Monday, July 15, 2013

Ranking the LPGA's Rookie Class of 2008, July 2013 Edition

I used to group together the LPGA's rookie classes of 20062007, and 2008 into a generation I called "Young Guns," in honor of the noise so many of them were making in the upper echelons of women's professional golf so soon after they joined the top tour in the world.  Then Ya Ni Tseng exploded in 2011 and even I had to admit that this generation should be known as the "Tseng Dynasty," as bangkokbobby so memorably coined it.

The Class of 2008 will probably go down in history as Tseng's, but I wouldn't be surprised if her rival for Rookie of the Year in 2008 and for Player of the Year in 2010, Na Yeon Choi, plays Karrie Webb to Tseng's Sorenstam.  And let's not forget the rest of the class, which is not only big, but deep in top-tier talent, as witnessed by Hee Young Park's 2nd career win yesterday!

Simply the Best

1. Ya Ni Tseng.  Yes, she's no longer the dominant player she was for a couple of years on the LPGA, but she's still the top player in her generation over the course of their careers and it's really not even close.  More on that topic soon.  For a preview, you can scan the key career numbers for yourself!

The Contender

2. Na Yeon Choi.  She's not only the clear #2 player in her class, she's also the clear #2 player in her generation, as well.  She's had a very good 2013 thus far by most players' standards, but she hasn't really put it together yet for an entire week.  Here's hoping yesterday's 62 fires her up and gets her going over the rest of the season.  About the only player in her generation who's been close to her consistent excellence over their careers is In-Kyung Kim, and even she isn't all that close.  To say NYC is due is a huge understatement.

The Best of the Rest

3. Hee Young Park.  I'm going to rank the players in this category largely by number of wins, as they're really close and have different kinds of strengths.  The Rocket is best at converting good play into wins, although in many ways she's the least consistent of the bunch (as her nickname would suggest).  It's really a toss-up--I'm going with the player who just got win #2!
4. Shanshan Feng.  Like Park, Feng doesn't get a whole lot of top 20s compared to the best golfers in her generation (on which more in a future post), but it's hard to argue with the way she won the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship.  If she can get her putter going, watch out for her!
5. Amy Yang.  She actually has the best stats of the players in this category and is among the very best in her class and generation at making cuts (and is pretty darn good at snagging top 20s), but she hasn't been able to convert her consistent excellence into that 1st LPGA career victory just yet.  The culprit throughout her career has been her putter and it remains so this season.

Quantum Leap Candidates

6. Momoko Ueda.  Seems like she's losing power the longer she stays away from Japan.  Her 2 LPGA victories came in the Mizuno Classic and she's only snagged 6 more top 10s in her 99 other starts.  This past week in Waterloo was a microcosm of her career thus far:  promising start, disappointing follow-through.
7. Sandra Gal.  Just when it looked like she was starting to turn her 2013 around, she's missed the cut in 3 of her last 5 starts and could only manage a T50 in Waterloo.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

8. Sarah Kemp.  At #142 on the LPGA's current priority status list, she should get into several more events before the year is out.  Her comeback from her broken foot continues to limp along.
9. Nicole Hage.  She's fallen to #162 on the LPGA's priority status list as of the July 1st reshuffle, so she'll be fortunate to get into many more events this season.

On the Outside, Looking In

10. Onnarin Sattayabanphot.  She remains a full-time member of the JLPGA and her 1st career win there this season has moved her all the way up to #10 on their current money list.  I've moved her this high in this category, despite her weak record on the LPGA, due to my belief that she's probably in the best position to try to make a comeback of the bunch.
11. Hannah Jun.  After splitting her time between the Symetra Tour and LET last season, she seems to be focusing more on the former this year, where she just finished T4 and is now 11th on the money list.
12. Taylor Coutu (formerly Leon).  She had a decent 2012 but hasn't teed it up anywhere I could find in 2013, despite having solid status on the LPGA (#110 on the latest priority status list).
13. Eunjung Yi.  Her lone win puts her at #262 on the LPGA's latest priority status list, which basically means she needs a miracle to get into any event this season.  Despite that, she's played only 2 events on the Symetra Tour this season.  Wonder why?
14. Anna Grzebien.  She's got super-low status on the LPGA priority status list (way down there in Category 20), so it's either Q-School or retirement for her, as she's not a member of the Symetra Tour in 2013.
15. Jimin Jeong.  She's fighting to move from Korea's Dream Tour to the KLPGA, according to her bio at Seoul
16. Anja Monke.  She was back on the LET full-time; having moved from #11 on their money list in 2010 to #58 in 2011 to #46 in 2012, she hasn't yet teed it up there this season.
17. Ashleigh Simon.  For a time, she was one of the better players on the LET (#17 on their money list in 2010, #15 in 2011), but she fell to #38 in 2012 and has only 2 starts thus far in 2013.  At #187 on the LPGA's priority status list, conceivably she could get into an event here or there, but she's spent more time on the Symetra Tour, where she's just finished in the top 20 yesterday in Albany.
18. Leah Wigger.  She's played 2 events on the Symetra Tour thus far this season.
19. Sarah Oh.  She finished 10th on the ALPG Order of Merit in 2011, 13th in 2012 (when she got limited status on the KLPGA), and is now 38th in 3 starts in Australia this season.
20. Emma Cabrera-Bello.  She's played a limited schedule on the LET the past 2 seasons while getting a Master's degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Esade.

Over and Out

21. Louise Friberg.  After missing every single cut in 2011, she pulled the plug on her competitive career and is pursuing a teaching/writing career in the golf industry.  (She played 1 event each in 2012 and 2013, keeping that missed cut streak alive.)
22. Anna Rawson.  I'm assuming the "sabbatical" from professional golf that she announced awhile back is now permanent, but I haven't really dug into her web site to check.
23. Carolina Llano.  I'm assuming she's calling it quits, competitive golf-wise.
24. Liz Janangelo.  A local paper reported she's going to continue competing professionally here and there, but will primarily focus on a career as a teaching pro.
25. Chris Brady.  Have to assume her competitive career is over.
26. Amie Cochran.  Ditto.
27. Violeta Retamoza.  I can't find any golf-related news on her.  I'm assuming she's done with her competitive career.
28. Hwanhee Lee.  Ditto. Perhaps she's continuing to focus on her fashion design career?
29. Sofie Andersson.  She had hand surgery in fall 2011 and back troubles in summer 2012 and is not listed as a member of either the LET or the Symetra Tour in 2013.
30. Sukjin Lee Wuesthoff.  Done, right?

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the July 2013 ranking.

2013 LPGA Money List (rank), scoring average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, and how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category (except for birdies, which ranks by total and not by average). I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I don't include putts per green in regulation here. Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.

1. Na Yeon Choi, $503.2K (#9), 70.120 (#4), 4.14 (#5), 74.1% (#5)
2. Hee Young Park, $477.8K (#13), 71.120 (#20), 3.82 (#11), 70.0% (#26)
3. Shanshan Feng, $441.7K (#17), 71.000 (#16), 3.27 (#47), 72.6% (#11)
4. Ya Ni Tseng, $273.7K (#29), 71.435 (#31), 3.43 (#32), 65.3% (#85)
5. Amy Yang, $241.9K (#33), 71.044 (#19), 3.44 (#36), 72.6% (#12)
6. Sandra Gal, $127.9K (#52), 71.723 (#39), 3.53 (#28), 66.2% (#67)
7. Momoko Ueda, $41.1K (#96), 73.000 (#96), 2.54 (#91), 60.8% (#124)
8. Sarah Kemp, $37.8K (#98), 72.793 (#83), 2.93 (#105), 61.5% (#119)
9. Nicole Hage, $5.3K (#146), 71.500 (n.r.), 4.30 (#147), 68% (n.r.)

Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events started/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/withdrawals/disqualifications/missed cuts/finished events (rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Class of 2008 hasn't been at this all too long, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt every season (although that in itself is an indication of how someone's career has been going!). What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now--although Thomas Atkins has posted an inflation-adjusted LPGA Career Top 50 as of the end of the 2008 season and a Best of All Time ranking over at Hound Dog LPGA. In any case, I include the other ways of seeing how the '08ers finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. Many thanks to the LPGA for updating their 2013 Performance Chart after every event. [Note: *=non-member win.]

1. Ya Ni Tseng, $9.24M (#9), 133/5/15/37/59/84/0/0/10/123 (.925)
2. Na Yeon Choi, $8.15M (#15), 134/1/7/29/64/96/0/1/2/131 (.978)
3. Hee Young Park, $3.23M (#71), 136/0/2/6/28/44/0/0/24/112 (.824)
4. Amy Yang, $3.13M (#74), 108/0/0/5/23/45/0/0/11/97 (.898)
5. Shanshan Feng, $2.78M (#85), 113/1/1/6/26/38/1/0/26/86 (.761)
6. Sandra Gal, $1.91M (#122), 127/0/1/3/10/35/2/0/26/99 (.780)
7. Momoko Ueda, $1.65M (#129), 101/0/2*/2/8/26/1/0/21/79 (.782)
8. Louise Friberg, $476.6K (#293), 74/0/1/1/3/4/0/0/49/25 (.338)
9. Eunjung Yi, $475.7K (#294), 66/0/1/1/1/2/2/0/31/33 (.500)
10. Taylor Coutu, $371.9K (#317), 69/0/0/0/3/7/0/0/35/34 (.493)
11. Sarah Kemp, $350.1K (#327), 87/0/0/0/2/9/0/1/47/39 (.448)
12. Anna Grzebien, $266.7K (#359), 65/0/0/0/0/5/3/0/32/30 (.462)
13. Jimin Jeong, $198.8K (#391), 51/0/0/0/2/3/2/0/26/23 (.451)
14. Anna Rawson, $166.9K (#406), 46/0/0/0/1/4/1/0/29/16 (.348)
15. Carolina Llano, $111.3K (#451), 40/0/0/0/1/1/0/0/25/15 (.375)
16. Anja Monke, $109.3K (#458), 22/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/10/12 (.545)
17. Nicole Hage, $74.2K (#498), 45/0/0/0/0/1/1/0/32/12 (.267)
18. Ashleigh Simon, $72.9K (#499), 30/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/17/13 (.433)
19. Leah Wigger, $58.8K (#521), 36/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/24/12 (.333)
20. Liz Janangelo, $38.1K (#570), 35/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/24/10 (.286)
21. Hannah Jun, $32.0K (#577), 12/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/7/5 (.417)
22. Amie Cochran, $17.2K (#627), 5/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/4/1 (.200)
23. Onnarin Sattayabanphot, $8.6K (#?), 8/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/6/2 (.250)
24. Chris Brady, $6.1K (#693), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/2/2 (.500)
25. Violeta Retamoza, $2.2K (#737), 19/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/17/1 (.053)
26. Emma Cabrera-Bello, $0K (n.r.), 2/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/2/0 (.000)
27. Sarah Oh, $0K (n.r.), 3/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/3/0 (.000)
28. Hwanhee Lee, $0K (n.r.), 5/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/5/0 (.000)
29. Sofie Andersson, $0K (n.a.), 0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0 (.000)
30. Sukjin Lee Wuesthoff, $0K (n.a.), 0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0 (.000)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 7/15/13) score and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 7/14/13) score and rank, International Wins (as of today): This is a way of seeing how those '08ers who sometimes or regularly or often compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Na Yeon Choi, 7.47 (#4), 69.22 (#6); 7 (all KLPGA)
2. Shanshan Feng, 6.11 (#6), 69.76 (#12); 5 (all JLPGA)
3. Ya Ni Tseng, 5.56 (#10), 70.92 (#36); 6 (all LET)
4. Amy Yang, 3.86 (#19), 70.08 (#19); 4 (3 LET, 1 KLPGA)
5. Hee Young Park, 3.74 (#21), 70.69 (#31); 4
6. Sandra Gal, 2.05 (#52); 71.27 (#47); 0
7. Momoko Ueda, 1.06 (#112), 72.22 (#99); 9
8. Onnarin Sattayabanphot, .85 (#144), 72.60 (#119); 1
9. Sarah Kemp, .50 (#218), 74.42 (#240); 0
10. Ashleigh Simon, .37 (#267), 74.81 (#278); 2
11. Hannah Jun, .32 (#277), 73.91 (#199); 0
12. Taylor Coutu, .26 (#309), 71.33 (n.r.); 0
13. Anja Monke, .21 (#338), 75.12 (n.r.); 3
14. Sarah Oh, .13 (#393), 73.84 (n.r.); 0
15. Anna Grzebien, .07 (#485), 77.55 (n.r.); 0
16. Nicole Hage, .07 (#499), 75.26 (#317); 0
17. Emma Cabrera-Bello, .05 (#539), 76.88 (n.r.); 0
18. Leah Wigger, .05 (#561), 75.24 (n.r.); 0
19. Eunjung Yi, n.r., 77.07 (n.r.); 0
20. Sofie Andersson, n.r., 78.02 (n.r.); 0
21. Louise Friberg, n.r., 75.22 (n.r.); 0

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