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.