee Park and Angela Stanford, to win for the first time since 2010.

This week the tour moves back to the United States for the playing of the CME Titleholders Championship.
This tournament is very unique as its field is made up of the 3 highest finishers (not already qualified), from the first 26 events of the year.

This is the 27th and final tournament of the year. Here are some key details:

Course:  The Twin Eagles Club
Location:  Naples, Florida
Defending Champion:  Hee Young Park
Winning Score:  71-69-69-70 = (-9)

Final Field:    73 players
Par: 36/36=72
Yardage:  Not currently available
Purse:  $1,5000,000

Here are the first round pairings.
In spite of the limited field, this will be one of the strongest fields of the season. The top 26 players on the LPGA Priority List, and 18 of the top 20 players in the world will be teeing it up.

Here are the television times:
Nov 15 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 16 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 17 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST
Nov 18 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM EST

Other Tidbits:
Yani Tseng's lead over number two player in the world Stacy Lewis, is now just 2.92 points. It was 9.47 in April.

Titleholders Update:
Lorena Ochoa (yes she is still an LPGA member), Kristy McPherson, and Tanya Dergal are the final players to qualify. Some of the bigger named players who failed to qualify are: Sophie Gustafson, Julie Inkster, Karen Stupples, Mindy Kim, Jimin Kang, Ryann O'Toole, and Amanda Blumenherst.

Rolex Ranking Mover of the Week:
Cristie Kerr moves from #15 to #11.

Who's Hot:
Beatriz Recari has five consecutive top 20 finishes.

Who's Not:
After a fast start, Eun-Hee Ji, has failed to finish in the top 10 in fourteen consecutive tournaments.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stacy Lewis Wins Player of the Year

Congratulations goes out to Stacy Lewis for winning the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Award. Stacy is the first American player to win this award since Beth Daniel in 1994. After winning the Mizuno Classic last week, Stacy followed that up with a fourth place finish this week to clinch the title. She will go into next week's final event with a 53 point lead over Inbee Park. A first place finish is worth 30 points. Stacy finished 4 strokes behind Cristie Kerr.

The win for Cristie Kerr was her first in almost 2 1/2 years. It was the second consecutive win for an American player. It was also the 8th win by an American player, assuring them of at least a tie for most wins this year. Although shut out the last four weeks, South Korea has also had a fine season with seven wins.

Here is the list of tournament winners by country:

1-   U.S.A - 8 (Lewis 4, Korda, Stanford, Lang, and Kerr)
2-   South Korea - 7 (Jiyai Shin 2, Inbee Park 2, Yoo, Ryu, Na-Yeon Choi)
T3- Japan - 3 (Ai Miyazato 2, Mika Miyazato.
T3- Taiwan - 3 (Yani Tseng 3)
5-   Norway - 2 (Pettersen 2)
T6- Spain -1 (Munoz)
T6- Mainland China 1 (Feng)
T6- New Zealand 1 (Ko)

The CME Group Titleholders, the year's final tournament, will be played next week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Preview & Pairings

It has been quite a week here in New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy has really done quite a bit of damage. I was not able to give you pairings or updates on last week's tournament as we were without power for quite a few days. Getting gasoline to fill our automobiles has also been one big challenge.

Congratulations goes out to Stacy Lewis for winning the Mizuno Classic. Stacy made a remarkable comeback as she was seven shots down at the start of the final round. This was her fourth win of the year. Stacy has now just about wrapped up the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Award. Inbee Park would have to win the two remaining tournaments while Stacy finishes out of the top ten in both, for Inbee to steal the trophy away. That is a scenario that is very highly unlikely. The winner also receives a Hall of Fame point. The last American to win the award was Beth Daniel in 1994.

The other big race is for the Vare Trophy, which also carries a Hall of Fame point. With Jiyai Shin not eligible because she does not meet the minimum rounds criteria, it has come down to a race between Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park. Currently Inbee leads with a 70.30 per round average. Stacy Lewis is second at 70.32. How close is that? Stacy just has to make up 2 strokes in the final 8 rounds of the season to win this also.

The tour moves to Mexico this week for the playing of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Lorena will actually be teeing it up herself this week.

This is tournament #26 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Guadalajara Country Club
Location:  Guadalajara, Mexico
Defending Champion:  Catriona Matthew
Winning Score:  69-68-68-71=276 (-12)

Final Field:  36 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,644 yards
Purse:  $1,000,000

Here are the round 1 pairings.

In spite of the very small field, most of the top players will be teeing it up. Among the missing this week are: Jiyai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang, Mika Miyazato, and Hee Young Park.

There will be no television broadcast in the United States for this event.

Other Tidbits:
It seems like just yesterday that we thought nobody was going to catch Yani Tseng for the number one ranking in the world for a very long time. Well things are changing much more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. In April, Yani had a 9.47 lead over Na Yeon Choi who was in second place. Currently her lead is only 3.14 over Stacy Lewis.

Titleholders Update:
Pornanong Phatlum, Jennifer Song, and Alison Walsh are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest ranked player who has not yet qualified. She is not playing this week so she will not get in.

Rolex Mover of the Week:
There are no big numerical moves this week, but as mentioned above, Stacy Lewis is closing in on that number one position.

Who's Hot:
Although Yani Tseng has not won since March, she has three consecutive top 5 finishes.

Who's Not:
Shanshan Feng, who had been scorching hot all summer, has not finished in the top 15 in her last 6 tournaments.
Momoko Ueda has teed it up 20 times this year without having a single top ten finish.
Jimin Kang's best finish in her last 8 tournaments is a T50.

Hard to Believe Fact of the Week:
Besides the previously mentioned 4 wins, Stacy Lewis has 11 top five finishes, and 15 top tens.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mizuno Classic Preview & Pairings

Let me start off by giving a big congratulations to Suzann Pettersen for winning the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. This was Suzann's second consecutive victory on the LPGA Tour. Suzann held off challenges from Inbee Park and Yani Tseng to win by 3 strokes.

The tour moves to Japan this week for the playing of the Mizuno Classic. It is the final stop on the current four-stop Asian swing.

This is tournament number 25 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Kintetsu Kashikojimo Country Club
Location:  Shima-shi, Mie, Japan
Defending Champion:  Momoko Ueda
Winning Score:  67-64-69=200 (-16)

Final Field:  78 players
Par 36/36=72
Yardage:  6506 yards
Purse:  $1,200,000

This tournament is only 54 holes.

I will post the pairings as soon as they become available.

My strength of field rating is 53%, making it the eighth most weakest field of the year. Most Americans and Europeans have chosen to skip this event. Some of the bigger names missing include: Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Ai Miyazato, Catriona Matthew, Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal, Azahara Munoz, Sun Young Yoo, Meena Lee, Mindy Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Katherine Hull, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and Katie Futcher.

With that many players missing, you may be wondering why the field rating isn't lower. It is because so many highly ranked non LPGA players are playing in this event. These highly Rolex ranked players include: Sun Ju Ahn, Chie Arimura, Yukari Baba, Mayu Hattori, Sakura Yokomine, Miki Saiki, Rikako Morita, and Ritsuko Ryu.

There is no television broadcast in the United States for this event.

Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park's second place finish earned her 12 player of the year points. Stacy Lewis's lead, for that very importatnt Hall of Fame point, has been cut to 28 points. A first place finish is worth 30 points.

Jiyai Shin who did not play, is also skipping next week's tournament in Mexico. This will eliminate her from winning the Vare Trophy for the tour's lowest scoring average. It now will be a 3 way race between, InbeePark (70.27), Stacy Lewis (70.39), and So Yeon Ryu (70.42). A Hall of Fame point will be awarded to the winner.

Rolex Mover of the Week:
LPGA rookie Carlotta Ciganda, won for the second time this year on the Ladies European Tour. She jumps from #84 to #58 in the world.

Titleholders Update:
Belen Mozo, Mariajo Uribe, and Mo Martin are the latest to qualify.

Who's Hot: 
Catriona Matthew has now finished in the top ten in five consecutive tournaments.

Who's Not:
Sophie Gustafson has finished no better than 55th in her last eighth tournaments.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Preview & Pairings

Now that we have completed another exciting tournament, let me congratulate Suzann Pettersen for her win at the HanaBank Championship. Suzann came out victorious, defeating Catriona Matthew on the third playoff hole. It was Suzann's first win of the 2012 season.

The tour moves to Taiwan this week for the playing of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. It is stop number three on the current four-stop Asian swing. It will conclude next week in Japan.

This is tournament number 24 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Where:  Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Defending Champion:  Yani Tseng
Winning Score:  68-71-67-66=272 (-16)

Final Field:   78 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,390 yards
Purse:  $2,000,000

Here are Thursday's pairings.

My strength of field rating is just 46% which makes it one of the weakest fields of the year.
Some of the stars sitting it out this week include: Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford, Amy Yang, I.K. Kim, Karrie Webb, Brittany Lang, Hee Kyung Seo, Mika Miyazato, Sun Young Yoo, Shanshan Feng, and Hee Won Han. Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel have recently pulled out due to injuries.

Here are the television times:
Oct 25 - GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 26 - GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 27 - GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
Oct 28 - GC 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST

Once again, because of the 12-hour time difference, this will be shown on tape delay. At least this week it is being shown at a decent hour.

Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park's consecutive top ten streak came to a halt this past weekend. She finished tied for 15th.
Yani Tseng finished in the top ten for the first time in twelve tournaments.
Beatriz Recari is the only member of the LPGA to play in every round this year. She has played in every tournament, and made every cut.

Titleholders Update:
Karen Sjodin, Jennifer Johnson, and Nicole Castrale are the latest to qualify. Sophie Gustafson remains the highest-ranked player on the priority list yet to qualify. It seems to me to be a little unfair that a player like Nicole Castrale can get in with a 45th place finish this week, while a player like Jimin Kang who had a 5th-place finish early in the year is not in. I guess no system is perfect.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Catriona Matthew moves from #22 to #15. Suzann Pettersen moves from #9 to #7.

Who is hot:
Catriona Matthew has finished in the top ten in each of her last four tournaments.
Se Ri Pak, in spite of only teeing it up 9 times this year (she had to withdraw on two other occasions because of injuries), has not finished outside the top 25 all year. She has 5 top tens in those nine starts.

Who is not:
Hee Kyung Seo has failed to finish in the top 25 in her last six tournaments.
Sun Young Yoo has failed to finish in the top 10 in her last 13 tournaments.

10/24/12 -UPDATE - Jiyai Shin has dropped out of this tournament. That coupled with the fact that she is not playing at the Lorena Ochoa event, eliminates her from winning the Vare Trophy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

LPGA Hana Bank Championship Preview

Congratulations goes out to Inbee Park for winning the Sime Darby Malaysia Championship. It was Inbee's second win this year on the LPGA tour, and she has moved into second place in the Player of the Year race. Stacy Lewis still holds a 40-point lead, but with 5 tournaments still to be played it is not over yet.

The tour moves to South Korea this week for the playing of the LPGA Hana Bank Championship. It is stop number two on the current four-stop Asian swing. Stops in Taiwan and Japan will follow.

This is tournament 23 of 27 this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Sky 72 Golf Club Ocean Course
Where:  Incheon, South Korea
Defending Champion:  Yani Tseng
Winning Score:  65-70-67 = 202 (-14)

Final Field:  69 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,364 yards
Purse:  $1,200,000

Here are the first-round pairings.
My strength of field rating is 64% which is a pretty strong field. It will include many KLPGA stars who usually don't tee it up in LPGA events but are highly ranked in the Rolex Rankings. On the other hand, many LPGA stars have chosen to skip the event this week. Those not competing this week include Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb, Mika Miyazato, Sophie Gustafson, Momoko Ueda, Candie Kung, and Natalie Gulbis. Some other players that are playing very well, including Sydnee Michaels and Lizette Salas, didn't get into this limited field.  This is a 54-hole event.

Here are the television times:
Oct 19 - GC 7:30 PM-9:30 PM EST
Oct 20 - GC 7:30 PM-9:30 PM EST
Oct 21 - GC 7:30 PM-9:30 PM EST

Once again, because of the 12-hour time difference, this will be shown on tape delay. At least it is being broadcast a few hours earlier this week.

Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park has now finished in the top ten in 10 consecutive tournaments.

It is no surprise that So Yeon Ryu and Lexi Thompson are the top two rookies this season. They were established winners and huge stars before their rookie season even started. So much attention has been given to them, that two other fine rookie seasons are almost going unnoticed. Lizette Salas, who got her card by earning it at qualifying school, had her best finish this week when she tied for 9th at the Sime Darby Championship. She has five top-25 finishes this year. Sydnee Michaels, who finished 19th this week, now has eight top-30 finishes this year and five top-25 finishes in her last 7 starts. Sydnee was Rookie of the Year last year on the Symetra Tour. These two ladies are both true rookies and should be recognized for the excellent season that they are having.

Titleholders Update:
Lizette Salas, Momoko Ueda, and Mina Harigae are the latest to qualify.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Paula Creamer moves from #13 to #11 and Karrie Webb moves from #19 to #15.

Who is hot:
Paula Creamer has finished 2nd, 3rd, and 6th in her last 3 tournaments.

Who's not:
Neither Michelle Wie nor Sophie Gustafson have a top-ten finish this year.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

LPGA Q-School Stage II: The Katie Burnett Show

Georgia native and University of South Carolina standout Katie Burnett tore up the Plantation Golf and Country Club over the past 4 days, breaking par every round and finishing at -15 in Stage II of the LPGA's Q-School, 6 shots ahead of LET superstar Melissa Reid.  Burnett, who garnered 3 top 20s and 6 made cuts in 7 starts on the Symetra Tour after graduation, had broken 70 only twice on the LPGA's developmental tour, but she opened with 3 straight rounds in the 60s this week and held on with a final-round 71.  Given that only 15 golfers in the field of 157 broke par over the 72-hole tournament--and that even from that group, Lee-Anne Pace, Felicity Johnson, and Giulia Molinaro finished 9 shots behind her, Ashleigh Simon and Lisa McCloskey were 12 back, and Austin Ernst and Stephanie Na ended up 14 off the pace--it's pretty clear that Burnett dominated the field.

Other notables who lived to fight another day included Moriya Jutanugarn and Caroline Masson at E, Brooke Pancake, Ginger Howard, and Garrett Phillips at +1, Natalie Sheary, Emily Talley, and Jessica Speechley at +2, Jean Reynolds, Brianna Do, Candace Schepperle, Caroline Westrup, and Selanee Henderson at +3, Chie Arimura, Frances Bondad, Taylore Karle, Marina Alex, Paz Echeverria, Seema Sadekar, and Tracy Stanford at +4, Kayla Mortellaro, Cathryn Bristow, and Kim Welch at +5, Ayako Uehara, Anna-Lise Caudal, Michelle Shin, Shasta Averyhardt, Alejandra Llaneza, and Justina Yu at +6, and Briana Vega, Anya Alvarez, Inhong Lim, Kitty Hwang, Vanessa Brockett, and Victoria Alimonda-Lovelady at +7.

Meanwhile, Jaye Marie Greene, Line Vedel, Marcela Leon, Joanna Coe, Joy Trotter, Benedikte Grotvedt, and Renee Skidmore all missed the cut by a single shot.  Rachel Rohanna, Kendall Dye, Vikki Laing, and Angela Buzminski finished 2 shots away from making it to the final stage.  Others heading to the LET, Symetra Tour, or other tours next year included Hye-Min Kim, Carling Coffing, Lisa Meldrum, Marta Silva, Katie Kempter, Callie Nielson, Stacy Bregman, Pei-Yun Chien, Ashleigh Albrecht, Dawn Shockley, Blair O'Neal, Hwanhee Lee, Ki-Shui Liao, Michele Low, Saehee Son, Lili Alvarez, and Libby Smith.

So a Burnett upstaged the big names in the Stage II field.  Now we'll have to wait until the end of November to see how she and they fare against the likes of Tiffany Joh, Kyeong Bae, Ji-Young Oh, Christina Kim, Stacy Prammanasudh, Sandra Changkija, Seon Hwa Lee, Hannah Yun, Victoria Tanco, Cydney Clanton, Angela Oh, Anna Grzebien, Danah Bordner, Janice Moodie, Christine Song, Maria Hernandez, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Harukyo Nomura, Na On Min, Ayaka Kaneko, Kathleen Ekey, Song-Hee Kim, Birdie Kim,  Mitsuki Katahira, Jenny Suh, Sara Brown, Leah Wigger, Jaclyn Sweeney, Jean Chua, Olivia Jordan-Higgins, Megan McChrystal, Kristie Smith, Misun Cho, Lauren Doughtie, and Hannah Jun.  Too bad there aren't 80 cards at stake in the Final Qualifying Tournament.  Probably about 3/4 of the folks I've mentioned are going to walk away from LPGA International deeply disappointed in early December.  It's a tough sport to love, eh?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

LPGA Q-School Stage II: Enter Arimura, Uehara, Reid, Simon, Pace...

Here are the 1st-round pairings for the 2nd stage of the LPGA's Qualifying Tournament.  Unlike the 1st stage's mildly controversial 36-hole cut, this one has no cut.  It's 72 holes to decide which of the 157 golfers in the field make it to the top 70 and ties.

There are plenty of LETers trying to make it to the 3rd and final stage at the end of November, including Melissa Reid, Ashleigh Simon, Lee-Anne Pace, Anne-Lise Caudal, Caroline Masson, Line Vedel, Frances Bondad, Felicity Johnson, Stacy Lee Bregman, Vikki Laing, and American Dawn Shockley.  ALPGers Cathryn Bristow, Stephanie Na, and Jody Fleming have entered the mix, as well.  But the players I'm most excited about are Chie Arimura and Ayako Uehara of the JLPGA.  Yes, we have no Sakura Yokomine or Sun-Ju Ahn, but the 28-year-old Uehara is a 3-time winner on tour who's been solidly in the top 25 on their money list over the last 6 seasons (including this one).  And the 24-year-old Arimura is one of the top players on tour, a 13-time winner who's currently #3 on the money list and has hovered within the top 6 the last 4 seasons.  Both are playing their 1st event since the brutal Japan Women's Open, so let's hope they've recovered from its uber-windy conditions!

It'll be very interesting to see how these seasoned and in some cases stellar professionals stack up against hotshots like Moriya Jutanugarn, Brooke Pancake, Austin Ernst, Natalie Sheary, Jaye Marie Greene, Marta Silva Zamora, Ginger Howard, Emily Talley, Taylore Karle, Kayla Mortellaro, Guilia Molinaro, Rachel Rohanna, Brianna Do, Lisa McCloskey, Marina Alex, and Michelle Shin.  And to see how those hotshots do against much more experienced Symetra Tour (and sometimes LPGA) regulars like Jean Reynolds, Candace Schepperle, Katie Kempter, Briana Vega, Kim Welch, Angela Buzminski, Renee Skidmore, Tracy Stanford, Libby Smith, Garrett Phillips, Kendall Dye, Lisa Meldrum, Selanee Henderson, Shasta Averyhardt, Blair O'Neal, Shayna Miyajima, Carling Coffing, and Seema Sadekar.

It's nice to see how the LPGA continues to attract diverse players from all over the world and across the United States.  Check out a small selection of names and places that stood out to me:  South Korea's Saehee Son, Jacey Chun, Hye-Min Kim, and Hye-Joo Han, Taiwan's Ki-Shui Liao, Pei-Yun Chien, and Wei-Ling Hsu, China's Jiayun Li, Australia's Inhong Lim, Jessica Speechley, Justine Lee, and Breanna Elliott, Sweden's Caroline Westrup, Canada's Victoria Thompson, Nicole Vandermade, Jessica Wallace, and Sue Kim, Denmark's Theresa Koelbaek, Norway's Benedikte Grotvedt and Marita Engzelius, South Africa's Ulrika Van-Niekirk, Mexico's Marcela Leon, Lili Alvarez, and Alejandra Llaneza, Ecuador's Kitty Hwang, Chile's Paz Echeverria, Brazil's Victoria Alimonda-Lovelady, Paraguay's Andy Jun, the Philippines's Mia Piccio, France's Isabelle Boineau and Fiona Puyo, Germany's Leigh Whittaker, California's Hwanhee Lee, Moah Chang, Joy Trotter, and Vanessa Brockett, New Jersey's Joanna Coe, Hawaii's Britney Choy and Xyra Suyetsugu, Kansas's Tara Goedeken, New York's Michele Low, Tennessee's Callie Neilson, Wisconsin's Carly Werwie, Texas's Tanya Wadhwa, Colorado's Kristin Walla, Oklahoma's Sydney Cox, and Nevada's Justina Yu!  (Not to mention more Floridians than you could shake a baby alligator at!)

Still, it is a little bit troubling that of the 216 available spots, only 157 players entered Stage II this year.  Makes you wonder if an alternate list from Stage I should be developed or reconfigured....  Seems to me that stage's initial cut, whether it comes after 36 or 54 holes or both, should be generous enough that the Stage II field could be filled out with the best from that B-list--following, of course, all those who didn't make the 72-hole cut.  If fewer international players than expected or hoped for enter Stage II, why not give the best of those who struggled in Stage I a second life?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Preview & Pairings

The LPGA resumes its schedule this week with the playing of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Championship. It is the first of four consecutive tournaments to be played in Asia. Tournaments in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan will follow. All four of these tournaments will be limited-field events.

This will be tournament 22 of 27 scheduled this year. Here are the key details:

Course:  Kuala Lumpar Golf and Country Club
Where:   Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia
Defending Champion:  Na Yeon Choi
Winning Score:  66-68-67-67=269 (-18)

Final Field:  72 players
Par:  71
Yardage:  6208 yards
Purse:  $1,900,000

Here are the first round pairings.

Don't let the fact that this is a limited-field event fool you; only the major championships have had a stronger field. Hee Kyung Seo is the only top-named player who qualified and is not playing. Others not making it into the field include: Maria Hjorth, Karen Stupples, Juli Inkster, and M.J. Hur.

Here are my predictions for this week:

1- Paula Creamer
2- Na Yeon Choi
3- Jiyai Shin
4- Shanshan Feng
5- Azahara Munoz
6- Yani Tseng
7- Stacy Lewis
8- Suzann Pettersen
9- Lexi Thompson
10- Ai Miyazato
11- Hee Young Park
12- So Yeon Ryu

Here are the television times:
Oct 11 - GC 9:30 PM-11:30 PM EST
Oct 12 - GC 9:30 PM-11:30 PM EST
Oct 13 - GC 9:30 PM-11:30 PM EST
Oct 14 - GC 9:30 PM-11:30 PM EST

All the rounds will be shown on tape delay some 17 hours after the actual finish. If you are planning on watching the broadcast, I would stay away from any golf boards that might include spoilers. I will not post any results until after the broadcast.

Other Tidbits:
Michelle Wie did not earn her way into this event, but was given a sponsor exemption. There is no cut in this event, but any money she earns will not be added to her 2012 earnings. The LPGA rules stipulate that any money earned by a player entering a tournament as a sponsor exemption on foreign soil does not count as official earnings.

Round two of qualifying school will be played this week starting on Tuesday 10/9/12 and finishing on Friday 10/12/12. Top first-round qualifiers including Moriya Jutanugarn, Brooke Pancake, and Jaye Marie Green, will be joined by the likes of European stars Melissa Reid and Lee-Anne Pace. The field will be 216 players with no cut. The top 70 move on to the final phase in December.  [Update:  Check out my preview post. Other big names include Chie Arimura and Ayako Uehara from the JLPGA! --TC]

Friday, October 5, 2012

Esther Choe Leads Largest Pack Ever from Symetra Tour to LPGA for 2013

Esther Choe, having finished the 2012 Symetra Tour season atop their money list in 2012, earned Player of the Year honors and led 9 other players to full status on the LPGA for 2013, among them Rookie of the Year Mi Hyang Lee.  Paola Moreno, who played twice as many events as Choe, finished 2nd, a little less than $5K behind Choe.  Daniela Iacobelli used a final-round 68 to propel her to her 1st-ever victory in the final event of the year and jump from 22nd place on the money list to 5th, right behind Victoria Elizabeth and Thidapa Suwannapura.  Rounding out the top 10 were Jenny Gleason, Julia Boland, Nicole Smith, and Sara-Maude Juneau.  Congratulations to them all for earning their 2013 LPGA cards, and apologies for the late notice!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stats & Facts "Vol 11"

The LPGA was idle last week and will be idle again this week. The tour will resume next week and that will be the start of six consecutive tournaments without a break. The first four of those tournaments will be held in Asia, followed by one in Mexico, and then the LPGA will have its finale; The Titleholders Championship, in the state of Florida.

There is still a lot at stake these coming weeks, so let us look at some statistics as the top players will be fighting for some pretty important awards:

Rolex Player of the Year Award: (Winner will receive a Hall of Fame point)
1- Stacy Lewis - 184 points
2- Jiyai Shin - 128
3- Yani Tseng - 120
4- Inbee Park - 114
5- Shanshan Feng - 112

Player of the year award points are awarded as follows:
First Place - 30
2nd - 12
3rd -  9
4th -  7
5th -  6
6th -  5
7th -  4
8th -  3
9th -  2
10th -1

It appears that Stacy Lewis has all but wrapped this up. It would take someone listed above to win twice, coupled by a complete collapse on Stacy's part, to knock her out of the top spot.  Considering the fact that she leads the tour with 14 top tens, that would appear unlikely. A Stacy win would be the first time an American player has won this award since 1994.

Vare Trophy Standings: (Winner receives a Hall of Fame point)
1- Jiyai Shin - 70.14 (strokes per round)
2- Stacy Lewis - 70.33
3- Inbee Park - 70.60
4- So Yeon Ryu - 70.63
5- Ai Miyazato - 70.71

This race is up for grabs. A good finish for any of the above could vault them to the top. Jiyai Shin is still 19 rounds short of the minimum qualification requirement. With a total of 6 tournaments and 22 rounds still to be played (two of the events are 3 rounds only), Jiyai must play them all to qualify.

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award:
1- So Yeon Ryu - 1117 points
2- Lexi Thompson - 652
3- Lizette Salas - 268
4- Sydnee Michaels - 260
5- Mo Martin - 236

This race appears to be over. It would take two Lexi wins and a So Yeon immediate retirement announcement to change this result.

Solheim Cup Points: (Top 8 qualify automatically, 2 captain's picks, 2 highest Rolex-ranked players not already in)
1- Stacy Lewis - 457 points
2- Paula Creamer - 239
3- Cristie Kerr - 214
4- Angela Stanford - 209
5- Brittany Lincicome - 161
6- Brittany Lang - 143
7- Lexi Thompson - 107
8- Katie Futcher - 97

On the outside looking in:
9 -Vicky Hurst - 89
10-Michelle Wie - 85
11-Natalie Gulbis 74
12-Morgan Pressel - 70

Most consecutive tournaments without a missed cut:
1- Karrie Webb - 41
2- Paula Creamer - 40
3- Jiyai Shin - 32
4- Na Yeon Choi - 29
5- Beatriz Recari - 27

Most consecutive missed cuts:
1- Stephanie Kono - 15
1- Michelle Ellis - 15
3- Na On Min - 12
4- Ashli Bunch - 11
5- Elisa Serramia - 10

Other Tidbits:
There have been 12 holes in one on the LPGA tour this year; only 10 were made all of last year.

Rolex Mover of the week:
Shanshan Feng, who won the Japan Women's Open (a major on the JLPGA), moves from #4 to #3.

Who's Hot:
Beatriz Recari, who always seems to fly under the radar, has 3 top-ten finishes in her last 7 starts.

Who's Not:
Amanda Blumenherst has failed to crack the top 30 in any of her last 19 tournaments.