Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ranking the LPGA's Rookie Class of 2009, January 2014 Edition

Now that I've finished ranking the 3 rookie classes from the LPGA that I (still) group under the moniker "Tseng Dynasty," it's time to turn my attention to the next generation, which I've been calling New Blood.  The 1st class in this generation is doing quite well for itself, turning themselves into possibly the deepest of those I've ranked so far--perhaps even deeper than the '08ers!

Simply the Best

1. Ji-Yai Shin.  She continues to lose ground on Stacy Lewis, but she's still making up ground on Ya Ni Tseng, the only player from the Tseng Dynasty ahead of her in the career ranking system I unveiled last July.  Her winning rate is the highest among the rookies that started on the LPGA between 2005 and the present (10.9%), even higher than Tseng's.  Her top-3 rate (22.5%) is exceeded only by Ya Ni Tseng's, her top-10 rate (46.9%) is exceeded only by So Yeon Ryu's, her top-20 rate (70.4%) is exceeded only by Paula Creamer's and Na Yeon Choi's, and her finishes rate (tournaments without WD, DQ, or MC) of 96.9% is exceeded only by Na Yeon Choi's.  As a result, only Tseng earns more per start or finish than Shin does.  That said, she was only the 4th-best player in her class in 2013.  Let's see if Shin can rejuvenate her iron play and putting with her JLPGA-focused 2014 schedule!
2. Stacy Lewis.  The former world #1 had a Player of the Year-quality 2013; it's just that Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen did even better.  Given that Lewis won the Vare Trophy against those 2, finished the season with 10-straight LPGA top 10s (if you don't count her WD at the Canadian Women's Open), and just got beat out at the finish line by classmate Pornanong Phatlum to close out the year in Dubai, she's poised to start 2014 with a bang.

The Contenders

3. Anna Nordqvist.  For a player of her consistent excellence, it's getting more and more surprising that she hasn't contended more often on the LPGA.  Looking at her performance stats and results from 2013, I wouldn't at all be surprised if she went on a little run of her own in 2014.
4. Michelle Wie.  I'm hoping that in 2014 she makes my Wie-Adam Scott comparison from back before the Solheim Cup teams were determined look prescient.  As you can see by her improved stats and rankings from last July, she, like many in her class, finished 2013 off in style.  If she had finished 1 spot higher on the money list, she would have been the 7th player in the class to finish in the American top 40 in all 5 performance stats I see as the best indicator of how good a player's season was (see below for details).  And if she can keep making incremental improvements in 2014, she should start contending again.
5. Mika Miyazato.  She got off to a very slow start with a very cold putter in 2013, but she came back in the 2nd half of the season, even if she was never able to putt as well on the LPGA as she did in taking her 2nd Japan Women's Open title in the last 4 years.

The Next Best

6. Chella Choi.  She had the 2nd-best year in her class and did everything right but win, finishing the season off with 8-straight top 25s (in fact, her T25 at the Titleholders was her only finish worse than T12 in the bunch and she came this close to winning for what seemed like the millionth time in 2013 at the Mizuno).  So I'd say she's poised for an even better 2014.
7. Pornanong Phatlum.  She's another '09er who had a career season in 2013 and is poised for even better results in 2014.  After just missing wins in her last 2 LPGA starts of the season, she found her way to the winner's circle in Dubai, chasing down classmate Stacy Lewis in the final round for her 2nd career LET victory.

Quantum Leap Candidates

8. Haeji Kang.  Although she hasn't yet made the quantum leap that Choi and Phatlum made in 2013, she has a tendency to play very good golf in bursts.  Since her last one came in the middle of 2013, I'd say she's due for a good start to 2014.
9. Vicky Hurst.  Although she dominated the then-Futures Tour, she hasn't been able to put it all together on the LPGA.  After a solid start to 2013, she regressed in the middle of the season, just as she did in 2012.  Even though she broke out of her funk from the Evian on, she could manage only 1 top 25 (her 3rd of the season) down the home stretch.
10. Mi Jung Hur.  My ranking system puts her ahead of Kang and Hurst, but any year you miss 12 cuts is a huge red flag.  The good news for Hur is that she somehow finished in the top 80 on the money list, but she's going to have to improve her ball-striking and take some of the pressure off her putter, which let her down a bit in 2013, uncharacteristically.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

11. Mindy Kim.  Her surprise T4 in the waterlogged Bahamas was the only thing that kept her in the top 100 on the LPGA money list in 2013.  Unless she improves every aspect of her game in 2014, she should keep her calendar free for Q-School.
12. Kim Welch.  She made only 1 cut in 9 starts in 2013 and didn't make the 72-hole cut at LPGA Q-School, so I'm not sure what her plans or options for 2014 are.  [Update (1/12/14, 4:21 am):  She got a medical exemption and is #135 on the 2014 LPGA Priority Status List, so I'm moving her into this category.]

On the Outside, Looking In

13. Shiho Oyama.  After knocking on the door for most of 2013, Oyama broke through in the final event of the year for her 13th career victory and 3rd major on the JLPGA, which moved her up to 9th on the season-ending money list.  I think the only way we'll see her back on the LPGA is if she qualifies to represent Japan in the International Crown.  She said during the Mizuno (one of many tournaments she contended in) that given her age and injuries, she didn't plan on leaving the JLPGA again.
14. Samantha Richdale.  She ended up #24 on the Symetra Tour money list, but didn't make it past the 2nd stage of LPGA Q-School (where she finished T123).  So it's back to the minors again for 2014.
15. Jessica Shepley.  She made the 72-hole cut at LPGA Q-School with a 67, but finished last because of a final-round 77, so she'll be on the Symetra Tour full-time in 2014.
16. Angela Oh.  She was #166 on the LPGA's priority status list in 2013, but didn't make a start there, on the Symetra Tour, or on the LET this season.  Anyone know what she's up to?
17. Tania Elosegui.  She dropped to #92 on the 2013 LET Order of Merit, which makes a return engagement on the LPGA look increasingly unlikely.
18. Nontaya Srisawang.  She finished #30 on the LET Order of Merit this season, so let's see if she can continue being part of a Thai renaissance in women's golf in 2014.

Over and Out

19. Jeehae Lee. Well, she gave the LPGA and the LET the ol' college try, but wasn't seeing the results she needed to keep her professional golf experiment alive any longer.
20. Sunny Oh. Working as a teaching professional at the Lakes at El Segundo.
21. Song Yi Choi.  I haven't noticed her name in Seoul's overviews of KLPGA events the last 3 seasons, so I'm assuming she's retired from competitive golf.

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the January 2014 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 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.

1. Stacy Lewis, $1.94M (#3), 69.484 (#1), 4.54 (#1), 75.0% (#3), 1.745 (#2)
2. Chella Choi, $739.4K (#17), 70.687 (#10), 3.64 (#2), 74.3% (#6), 1.804 (#28)
3. Anna Nordqvist, $678.8K (#20), 70.833 (#16), 3.65 (#4), 73.6% (#10), 1.785 (#16)
4. Ji-Yai Shin, $602.9K (#22), 70.658 (#9), 3.51 (#37), 69.8% (#27), 1.785 (#17)
5. Pornanong Phatlum, $600.2K (#21), 71.360 (#27), 3.65 (#14), 69.6% (#29), 1.777 (#9)
6. Mika Miyazato, $417.7K (#36), 71.986 (#50), 2.73 (#67), 67.7% (#45), 1.842 (#86)
7. Haeji Kang, $408.6K (#37), 71.620 (#32), 3.46 (#31), 66.0% (#66), 1.787 (#18)
8. Michelle Wie, $355.9K (#41), 71.711 (#36), 3.34 (#29), 69.0% (#32), 1.799 (#25)
9. Vicky Hurst, $135.1K (#74), 72.692 (#77), 2.92 (#50), 66.7% (#56), 1.847 (#93)
10. Mi Jung Hur, $132.5K (#75), 73.530 (#118), 2.80 (#69), 59.8% (#129), 1.814 (#42)
11. Mindy Kim, $67.4K (#94), 74.400 (#137), 2.40 (#116), 59.2% (#134), 1.887 (#39)
12. Jessica Shepley, $14.9K (#132), 73.280 (n.r.), 2.56 (#139), 61% (n.r.), 1.898 (n.r.)
13. Kim Welch, $2.7K (#160), 75.000 (#141), 2.95 (#144), 61.7% (#119), 1.860 (#108)

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 2009 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 10 players in the class, I'll continue giving the details on the lower-ranked players here, most of whom are off the LPGA.

1. Ji-Yai Shin, 3376 points.
2. Stacy Lewis, 2702.
3. Anna Nordqvist, 1447.
4. Michelle Wie, 1357.
5. Mika Miyazato, 1247.
6. Chella Choi, 782.
7. Pornanong Phatlum, 604.
8. Mi Jung Hur, 597.
9. Haeji Kang, 548.
10. Vicky Hurst, 520.
11. Mindy Kim, $.59M (#265), 90/0/0/0/7/11/3/0/44/43 (.478)
12. Shiho Oyama, $.14M (#427), 20/0/0/0/1/1/0/0/10/10 (.500)
13. Samantha Richdale, $.07M (#505), 38/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/25/13 (.342)
14. Jessica Shepley, $.07M (#512), 33/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/19/14 (.424)
15. Jeehae Lee, $.03M (#582), 28/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/22/6 (.214)
16. Angela Oh, $.03M (#585), 26/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/18/7 (.269)
17. Tania Elosegui, $.03M (#?), 15/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/12/3 (.200)
18. Kim Welch, $4.9K (#698), 15/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/13/2 (.133)
19. Sunny Oh, $0 (n.r.), 2/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/2/0 (.000)
20. Nontaya Srisawang, $0 (n.r.), 4/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/4/0 (.000)
21. Song Yi Choi, $0 (n.r.), 17/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/16/0 (.000)

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 '09ers 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. Stacy Lewis, 9.14 (#3), 68.73 (#1); 1
2. Ji-Yai Shin, 4.05 (#16), 70.07 (#13); 29 (21 KLPGA, 5 JLPGA, 4 LET)
3. Mika Miyazato, 3.62 (#22), 71.01 (#39); 2
4. Anna Nordqvist, 3.09 (#26), 70.15 (#17); 0
5. Chella Choi, 2.98 (#28), 70.19 (#18); 0
6. Pornanong Phatlum, 2.62 (#36), 70.95 (#38); 2
7. Shiho Oyama, 2.20 (#48), 70.12 (#16); 13 (all JLPGA)
8. Haeji Kang, 1.97 (#57), 71.48 (#57); 0
9. Michelle Wie, 1.79 (#61), 71.88 (#78); 0
10. Vicky Hurst, .83 (#141), 72.79 (#131); 0
11. Mi Jung Hur, .75 (#156), 73.93 (#193); 0
12. Nontaya Srisawang, .69 (#167), 72.60 (#117); 0
13. Mindy Kim, .44 (#225), 74.95 (#289); 0
14. Tania Elosegui, .13 (#388), 75.93 (#345); 1
15. Samantha Richdale, .10 (#429), 74.26 (#217); 0
16. Jessica Shepley, .04 (#586), 75.04 (#297); 0
17. Angela Oh, .03 (#628), n.r.; 0
18. Kim Welch, n.r., 76.30 (#361); 0

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