Just as with the LPGA's rookie class of 2006, the Class of 2007 is starting to see some real separation between its top players and the rest. But unlike the '06ers, 2/3 of whom will still be playing professionally in 2014, I'm definitely thinking of the '07ers as "The Incredible Shrinking Rookie Class." Still, who cares how small it becomes when you have Inbee Park and In-Kyung Kim in it? (Besides the actual players and their friends and family and fans, that is.) Seriously, though, this class has a lot of other interesting golfers in it, but most of them have been snakebit for a good portion of their LPGA careers. I'd love to see what they're capable of when they're healthy and playing regular schedules!
Simply the Best
1. Inbee Park: It should be no surprise that the LPGA money-list champion and 1st-ever South Korean LPGA Player of the Year remains #1, what with her 9 LPGA wins and 4 majors. What may be a little more surprising is that even with her little swoon 2/3 of the way through the season, her other key stats are still so good: she's now getting top 3s at a rate of over 13%, top 10s at about a 30% rate, top 20s at about a 44% rate and avoiding missed cuts, withdrawals, or disqualifications (what I call racking up finishes) almost 85% of the time. The result of her much more consistent excellence, along with her new-found ability to consistently close the deal when in contention this past year and a half, has been that she's now winning about $48.9K per start and over $57.6K per finish over the course of her career. The key question for me is can she keep her putter as incandescently hot as it's stayed the past 3 seasons in 2014? I don't know if anyone else in the history of golf has kept their putts per green in regulation rate below 1.730 for 3 years in a row besides Park....
2. In-Kyung Kim: I'm amazed that win #4 continues to elude her, but I'm still confident that it can't be far away. She's got comparable or better career stats than Park in most key categories: top-3 finishes (about 11% of her starts), top 10s (almost 36%), top 20s (almost 53%), and overall finishes (almost 88%). Where the real difference shows up is that Inky is making only about $38.3K per start and $43.7K per finish. That gap between her and Park shows what winning a lot--and winning multiple majors--means. But at least Inky moved up 12 spots in the Rolex Rankings in the past calendar year!
The Next Best
3. Eun-Hee Ji: She hasn't been setting the world on fire, but she's found real consistency since extricating herself from a U.S. Women's Open-jinxed slump. The next step is for her to start getting into the top 20 more often! All it will take is incremental improvements in every aspect of her game....
Quantum Leap Candidates
4. Jane Park: After years of back injuries, she's finally starting to play like Jane Park again! She flew up 210 spots in the Rolex Rankings in the past calendar year as a result!!
5. Ji Young Oh: She's definitely coming out her own deep slump, but she still hasn't gotten a top 20 in forever.
6. Kristy McPherson: Her comeback from elbow surgery has been very slow. Let's see if she can pick up the pace in 2014.
On the Bottom Looking Up
7. Irene Cho: She's had a tough time with injuries the last few seasons, so it was great to see her follow up her silver in the Bahamas with a top 20 at the Manulife and a top 5 in Taiwan.
8. Paige Mackenzie: She's got a classic straight shooter's kind of game (think Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang), but she just doesn't take advantage of her ball-striking often enough.
9. Lisa Ferrero: Somehow I've been overlooking her for years, but despite that indignity, she still managed to finish T13 at Q-School, so I'll do my best to notice her in 2014!
10. Lee-Anne Pace: Apparently she played briefly on the LPGA in 2007 before joining the LET in 2008, but I've only found a leaderboard here or there with her name on it. There's no LPGA player page, no mention of her on the LPGA's career money list.... Weird, eh? She's in Category 17 for 2014, so I'm putting this LET superstar here for now! Wondering how many chances she'll get to play outside Europe next season on the LPGA.... [Update (1/12/14, 4:28 am): Not that many, it seems, as she's #169 on the 2014 LPGA Priority Status List.]
On the Outside Looking In
11. Song-Hee Kim: According to her bio at Seoul Sisters.com, she suffered a neck injury at some point in 2012. Despite starting only 11 times (all before July 4th), she didn't seek a medical exemption in 2013, instead playing under Category 13 (top 40 two years prior). Well, it must still have been bothering her, as she made only 2 cuts in 11 starts and didn't enter Q-School. Is she KLPGA-bound in 2014?
12. Angela Park: From Rookie of the Year to no LPGA status in only 4 years is a very sad story. In 2011, we heard that she was closing the books on her professional golfing career. In 2012, we heard that she was attempting a comeback. I didn't hear anything about her in 2013. Did you? I'd love to hear some happy news about her! So far nothing new on her Seoul Sisters.com bio....
13. Jin Joo Hong: She decided to concentrate on the KLPGA full-time in 2011 and has been there ever since.
14. Na On Min: She took a big step back in 2011, barely squeaking into the top 100 on the money list after missing 8 cuts in a row in the 1st half of the season. And 2012 was worse, with only 2 made cuts in 15 starts. In 2013, she had Category 20 status on the LPGA and some kind of status on the Symetra Tour, but didn't tee it up on either tour all year (unless you count a WD in February on the latter). I haven't noticed her name on Seoul Sisters.com's rundowns of KLPGA events in 2013, either, but I can't say I've been looking for it in particular.
15. Charlotte Mayorkas: Last I heard (back before the 2011 season) she was recovering from a wrist injury and playing professionally in Canada.
16. Sophie Giquel-Bettan: After finishing #22 on the 2011 LET money list in 21 starts and #47 in 2012 in 21 starts, it seems she's fully committed to playing in Europe. Let's see if she she can improve on this season's #66 finish in 2014!
17. Su A Kim: Her Seoul Sisters.com bio reports that she played on the KLPGA in 2012 but lost her status and played on mini-tours in 2013.
Over and Out
18. Seo-Jae Lee: Is she back on the KLPGA or out of professional golf? Even Seoul Sisters.com lists her status as unknown!
19. Becky Lucidi: Don't know what she's up to, but Tony Mazzella does!
20. Sarah Lynn Sargent: The former Associate Head Coach at Coastal Carolina is now head coach at UNC Greensboro.
21. Cindy Pasechnik: After finishing her MBA at the University of Calgary, she's now a crude oil scheduler for Philips 66 and got married in July.
22. Jeanne Cho: Seoul Sisters.com has her as an assistant coach at Duke since 2010.
For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the December 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 five key indicators of how well someone played last season--how much money they won, how they scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, how many greens they hit in regulation on average per round, and how many putts per green in regulation they took on average, plus how they ranked in each category (except for birdies, which LPGA.com ranks by total and not by average). Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are the most important I've incorporated into my career ranking (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the immediate past and future.
NAME/$$/SCORING AVE./BIRDIES PER ROUND/GIR/PPGIR (ranks)
1. Inbee Park, $2.46M (#1), 69.869 (#3), 4.18 (#3), 72.6% (#16), 1.727 (#1)
2. In-Kyung Kim, $1.13M (#7), 70.488 (#7), 3.77 (#13), 70.5% (#25), 1.783 (#15)
3. Eun-Hee Ji, $332.0K (#44), 72.022 (#52), 3.15 (#22), 65.5% (#79), 1.807 (#32)
4. Jane Park, $267.8K (#51), 71.790 (#39), 3.05 (#40), 67.1% (#50), 1.825 (#57)
5. Irene Cho, $257.2K (#52), 72.733 (#80), 3.12 (#70), 60.6% (#126), 1.831 (#63)
6. Kristy McPherson, $108.6K (#83), 72.759 (#81), 2.93 (#79), 65.2% (#84), 1.840 (#79)
7. Ji Young Oh, $84.9K (#87), 72.558 (#70), 2.88 (#87), 65.5% (#77), 1.850 (#96)
8. Paige Mackenzie, $63.7K (#97), 72.388 (#64), 3.08 (#86), 65.3% (#83), 1.821 (#49)
9. Lisa Ferrero, $21.5K (#124), 72.261 (n.r.), 3.35 (#134), 68% (n.r.), 1.827 (n.r.)
10. Song-Hee Kim, $11.7K (#139), 73.727 (#126), 2.64 (#145), 60.9% (#125), 1.867 (#121)
Career Ranking: 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 members of the Class of 2007 started at the same time, even if some of them have not had full status 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 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, building on an old analysis of finishes, I've developed a career ranking formula (the details you can check out on my spreadsheet), but since that includes only the top 8 players in the class, I'll continue giving the details on the lower-ranked players here, most of whom are off the LPGA.
1. Inbee Park, 2725 points.
2. In-Kyung Kim, 1759.
3. Song-Hee Kim, 1226.
4. Angela Park, 1114.
5. Eun-Hee Ji, 1047.
6. Ji Young Oh, 612.
7. Kristy McPherson, 604.
8. Jane Park, 475.
9. Na On Min, $.73M (#244), 100/0/0/1/3/9/2/0/42/56 (.560)
10. Irene Cho, $.72M (#247), 113/0/0/1/5/9/5/0/49/59 (.522)
11. Paige Mackenzie, $.67M (#254), 123/0/0/0/2/6/0/0/51/72 (.585)
12. Jin Joo Hong, $.58M (#?), 60/0/0/0/2/7/6/0/17/37 (.617)
13. Charlotte Mayorkas, $.28M (#?), 56/0/0/0/0/4/1/0/22/33 (.589)
14. Sophie Giquel-Bettan, $.12M (#?), 39/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/21/17 (.436)
15. Becky Lucidi $.10M (#470), 35/0/0/0/0/2/0/1/25/9 (.257)
16. Su A Kim, $.07M (#507), 26/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/13/12 (.462)
17. Seo-Jae Lee, $.07M (#509), 25/0/0/0/0/0/2/0/13/10 (.400)
18. Lisa Ferrero, $.07M (#517), 30/0/0/0/0/0/2/0/14/14 (.467)
19. Sarah Lynn Sargent, $.05M (#544), 26/0/0/0/0/0/14/12 (.462)
20. Jeanne Cho, $.02M (#599), 34/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/29/4 (.118)
21. Cindy Pasechnik, $.02M (#620), 19/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/14/5 (.263)
22. Lee-Anne Pace, ????
Other Career Measures: Rolex Rankings points (as of 12/30/13) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index score (as of 12/29/13) and rank, International Wins (on JLPGA, KLPGA, LET as of 12/30/13): This is a way of seeing how those '07ers 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, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, ALPG, Symetra Tour, LETAS, and CLPGA; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, LET, and Symetra Tour).
1. Inbee Park, 10.91 (#1), 69.13 (#3); 5 (4 JLPGA, 1 LET)
2. In-Kyung Kim, 4.63 (#10), 69.65 (#8); 1 (LET)
3. Lee-Anne Pace, 2.09 (#53), 71.63 (#75); 8 (LET)
4. Eun-Hee Ji, 1.40 (#79), 71.61 (#64); 4
5. Jane Park, 1.26 (#88), 71.40 (#53); 0
6. Irene Cho, 1.20 (#94), 73.26 (#154); 0
7. Kristy McPherson, .54 (#203), 73.08 (#145); 0
8. Ji Young Oh, .50 (#213), 72.78 (#130); 0
9. Paige Mackenzie, .44 (#227), 73.60 (#177); 0
10. Jin Joo Hong, .31 (#267), 73.85 (#189); 2
11. Sophie Giquel-Bettan, .23 (#305), 74.78 (#274); 1
12. Lisa Ferrero, .15 (#365), 73.81 (#185); 0
13. Song-Hee Kim, .07 (#489), 75.75 (n.r.); 0
14. Na On Min, .01 (#787), ?; 0