Monday, June 30, 2014

Congratulations to Stacy Lewis, Miki Sakai, Florentyna Parker, Molly Aronsson, Alena Sharp, and Karin Sjodin

Sometimes you're the giant, sometimes you're the giant killer.  That was the story of the week for Rolex #1 Stacy Lewis, with a gigantic win on her home turf, and Miki Sakai, with a gargantuan takedown of the JLPGA's #1 golfer, Sun-Ju Ahn, in a 2-hole playoff.

And then sometimes you're the last player standing.  That was the story of the week for Florentyna Parker on the LET and Molly Aronsson on the Symetra Tour.  Parker followed up a rare double eagle (or albatross or whatever) with 4 straight pars to hold off fellow Brit Holly Clyburn (who bogeyed the 17th after eagling the same short par 5 as Parker).  Aronsson shot even par on a day when everyone ahead of her went over par.

But most often you need tons of persistence and perseverance.  That was the story of the week for Alena Sharp and Karin Sjodin, who broke the $1M mark in career LPGA winnings yesterday in NW Arkansas.

Congratulations to all!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Sunday: Stacy Lewis Gets It Done in Front of the Home Crowd

Stacy Lewis fired a bogey-free 31 on the final 9 of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, including 3 birdies in her final 4 holes, to outsprint Lydia Ko (who birdied the exact same holes Stacy did coming down the stretch), Cristie Kerr (who managed only 1 birdie in her final 12 holes), and Angela Stanford (who bounced back from bogeys on 13 and 14) to the finish line and take home her 11th LPGA title and 3rd of 2014.  Lewis finished 66-65 on the weekend in front of the home crowd, blowing by 7 players who put together 3 rounds in a row in the 60s, including defending champion Inbee Park.

Except for an early double bogey, So Yeon Ryu played great golf, as well, finishing at -10, 2 shots behind Lewis.  Despite a 4-shot swing on that par-3 6th, courtesy of a hole in 1, Chella Choi finished 1 shot behind Ryu  after having to settle for a 69 today that left her tied for 6th with Suzann Pettersen.  Rounding out the top 10 were a huge group of golfers at -8, led from the rear by a tired Michelle Wie. The 2nd-round leader opened the door to the field with 3 bogeys in a row as she made the turn and had trouble with the storm-softened greens all day, so was easily caught by Meena Lee (65), Julieta Granada (65), Jennifer Rosales (67), Karine Icher (68), Mi Hyang Lee (69), and Mina Harigae (69).  Even though Inbee Park and Na Yeon Choi were 2 of those players to break 70 all 3 rounds, they finished a shot further back, tied with Hee Young Park (67) and Alejandra Llaneza (70).

Looking further down the leaderboard, it was nice to see a pair of Jennifers post final-round 66s:  Johnson's lifted her into a tie for 19th with Pornanong Phatlum, Mi Jung Hur, and rookie Line Videl, while Song's got her into a tie for 23rd with the likes of Hee-Won Han, Morgan Pressel, Gerina Piller, and Caroline Hedwall.  It was also nice to see Karin Sjodin make a cut and finish high enough to finally break the $1M barrier in career LPGA winnings, as well.

But in the end the day belonged to Lewis, who looked like she expected to make every putt she stood over.  The contrast with Kerr, usually one of the most confident and aggressive putters on tour, couldn't have been starker.  Kerr, literally one of the best putters in history, took 65 putts over the weekend while Lewis took only 49 (the next closest among the leaders was Chella Choi, who still took 55!).  That's the kind of virtuosity with the flat stick that'll make it very hard for anyone to dislodge Lewis from the #1 spot on the Rolex Rankings, the money list, the Player of the Year race, and the Race to the CME Globe.  Congratulations to Stacy for turning the pressure of her "6th major" and turning it into fuel for a fantastic weekend.

[Update 1 (10:22 pm):  Just saw on twitter that Alena Sharp also became a $1M Woman today!  Congrats!]

Earth Mondamin Cup Sunday: Miki Sakai Defeats Sun-Ju Ahn in Playoff for 1st-Ever JLPGA Victory

Sun-Ju Ahn did everything she could during the final round of the Earth Mondamin Cup to become 2014's 1st 4-time winner in the world of women's golf, including a walkoff eagle on the par-5 18th to force a playoff with 23-year-old Miki Sakai, but in the end it was the unheralded youngster who got the W, thanks to a knee-knocker of about 3 feet that Sakai drained for her 1st-ever JLPGA victory.

Sakai's win isn't a total surprise, as she got a taste of contention this season with 2 silvers, a bronze, and a 4th top-5 finish earlier in the season, but when Ahn caught her at -15 on the 6th hole when she birdied the long par 4 and Sakai bogeyed it, I'm sure many were thinking that Sakai was in trouble.  But she responded with back-to-back birdies to get to -17 and kept making par after par as Ahn sprinkled a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys over the next 7 holes.  The playing partners both parred 16 and 17 and after Ahn eagled 18 Sakai missed a birdie putt for the outright victory.  But she bounced right back with a win on the 2nd playoff hole.  After having lost a playoff to Yuki Ichinose early in the season, Sakai was overjoyed and overcome after her victory (if google translate is at all accurate).

There were a lot of big names near the top of the leaderboard, but Mi-Jeong Jeon (71, -15), Teresa Lu (71, -15), Shiho Oyama (70, -13), Ji-Yai Shin (70, -11), and Ji-Hee Lee (69, -10) couldn't really get anything going for very long today.  Those who matched Ahn's closing 67--Erina Hara (-10), Hikari Fujita (-10), and Rikako Morita (-7)--were too far back to scare the final groups.  But for those heading to Royal Birkdale for the Women's British Open it's got to be very encouraging!

Plus, it's good for their standing on the JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥81.37M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥64.90M
3. Misuzu Narita ¥55.31M
4. Miki Sakai ¥55.09M
5. Erina Hara ¥38.54M
6. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥37.84M
7. Ayaka Watanabe ¥36.74M
8. Ji-Yai Shin ¥35.73M
9. Teresa Lu ¥33.74M
10. Esther Lee ¥32.35M
11. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
12. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥30.91M
13. Rikako Morita ¥29.24M

14. Phoebe Yao ¥26.57M
15. Ji-Hee Lee ¥26.56M
16. Lala Anai ¥25.47M
17. Ritsuko Ryu ¥24.88M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥22.38M
19. Shiho Oyama ¥21.55M
20. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
21. Na-Ri Lee ¥19.56M
22. Hikari Fujita ¥18.11M
23. Mamiko Higa ¥17.80M
24. Mami Fukuda ¥17.76M
25. Saiki Fujita ¥17.20M
26. Junko Omote ¥17.09M
27. Kaori Ohe ¥17.04M
28. Momoko Ueda ¥16.97M
29. Yukari Baba ¥16.12M
30. Soo-Yun Kang ¥15.63M
31. Sakura Yokomine ¥15.30M
32. Akane Iijima ¥15.17M
33. Rumi Yoshiba ¥14.13M
34. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.83M
35. Miki Saiki ¥13.46M

Young Kim defends her Nichi-Iko Ladies title next week (check out the manga-style image on the tournament main page!), but many of the JLPGA's finest will be sitting this one out.  The biggest names in the field are probably Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Bo-Mee Lee, Erina Hara, Teresa Lu, and Na-Ri Lee.  Plus the 4 teenage amateurs in the field should get some media attention (the youngest is 15), as well.  But most on the tour will be looking ahead to the WBO, so we may see a surprise winner next week....

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Saturday: Michelle Wie Takes Lead Before Storms Stop Play

Michelle Wie fired her 2nd-straight 66 in the morning wave yesterday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship to take a 2-shot lead on So Yeon Ryu (67) and a 3-shot lead on Suzann Pettersen (67) and Chella Choi (65).  Rookie Line Vedel got it to -7, as well, before storms stopped afternoon play, while Gerina Piller, Ji Young Oh, and Alejandra Llaneza had caught Stacy Lewis (66), Mina Harigae (66), and Mi Hyang Lee (65) at -6 and passed Na Yeon Choi (69), Lydia Ko (68), and Karine Icher (65).  Let's see what they can do when play resumes (hopefully this morning at 7:30 am Arkansas time), not to mention those at -4--Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Caroline Masson, and 1st-round leader Alena Sharp--and -3, including none other than Ya Ni Tseng.

The other big question is where the cut line will fall.  Right now 71 players are at E or better, but the line was seesawing between E and +1 for most of yesterday, so we'll just have to see if Jeong Jang (69), Amy Yang (74), Eun-Hee Ji (71), Jane Park (71), Ilhee Lee (72), and Kris Tamulis will get to play later today or not.  They're all at +1, along with players still out on the course like University of Arkansas star Gaby Lopez.  With Juli Inkster, Laura Diaz, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lang, and Ariya Jutanugarn among those at E, Ai Miyazato and Morgan Pressel at +2, and Se Ri Pak, Beatriz Recari, and Chie Arimura at +3, I'm hopeful at least some of them will play great for the few holes they have left this morning.  But it's too late for Lexi Thompson (+2), Mariajo Uribe (+3), Ayako Uehara and Christina Kim (+4), Jimin Kang (+5), Carlota Ciganda and Pernilla Lindberg (+6), Jee Young Lee (+7), and many others who finished their rounds before play was stopped, not to mention my faves Seon Hwa Lee and Tiffany Joh who are too many strokes back with only 1 hole left for each of them to play.

I was happy, though, to see that Mika Miyazato posted a 69 to fight back to -1, where she's tied with my old golfing buddy Moira Dunn.

I'll post updates here when 2nd-round play is complete!

[Update 1 (9:07 am):  There are now 84 players at +1 or better.  Bet the tournament organizers are hoping it ends up at E.]

[Update 2 (9:32 am):  Whoops, now there are 72 players are E or better!]

[Update 3 (9:34 am):  Ji Young Oh made a bogey and a birdie to finish at -6.  Line Vedel bogeyed 16 to join her.]

[Update 4 (9:35 am):  Belen Mozo is -4 on her round but will need to eagle the par-5 18th to guarantee she makes the cut and birdie it to have a chance.]

[Update 5 (9:36 am):  Ai Miyazato birdied 17 to fight back to +1 on her round and the tournament.  Eagle or birdie on 18 and she's in for sure!]

[Update 6 (9:40 am):  I don't like that Vicky Hurst and Seon Hwa Lee WDed rather than finish their 2nd rounds this morning (unless they woke up sick, that is).  Looks like Se Ri Pak and Sandra Gal will miss the cut, but at least they showed up.]

[Update 7 (9:41 am):  Piller birdied 17 to get to -7!]

[Update 8 (9:42 am):  Angela Stanford is on a roll, now -6 for the tournament with 3 holes left to play on the front (her back).]

[Update 9 (9:43 am):  Cristie Kerr is now -5 with just 17 and 18 to go.]

[Update 10 (9:44 am):  Mozo could only par 18.  She's going to miss the cut.]

[Update 11 (9:47 am):  Lots of golfers just held on to end their 1st 36 holes at E:  Catriona Matthew, Candie Kung, Jenny Shin, Harukyo Nomura, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Jennifer Song, Paz Echeverria, Emma Jandel.  But Ariya Jutanugarn fought her way back there with a fine 68!]

[Update 12 (9:48 am):  Munoz birdied 17 to fight back to E, too!]

[Update 13 (9:51 am):  Stanford birdied 7 to get to -7.  Kerr birdied 17 to get to -6.  Vedel parred 18 to finish at -6.  Miyazato parred 18 to stay at +1.  There are now 74 at E or better.  It's not looking good for the bunch at +1.]

[Update 14 (9:53 am):  Lizette Salas is now -6 on her round and -4 overall with only 18 left to play!]

[Update 15 (9:54 am):  Brittany Lincicome is -5 and bogey-free with just the 9th left to go and -3 overall.]

[Update 16 (9:55 am):  Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist are also at -3 thus far.  Ya Ni Tseng is -2.]

[Update 17 (9:56 am):  Whoops, Nordqvist just made a bogey to drop to -2.  Brittany Lang did, too, and now she's +1, making it 73 players at E or better.]

[Update 18 (9:58 am):  Lincicome parred 9 to post a bogey-free 66!]

[Update 19 (10:01 am):  Lisa McClockey has 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back to fight back to +1.  Let's see if she can get to E, where there are now 74 players there (or better).]

[Update 20 (10:03 am):  Gerina Piller parred 18 for a 68 that brought her to -7.  Salas also birdied it to post the low round of the week, a 64 that got her back to -5 and eclipsed the 65s by Alena Sharp, Karine Icher, and Mi Hyang Lee.]

[Update 21 (10:04 am):  Salas made 9 birdies in her 2nd round vs. only 1 in her 1st and took 10 fewer putts!  Amazing!]

[Update 22 (10:08 am):  Oops, Salas's card got corrected--she didn't birdie the par-4 13th, after all.  So make that 8 birdies and a 65 that got her to -4.]

[Update 23 (10:12 am):  Ya Ni Tseng and Shanshan Feng are back to -1 now.  It's starting to look like there aren't enough golfers in enough danger of falling back to +1 to get the cut line there.]

[Update 24 (10:13 am):  Munoz parred 18 to stay at E.]

[Update 25 (10:14 am):  Look out!  Kerr finished birdie-birdie to pull within 3 of Wie!]

[Update 26 (10:16 am):  Lang birdied 9 to fight back to E. That makes it 74 at E or better.  I think it's time for those at +1 to start packing their bags.]

[Update 27 (10:17 am):  Stanford parred it to stay at -7, also only 3 behind Wie.]

[Update 28 (10:20 am):  Some huge names finished at -1:  Juli Inkster, Ya Ni Tseng, Shanshan Feng, Morgan Pressel.]

[Update 29 (10:22 am):  Mirim Lee fired a 68, thanks to a birdie-birdie finish on the front, but she needs 4 more players out on the course to join her at +1 for her to be able to keep it going later today.]

[Update 30 (10:26 am):  Nordqvist finished birdie-birdie on 17 and 18 to fight to -4 for the week.]

[Update 31 (10:27 am):  Inbee Park also birdied 18, her 4th in her last 10 holes, to post a 69 and join the big names at -4.]

[Update 32 (10:28 am):  BTW, Sharp birdied 17 to fight back to -5 on the week.]

[Update 33 (10:34 am):  I think I overlooked Thidapa Suwannapura's yesterday morning 66, one of the best rounds of the week!]

[Update 34 (10:41 am):  BTW, Lisa McCloskey is mistakenly identified as Colombian on her scorecard!  Maybe for the World Cup?]

[Update 35 (10:42 am):  If so, it wasn't lucky enough for her, as she could manage only a par on 18 to miss the cut at +1.  Meanwhile, Llaneza parred 18 to stay at -6.]

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Earth Mondamin Cup Saturday: Mi-Jeong Jeon and Miki Sakai Fire 64s to Take the Lead

The plot thickened on moving day at the Earth Mondamin Cup, as Mi-Jeong Jeon and Miki Sakai fired 64s to get to -14 and Teresa Lu a 66 to move to -13, passing 1st- and 2nd-round leader Sun-Ju Ahn, whose 69 could only get her to -12.

Sakai's round was bogey-free and Jeon offset her lone bogey (on a par 5!) with an eagle on the 308-yard par-4 7th, while Shiho Oyama made 4 birdies in a row late on the back to post a 66 and climb to -11, Ji-Yai Shin used a bogey-free 31 on the front to post a 66 of her own and move to -9, and Bo-Mee Lee joined the 66 club, as well, thanks to 7 birdies that brought her to -8 for the week.  With the likes of Mihoko Iseri (68) at -10, Na-Ri Lee (68) at -9, and Lala Anai (68) at -8, Ahn's march to her 17th career JLPGA victory is facing a multitude of severe obstacles.  But the biggest is probably self-inflicted:  after opening with a bogey-free 33, she made only 1 birdie on the back 9 and offset it with a bogey.

So let's see if Ahn can find her ticket to the birdie train tomorrow, if Jeon can keep it going in her quest for JLPGA victory #23, and if Oyama can find win #14 on tour.  And let's see if Ji-Hee Lee and Mayu Hattori (-7), Young Kim (-6), Sakura Yokomine and Misuza Narita (-5), Miki Saiki and Ritsuko Ryu (-4), Kumiko Kaneda and Bo-Bae Song (-3), Rikako Morita and Erika Kikuchi (-2), Ai Suzuki (-1), and defending champion Natsuka Hori (E) can find another gear tomorrow.

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Friday: Alena Sharp Heads Surprising Leaderboard

Sure, there are lots of familiar names near the top of the leaderboard at the end of the 1st round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.  Michelle Wie fired a flawless 66, displaying impeccable touch on the soft par-71 Pinnacle Country Club's greens; So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng headlined the big group who put together solid 67s; Suzanne Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, and Azahara Munoz took different paths to their 68s (NYC's may have been the most frustrating, as she bogeyed the short par-5 18th after Golf Channel's coverage ended); defending champion Inbee Park, a rejuvenated Juli Inkster, a steady Lydia Ko, a scrambling Cristie Kerr, and not-missing-a-beat Amy Yang posted 69s; and the likes of Stacy Lewis, Anna Nordqvist, and Chella Choi got under par with 70s.  Plus, it's certainly no surprise to see Gerina Piller and Pornanong Phatlum at -4, Jenny Shin at -3, Hee Young Park and Catriona Matthew at -2, or Meena Lee and Mina Harigae at -1--given the way they've all been playing of late.

So why is this leaderboard so surprising?  Let's start at the top, with Alena Sharp, who was -5 through her 1st 12 holes and responded to her lone bogey on the par-4 5th with back-to-back birdies on 7 and 8 to close out her round and finish with a great 65.  Sharp has posted a 65 in the 3rd round of the Manulife and a 66 in the 3rd round of the North Texas Shootout, the latter of which where she notched her only top 15 of the season (it's her only her 2nd top 20, and, in fact, her 2nd top 40 of 2014, as well!), but she hasn't gotten a top 10 in a stroke-play event on the LPGA since July 4th weekend 4 years ago, she's had a terrible putting year, and has been fighting to stay in the top 80 on the 2014 LPGA money list through the Marathon Classic so she can maintain, or improve on, her #101 position on the tour's priority status list.  Yet unlike Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who was also -5 through 12 holes during the morning wave but fell apart down the home stretch, making 2 doubles and 2 bogeys, Sharp bounced back from her sole mistake on the front 9 and finished strong.  Not half bad for someone who hasn't cracked the top 100 on the money list since 2011!

But Sharp isn't the only surprising presence on the 1st page of the leaderboard.  How about Alejandra Llaneza, who put together a bogey-free 66 in the morning wave yet didn't get a single mention during the 2 hours of Golf Channel's tape-delayed coverage?  Her weakness this year has been her approach shots, but she hit 16 of 18 greens yesterday.  It's not like this round totally came out of the blue--she's broken 70 twice each at Kingsmill and the Manulife and notched 2 Symetra Tour top 10s this spring--but it sure is great to see another Mexican golfer (post-Lorena) doing well on the LPGA!

Emma Jandel is another huge surprise at -4.  Sure, she's coming off a top 5 on the Symetra Tour last week, but she's not even in the top 50 on their money list and has played in only 6 LPGA events this season before this week, missing the cut in all of them.

Even though they haven't been playing well lately, Caroline Hedwall (2013 Solheim Cup heroine), Moriya Jutanugarn (2013 Rookie of the Year), Jennifer Rosales (2-time LPGA champion), and Ji Young Oh (2-time LPGA champion), also at -4, have to count as lesser surprises than Paz Echeverria.  Sure, the Chile native has 4 top 25s this season and broke 70 3 times at the Manulife earlier this month, but I'm sure nobody was expecting her to make 7 birdies yesterday!

Or how about rookie Line Vedel making 7 birdies, too, on her way to a 68?  Sure, the Dane is #3 in the ROY race, with a top-5 finish at the Swinging Skirts, and has plenty of LET experience, but I challenge anyone to say they saw her lowest opening round on the LPGA in her rookie season coming!  In fact, there's a European flair at -3, with LET superstar Lee-Anne Pace and LPGA '06er Karin Sjodin (who's been poised to break the $1M barrier in career LPGA winnings for what seems like years) joining Vedel only 3 shots off the pace.

And the list goes on!  I'll single out veterans Moira Dunn, Hee Won Han, and Jimin Kang at -2 for special mention.

Not all the surprises were pleasant, either.  Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis had to pull out before play began due to injuries, Ariya Jutanugarn opened with an uncharacteristic 74, rookie Mirim Lee with a 75, and Lizette Salas with a 73, and 2-time champion Ya Ni Tseng made 5 birdies but could manage only a 71.

With 76 players at E or better, I'll be rooting for Ai Miyazato (E), Mika Miyazato (+1), Ayako Uehara (+2), and Chie Arimura (+3) to keep Harukyo Nomura (-2) company on the right side of the cut line.  And for big comebacks from Seon Hwa Lee (76), Tiffany Joh (75), Jeong Jang (74), and Jane Park (72).  Can't wait to see the coverage tomorrow!  (Yes, I got Golf Channel.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Earth Mondamin Cup Friday: Sun-Ju Ahn Leads 3 by 2 Thanks to Hole in 1

A hole in 1 on the 158-yard 4th hole today at the Earth Mondamin Cup propelled 1st-round leader Sun-Ju Ahn to a 2-shot lead on Saiki Fujita, Erina Hara, and Teresa Lu and a 3-shot lead on a group of 8 golfers that includes Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yuko Mitsuka, and Miki Sakai.

At -9, Ahn will have to deal with 29 players within 5 shots of her, including Ji-Hee Lee, Shiho Oyama, and Misuzu Narita at -5, so she can't rest easy over the next 36 holes.  But with Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, Na Zhang, Yumiko Yoshida, Shinobu Moromizato, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Esther Lee, Mamiko Higa, and Ayaka Watanabe among those missing the cut, and with Ji-Yai Shin (-3), Miki Saiki (-3), Bo-Mee Lee (-2), Sakura Yokomine (-2), Rikako Morita (-1), Natsuka Hori (-1), and Ritsuko Ryu (-1) well back in the field, things are looking pretty good for Big Mama to score another JLPGA knockout!

Can 2014's 1st female 3-time winner also become its 1st 4-time winner?  Stay tuned over the weekend to find out!

Who to Follow at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

There are more interesting pairings for today's 1st round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship than you can cry Wooo Pig Souie at!

First you have the made-for-tv marquee groups going off the front in the afternoon wave:

1:14 pm: Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda
1:25 pm: Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, So Yeon Ryu
1:36 pm: Suzann Pettersen, Christina Kim, Lexi Thompson
1:47 pm: Catriona Matthew, Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang

Those going off the back at comparable times should also get some tv time:

1:14 pm: Eun-Hee Ji, Mina Harigae, Harukyo Nomura
1:25 pm: Lorie Kane, Hee Young Park, Jenny Shin
1:36 pm: Julieta Granada, Ilhee Lee, Chella Choi
1:47 pm: Karine Icher, Pornanong Phatlum, Jennifer Johnson

A couple of up-and-coming rookies get pretty nice treats, as well:

1st tee, 8:36 am: Angela Stanford, Ya Ni Tseng, Mirim Lee
10th tee, 8:14 am: Se Ri Pak, Ai Miyazato, Line Vedel

You can tell who will be featured on tv on Saturday:

8:25 am: Morgan Pressel, Gerina Piller, Lizette Salas
8:36 am: Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, Azahara Munoz
8:47 am: Juli Inkster, Anna Nordqvist, Sandra Gal

But if I were to pick one morning group and one afternoon group to follow, just out of my own interest and curiosity, here's who it would be:

10th tee, 7:30 am: Seon Hwa Lee, Tiffany Joh, Stacey Keating
1st tee, 12:52 pm: Jee Young Lee, Mariajo Uribe, Jane Park

With Ariya Jutanugarn starting on #1 at 7:30 am, Chie Arimura on #10 at 7:41 am, Shanshan Feng on #1 at 8:25 am, Jeong Jang on #1 at 12:41 pm, Jennifer Song on #10 at 12:52 pm, Moira Dunn on #10 at 1:58 pm, Ayako Uehara on #1 at 2:20 pm, and Mika Miyazato on #10 at 2:31 pm, maybe the better strategy on the first day is to find a fun hole to watch and let everyone come to you!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Earth Mondamin Cup Thursday: Sun-Ju Ahn Takes Lead with Opening 66

It's a rare week when the JLPGA and KLPGA hosts a 72-hole tournaments while the LPGA's is only 54 holes long, but that's what we're dealing with this one.  Over in Chiba prefecture, Sun-Ju Ahn has opened the Earth Mondamin Cup with a 7-birdie 66 to take a 1-shot lead on Miki Sakai, a 2-shot lead on the likes of Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shiho Oyama, Mayu Hattori, and Teresa Lu, and a 3-shot lead on such players as Ji-Hee Lee, Junko Omote, Ritsuko Ryu, Maiko Wakabayashi, and Young Kim.

There's a long way to go, and with Misuzu Narita and Momoko Ueda among others at -2, Yuri Fudoh, last week's winner Ji-Yai Shin, Mamiko Higa, and Ayaka Watanabe among those at -1, and Rikako Morita, Miki Saiki, Phoebe Yao, and defending champion Natsuka Hori at E, Ahn will need to keep the pedal to the metal.  But unless Bo-Mee Lee and Sakura Yokomine at +1, Yumiko Yoshida and Na Zhang at +3, and Onnarin Sattayabanphot at +5 can play much better tomorrow, they won't be a threat to Ahn because they won't be playing on the weekend.

More tomorrow!

[Update 1 (6:19 am):  Whoops, the new KLPGA event I had on my 2014 worldwide women's professional schedule got moved to mid-September and shortened to 54 holes.  Either that, or there was a mistake on wikipedia!]

My Picks for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

Like Lexi Thompson, I was unable to repeat my Kraft Nabisco Championship victory--hers for real, mine in Seoul's PakPicker competition--at the U.S. Women's Open.  In fact, I broke a top-10 streak with some bad predicting.  So this time around, instead of relying on a lot of statistical analyses, I'm going to go with past results (see parentheses for finishes from 2013, 2012, and all the way back to 2008 for each of my picks), plus lots of guessing and hoping!

1. Choi Na Yeon (T17, T23, T10, T9, T7, T8)
2. Ko (T4)
3. Lewis, Stacy (T4, T19, T8, T9, T21, T49)
4. Park Inbee (1, T4, T38, 4, MC, 10)
5. Ryu (2, T10)
6. Wie (MC, MC, MC, 2, T27)
7. Yang (T17, 7, 2, T65, MC)
8. Creamer (T7, T28, T8, T14, T63)
9. Pettersen (T7, T14, T10, T23)
10. Nordqvist (T43, T8, T48, T9)
11. Miyazato Ai (T11, 1, 3, T9, T10, T4)
12. Miyazato Mika (3, T2, T22, 3, T63)

Alts:  Shin (T17, T10, MC); Thompson (T43); Tseng (T57, MC, 1, 1, T14)

Yes, yes, I know precisely how terribly the Miyazatos have been playing in 2014, but what better place for them to start turning their seasons around?  So what if I'm passing over Shanshan Feng, Hee Young Park, Chella Choi, and Catriona Matthew?  They don't have very stellar records at Pinnacle Country Club.  Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, and Meena Lee have had some very good finishes here between them, but they haven't had many.  The players I most regret leaving off the list are actually Azahara Munoz and Ariya Jutanugarn.  But I'd love to see Ya Ni start a real comeback in Walmart country this week, so I'm picking her to make the top 15....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Congratulations to Michelle Wie, Ji-Yai Shin, Hyo Joo Kim, So Yeon Ryu, Beatriz Recari, Mina Harigae, and Nicole Vandermade

U.S. Women's Open week wasn't just a big week for Michelle Wie.  Yes, in addition to taking her 4th LPGA title, her 1st on the mainland U.S., and her 1st LPGA major, she also crossed the $4M mark in career winnings and leapfrogged Stacy Lewis to take the lead on the LPGA money list.  But plenty of other players passed career milestones, too.

Take Ji-Yai Shin and Hyo Joo Kim, who won on the JLPGA and KLPGA, respectively, each after long (by their standards) victory droughts.  Let's hope those wins bring them one giant leap closer to the LPGA.

With the U.S. Women's Open purse going up, this was a great week to pad your career winnings totals, as well, and that's just what So Yeon Ryu ($3M), Beatriz Recari ($2M), and Mina Harigae ($1M) did.

And let's not forget recent Symetra Tour winners Nicole Vandermade and Madison Pressel.  They are now #8 and #21 on the tour's money list.

Congratulations to them all!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recommended Reading: Ruthless Mike (and Me) on Michelle Wie

Ruthless Mike has put together the best-argued response to Michelle Wie's critics that I have ever seen.

The only criticism he leaves out is that Wie seemed to give the impression that she devalued the LPGA early in her career by focusing so much on the PGA Tour--that instead of seeking to make the LPGA her home tour and use that as her base from which to try to make cuts on the PGA Tour, she was aiming instead to become a PGA Tour member.  I have no problem with her turning pro early, but I wish she had sought an exemption to the LPGA's minimum age requirement, to make it clear that she intended to compete against the best women in the world as well as the men over the course of her career.  I'd be curious to see how Mike responds to that line of criticism, particularly given how much then-LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens was counting on Wie to join the LPGA.

For context, check out some older posts on various Wie controversies from Mostly Harmless:

10/11/07 MW Washed Up Meme
5/7/08 MW/LPGA Future
7/21/08 MW Effect
8/14/08 MW/CB
8/22/08 MW/SJ
2/22/09 MW Effect Confirmed
7/7/09 MW Effect, Revisited

I like to think I had a pretty level-headed approach to Wie's opportunities, challenges, and choices.  What do you all think?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflections on Michelle Wie's U.S. Women's Open Victory

Stacy Lewis made Michelle Wie earn her 1st major and earn it she did yesterday at the U.S. Women's Open.  Of all the 3-putt chances Wie avoided this past week at Pinehurst--and she avoided every single one of them!--the most important was her double-bogey save on the 16th.  I'm just glad I got to watch that hole, that putt, and her amazingly poised finish on 17 and 18 in the hotel in Cleveland the Full Metal Archivist, onechan, imoto, and I were staying in yesterday in advance of their early-morning flight to Japan today.  Since we were on the road for most of the final round, I won't try to recap the final round--see Tony Jesselli, bangkokbobby, Bill Rand, and Geoff Shackelford for that (and more).

Instead, let me just say how impressed I was with Michelle's 4th career LPGA victory and 2nd of 2014.  Long-time readers know I don't have Golf Channel, so being able to watch how she carries herself on the golf course was a special treat this week.  One thing that's totally clear is that she's all grown up, both on and off the course.  I knew from her stats how good her all-around game--and particularly her short game--has become, but seeing just how precise and consistent she can be on a course like Pinehurst is something else entirely.  As great as her putting was during a week in which 2 of the best putters in the world, Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park, missed the cut and finished back in the pack, respectively, what was most impressive to me was how much trust she had in her game.  She rolled with the bad bounces, bounced back from the inevitable mistakes you're going to make over 72 holes in a major, and smiled in the heat of competition.  This was truly the week when Michelle Wie came of age.

Looking ahead, it's hard not to be excited about her chances week in and week out for the foreseeable future.  For those prone to get overexcited, though, a word or 2 of caution.  Let's be clear:  Wie is not yet among the tour's true elite in terms of results over multiple years and careers.  Her win moves her up 4 spots to #15 in my ranking of the top performers in LPGA majors since 2000; the 204 points she gained in my system with her USWO win put her right behind Na Yeon Choi, Paula Creamer, and In-Kyung Kim and well behind So Yeon Ryu (among those who haven't yet won multiple LPGA majors in the 2000s), but she's already passed luminaries like Juli Inkster and Grace Park and has established a record that young guns Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko will now have to chase.  And of anyone who's won a USWO, she's perhaps best positioned to avoid what some would call the jinx and others the let-down that so often follows a victory in the toughest test of golf on the planet.  Forget fluke winners like Birdie Kim and Hillary Lunke:  even the greats have struggled after USWO wins.  It took Paula Creamer years to win again after mastering Oakmont's greens, while So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and even Inbee Park have had trouble returning to the winner's circle since their USWO victories.

I may be adding the Mostly Harmless jinx to the USWO jinx by saying this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Michelle continued to contend the rest of the year and were to pick up 3 to 5 more wins.  With the Women's British Open a few weeks away, she's got to be the favorite for the LPGA's next major.  But this week in NW Arkansas will be an interesting test for her.  After finishing 2nd by 1 shot to Ya Ni Tseng in 2010, Wie went on to miss the cut in her next 3 starts in a row at this event.  Will she be burned out, looking ahead, or just plain off this week?  Or will she put herself right back in the mix again?  I vote for the latter.  I think she's ready to go on a run that will make the end of 2013 and the start of 2014 look like a runway.

[Update 1 (11:44 am):  Here's more from Golf Babes and Centurion!]

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reflections on the 3rd Round of the U.S. Women's Open

Michelle Wie was poised to make like Martin Kaymer midway through moving day at the U.S. Women's Open, but instead she played a little army golf off the tee and became yet another big-name victim of Pinehurst's devilish green complexes.  Still, she kept the damage as close to a minimum as possible and ended the day tied with Amy Yang for the lead at -2.

Given that Yang made up a 4-shot deficit in 18 holes and would have had the solo lead if she could just have parred the 18th, there's no way today will be a 2-player show.  I don't see Juli Inkster (playing her last USWO) replicating yesterday's amazing 66 or Stephanie Meadow (playing her 1st USWO--and tournament--as a professional) her 69, but I do see Na Yeon Choi or Minjee Lee breaking 70 to put pressure on the co-leaders.  And while I have to admit to being surprised that So Yeon Ryu, Sakura Yokomine, and Pornanong Phatlum are only 5 off the lead, I'm not at all surprised about Karrie Webb or Lexi Thompson and I wouldn't be surprised at all if either or both were to make a run of her own.  Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, and Chella Choi remain real threats at +4, as well.  Anyone further back will need to do something truly historic, as it's hard to imagine 14 players coming back to them, but there's a real possibility there won't be anyone under par when all is said and done today.

I did get to see the entire 1st- and 3rd-round coverage and couldn't help noticing how many players who got off to great starts had trouble sustaining their runs.  Well, that's too nice a way of putting it, actually.  Lexi's 2 doubles in a row yesterday were not quite as bad as amateur Marissa Chow's 3 in a row after she jumped out to an early 1st-round lead, but neither was able to get back on track after making such big numbers.  8, 9, and 10 have been many players' Waterloo, even though the latter 2 have also given up a lot of birdies.  So expect a lot of drama early on today.  Yokomine has 2 eagles in a row on the par-5 5th and the par-5 10th has given up its share, as well.

I'm hoping we'll get to Cleveland in time to watch the end of the tournament.  Feel free to give me play-by-play and color commentary in comments!

Nichirei Ladies Sunday: Ji-Yai Shin Birdies 3 of Her Last 4 Holes to Secure Her 6th JLPGA Victory

Ji-Yai Shin kept the door open for most of the final round of the Nichirei Ladies today, allowing 21-year-old Rumi Yoshiba and 19-year-old Hikari Fujita to pull within a shot or 2 of her, but the former world #1 showed how she earned the nickname Final Round Queen down the home stretch, birdieing 3 of her last 4 holes to secure her 6th JLPGA title.  Shin ended up beating the kids by 4 shots, Esther Lee by 5, Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, and Na-Ri Lee by 6, and Shiho Oyama by 7 in what turned out to be a convincing victory, her 1st on the JLPGA since 2010.

It's an impressive comeback for a player who hasn't exactly set the JLPGA on fire in 2014.  This was only Shin's 4th top 10 and 6th top 20 in 12 starts this season; it breaks a streak of 5 finishes outside the top 10 that was kicked off by 2 missed cuts in a row.  Not exactly the quality of play anyone envisioned when she decided to renounce her LPGA membership.  Still, it's the 1st time since the 1st event of the season that she put together 3 under-par rounds in a row and Saturday's 65 was the lowest round of the year for her.  So maybe it's a sign of bigger and better things to come.

What it has done is brought her into the top 10 on the JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥69.05M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥63.89M
3. Misuzu Narita ¥53.76M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥37.84M
5. Ayaka Watanabe ¥36.74M
6. Erina Hara ¥36.28M
7. Esther Lee ¥32.35M
8. Ji-Yai Shin ¥32.23M
9. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
10. Miki Sakai ¥29.89M
11. Rikako Morita ¥28.06M

12. Phoebe Yao ¥26.57M
13. Teresa Lu ¥25.34M
14. Ji-Hee Lee ¥24.31M
15. Ritsuko Ryu ¥23.70M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥21.20M
17. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥21.11M
18. Lala Anai ¥20.22M
19. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
20. Mamiko Higa ¥17.80M
21. Na-Ri Lee ¥17.31M
22. Momoko Ueda ¥16.97M
23. Mami Fukuda ¥16.92M
24. Saiki Fujita ¥16.36M
25. Kaori Ohe ¥16.20M
26. Yukari Baba ¥16.12M
27. Hikari Fujita ¥15.86M
28. Junko Omote ¥15.54M
29. Soo-Yun Kang ¥14.98M
30. Shiho Oyama ¥14.55M
31. Akane Iijima ¥14.46M
32. Sakura Yokomine ¥14.46M
33. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.83M
34. Rumi Yoshiba ¥13.42M
35. Yumiko Yoshida ¥13.38M

Next up on the JLPGA is the Earth Mondamin Cup, which Natsuka Hori ran away with last season for her 2nd win on tour.  The top 4 Koreans on tour will all be in the field, along with most of the rest of the JLPGA's finest, including many coming right from the U.S. Women's Open.  Let's see if Shin can keep it going and make the tour's Big 3 into a Big 4!

[Update 1 (9:03 am):  Big shout-out to Hyo Joo Kim, who won the Korean Women's Open to end a victory drought of her own and take home her 1st major title!]

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nichirei Ladies Set-Up: After 10 Birdies Today, Ji-Yai Shin Takes 4-Shot Lead into Final Round

Ji-Yai Shin made 10 birdies today en route to a 65 that got her to double digits under par at the Nichirei Ladies and gave her a 4-shot lead on Esther Lee and Hikari Fujita.  While Sakura Yokomine, Misuza Narita, and Rikako Morita will be fighting to move into contention at Pinehurst this weekend, Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, and Yuri Fudoh will be trying to chase down the former world #1 who decided to focus exclusively on the JLPGA in 2014.  If Shin can play like her nicknames (Chalk Line, Final Round Queen) tomorrow, she'll take her 6th career JLPGA title.  I'm rooting for her!

[Update 1 (7:59 am):  Meanwhile, Hyo Joo Kim has a great chance to capture her 1st KLPGA major and 1st win on that tour since 2012.]

Reflections on the 1st 2 Rounds of the U.S. Women's Open

With The Full Metal Archivist, onechan, and imoto leaving for Japan for 2 months in a few days, I don't have the time to both watch as much of the U.S. Women's Open as I can squeeze in and blog about it on top of everything else we're doing.  So here are a few late observations on the 1st round and early ones on the 2nd.  May not be able to actually finish watching the TV coverage until Tuesday!

How 'bout Them Newbies?  Even though I correctly predicted some of the players who made it to Pinehurst via sectional qualifying to actually get off to good starts, I had no idea that Minjee Lee would be E through 36 holes and near the very top of the leaderboard.  I still hold by my contention that a top 20 would be "a huge accomplishment" for the top-ranked amateur in the world, but to be in one of the final pairings on moving day is huge!  Even more surprising to me is that Yueer Cindy Feng is within the top 15 at the halfway point of the tournament--quite a transition for a player who's been rocking the SunCoast Series and the Symetra Tour this season because her LPGA priority status in her rookie season is so low.  More generally, check out how many of my top 22 pros under 22 years of age are on track to contend or simply play the weekend!

Who'da Thunk It?  Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, and Morgan Pressel missing the cut?  Lizette Salas having to withdraw due to illness?  11-year-old Lucy Li doing about as well as living legend Laura Davies?  Shanshan Feng opening with a 77, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko with 76s, and Catriona Matthew and Chella Choi with 75s?  I mean, we knew Pinehurst was tough, but this signals to me that anybody can have trouble breaking 75 any given day, no matter how well they played before.  At the same time, I have to admit I'm surprised Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang, and Sakura Yokomine are playing so well so far.  They're all big-time players, but they haven't been playing great in 2014 thus far.  Of course to have Mariajo Uribe and Sue Kim in the mix is an even bigger surprise....

I Called It!  So far, I've been spot-on about Michelle Wie's and Lexi Thompson's short games, not to mention those of Stacy Lewis, Karrie Webb, Catriona Matthew, Jenny Shin, Azahara Munoz, and Gerina Piller.  Let's see if some of my other picks (like Inbee Park and Lydia Ko) can improve even further today!

So far we have a rerun of the KNC shaping up on a course many commentators figured would be tougher on Michelle and Lexi.  With all the leaders having to deal with afternoon conditions, however, perhaps someone from the morning can put some pressure on them, particularly if the course is set up a little easier (unlike it was for the men on Saturday)....  We'll see!  (I will eventually.  We have a lot of packing and prepping to do today!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Picks for the U.S. Women's Open

All right, after all my preview posts for the U.S. Women's Open going through who's had the best LPGA career and results since 2005, the best results in majors since 2000 and the USWO since 2000, who among the sectional qualifiers might make some noise this week, who has the short game to handle Pinehurst, and who has had the best career on the LPGA without a major victory, it's time to join Tony Jesselli, Centurion, and the rest of the PakPickers with some actual USWO predictions:

1. Park Inbee
2. Lewis
3. Ko
4. Wie
5. Thompson
6. Webb
7. Munoz
8. Pettersen
9. Salas
10. Nordqvist
11. Matthew
12. Feng Shanshan

Alts: Choi Chella; Kerr; Creamer

It's hurting me not to pick So Yeon Ryu, Morgan Pressel, Hee Young Park, or Jessica Korda, but this is the top 15 I'm going with.

If you're looking for real dark horses, try Jenny Shin, Julieta Granada, Karine Icher, Ha Na Jang, Sei Young Kim, or Misuzu Narita.  I think Minjee Lee will be low amateur, but if she makes the top 20 it'll be a huge accomplishment.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my picks!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best on the LPGA without a Major, June 2014 Edition

With the U.S. Women's Open starting in a couple of days, it's about time I updated my January 2014 survey of who actually has had the best careers on the LPGA among those who have not yet won a major.  Lexi Thompson was ranked 3rd last time, but she turned out to be the 1st to graduate from this list.  It'll be interesting to see who's next!

In what follows, I'll be relying strongly on my career rankings spreadsheet and major rankings spreadsheet to do this, but the question is how to combine the ranking systems.  Is it better to have a proven record of winning over the course of your LPGA career but not yet have converted that into a major win or is it better to have a history of near-misses in majors and in other tournaments?  To me, that's a judgment call, based on individual careers, so what I'll do is simply add together the points players have earned in each system to sort players into rough groups, then adjust rankings within each group based on head-to-head comparisons between the players in each of them.

[Note:  the numbers in parentheses following each player's name represent total LPGA victories/KLPGA-JLPGA-LET victories, points in my major ranking system (rank), points in my career ranking system (rank).]

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (3/2, 620 [#28], 3020 [#3]).  She's the universal favorite for 2014 Rookie of the Year, #1 in the LPGA's Club 36 (3-to-6-time winners), and already has done surprisingly well in majors, most notably in the Evian Championship last year.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T17 (2013)
  • USWO:  T36 (2013)
  • WBO:  T17 (2012)
  • Evian:  2nd (2013)
In January, I wrote, "I'd be shocked if she didn't improve on her peak performances in 4 of the 5 LPGA majors in 2014.  No pressure, eh?"  She couldn't do it at Mission Hills.  Let's see how she handles Pinehurst!

2. Ai Miyazato (9/17, 709 [#23], 2131 [#10]).  She's #1 in the Class of 2006, #4 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 in LPGA's Club 79 (those with 7 to 9 wins on tour).  Here are her best finishes in LPGA majors:
  • Kraft Nabisco Championship:  T15 (2007)
  • Wegmans LPGA Championship: T3 (2006 and 2010)
  • U.S. Women's Open:  T6 (2009 and 2011)
  • Ricoh Women's British Open:  T3 (2009)
  • Evian Championship:  T15 (2013) 
Of her 15 JLPGA victories, 2 came in majors, the Japan Women's Open in 2005 and the Konica Minolta Cup in 2006.  Despite her struggles with her short game this season, her career record justifies her #2 position.

3. In-Kyung Kim (3/1, 1022 [#14], 1699 [#11]).  She's #2 in the Class of 2007, #5 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #6 in the LPGA's Club 36.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  2nd (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2010)
  • USWO:  2nd (2013)
  • WBO:  T3 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)
Although she has a better record in majors than many major winners, she's had even more trouble closing the deal in them than in regular tournaments.  I have a feeling that once she finds the next oasis, it'll make finding ones after it that much easier.  But she's going to have to find something on Pinehurst's greens that she hasn't found on many others this season to do it this week.

4. Michelle Wie (3/0, 792 [#19], 1607 [#14]).  She's #4 in the Class of 2009, #4 in the LPGA's New Blood generation, and #3 in the LPGA's Club 36.  Although her best finishes in majors mostly date back from before she joined the LPGA, she's made career marks in the last 2 majors she's competed in:
  • KNC:  2nd (2014)
  • LPGA:  2nd (2005)
  • USWO:  T3 (2006)
  • WBO:  T3 (2005)
  • Evian:  T37 (2013)
Can a major victory be far away?  On paper, either she or Lydia Ko has the best chance to graduate from this list this week!

The Contenders

5. Amy Yang (1/4, 759 [#22], 1229 [#19]):  She's #5 in the Class of 2008, #8 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #1 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  2nd (2012)
  • WBO:  4th (2011)
  • Evian:  T67 (2013)
Although Yang won a KLPGA major in 2011 and finished 2013 hot, she hasn't been lighting it up in 2014 as of yet, but USWO's typically suit her game.

6. Hee Kyung Seo (1/11, 522 [#32], 1170 [#23]):  She's #1 in the Class of 2011, #5 among the LPGA's New Blood, and #6 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T34 (2011)
  • USWO:  2nd (2011)
  • WBO:  T5 (2010)
  • Evian:  T64 (2013)
In addition to her strong performances in most every LPGA major, she won 3 KLPGA majors in 2009.  When she returns from maternity leave, I wouldn't be at all surprised if she pulled a Catriona Matthew!

7. Azahara Munoz (1/2, 370 [#43], 1256 [#17]).  She's #2 in the Class of 2010, #7 in the New Blood Generation, and #2 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T7 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T8 (2011)
  • USWO:  T19 (2010)
  • WBO:  T19 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)
Even though she's underperformed in majors, she has a strong overall record and is on something of a roll again.  In January, I wrote, "I expect her to set career high-water marks in most all of the 2014 majors."  She did at the KNC; let's see if she can do it at Pinehurst!  I'm very likely to put her among my projected top 15 at Pinehurst!

8. Mika Miyazato (1/2, 473 [#36], 1163 [#24]):  She's #5 in the Class of 2011, #6 among the LPGA's New Blood, and #5 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T7 (2011)
  • LPGA:  T2 (2012)
  • USWO:  5th (2011)
  • WBO:  4th (2012)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)
Both her JLPGA victories have come at the most important major on their schedule, the Japan Women's Open, so she's another player I'd say is due to do even better in LPGA majors, except for the fact that her short game has been atrocious in 2014.

9. Lizette Salas (1/0, 331 [#46], 1248 [#18).  After breaking through for her 1st career LPGA victory this year, Salas not only leapfrogged 3 players I predicted would do it before her (Caroline Hedwall, Chella Choi, and Carlota Ciganda), she's become a real threat to do it again before Amy Yang and Azahara Munoz, my current top 2 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Plus she's done great in majors already for someone ranked #3 in her Class of 2012:
  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T25 (2012)
  • USWO:  T15 (2011)
  • WBO:  6th (2013)
  • Evian:  T11 (2013)
Now that she's really got her short game back in gear, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see her contend at Pinehurst.

10. Hee Young Park (2/6, 456 [#37], 1080 [#27]).  She's #4 in the Class of 2008, #11 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 among the LPGA's 2-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T7 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T14/14th (2011 and 2012)
  • USWO:  T9 (2009)
  • WBO:  T2 (2013)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)
As much as she improved on her record in LPGA majors in 2013, I expect her to do even better in 2014.  She couldn't do it at Mission Hills; she's in my projected top 25 at Pinehurst but I haven't decided whether I'll pick her in Seoul's PakPicker competition.
Quantum Leap Candidates

11. Angela Stanford (5/0, 602 [#29], n.a. [n.r.]).  She's the only LPGA veteran with a strong enough record to make it into this category.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T3 (2010)
  • LPGA:  T4 (2004)
  • USWO:  T2 (2003)
  • WBO:  T13 (2002)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)
You might be tempted to think "what have you done for me lately?" when it comes to Stanford's record in LPGA majors, but you'd be dead wrong.  She has 8-straight top-20 finishes in the KNC (including a T7 this year), she's finished in the top 35 in the LPGA Championship in 10 of her last 11 starts (with another top 5 in 2009), she got a top 10 in the USWO in 2005 and top 5s in 2 of her last 3 starts, and she's got top 25s in the WBO in 4 of her last 5 starts.  I'm sure if I extended my ranking system back to the Class of 2001 and the LPGA generation that bears her name, she'd be even higher on this list!  The only thing holding me back about picking her at Pinehurst is how bad her short game has been thus far this season.

12. Brittany Lang (1/0, 530 [#31], 912 [#32]).  She's #6 in the Class of 2006, #16 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #8 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T6 (2006)
  • LPGA:  T18 (2008)
  • USWO:  T2 (2005)
  • WBO:  2nd (2011)
  • Evian:  T57 (2013)
The KNC is definitely her most consistent major, as she finished in the top 21 between 2006 and 2010, but even there she's been inconsistent of late.  Still, she can contend out of nowhere, as she did as an amateur at the USWO in 2005 and as a pro in 2010 and 2013, as well as at the 2011 WBO.  I'd be surprised if it happened at Pinehurst, however, given the way her short game has been in 2014.

13. Jee Young Lee (1/1, 428 [#38], 976 [#30]).  She's #5 in the Class of 2006, #15 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #11 among the LPGA's 1-time winners.  And that's despite a slump that's been only a little shorter and shallower than her fellow Lee in the '06ers.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T13 (2007)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2007)
  • USWO:  7th (2007)
  • WBO:  T2 (2007)
  • Evian:  WD (2013)
She's failed to finish 7 of the last 10 majors she started and missed out on qualifying for 4 others during that stretch, which dates back to 2011.  Even though she's started to pull out of her slump in regular tournaments, she hadn't cracked the top 30 in an LPGA major since the 2010 USWO, until she got a T16 at Mission Hills this year.  Let's see if she can keep turning things around over the rest of 2014.

14. Jessica Korda (3/0, 202 [#63], 1195 [#21]).  As the newest member of the LPGA's Club 36, I'd put her at #5 or #6 in that category if I were redoing the ranking today, and I'd probably be ranking her higher than #3 in the Class of 2011 and #10 in the New Blood generation, as well.  She's posted her best finish in 5 consecutive LPGA majors:
  • KNC:  T24 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T49 (2013)
  • USWO:  T7 (2013)
  • WBO:  T25 (2013)
  • Evian:  T37 (2013)
But she'll need to play really well at Pinehurst to keep that streak alive!

15. Seon Hwa Lee (4/3, 245 [#54], 1177 [#22]).  Even with her pronounced slump of recent years, her career stats actually remain quite strong (she was still #4 in the very strong Class of 2006 at the start of 2014 and #10 in the Tseng Dynasty).  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  5th (2008)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2008)
  • USWO:  T25 (2007)
  • WBO:  T14 (2008)
  • Evian:  DNP (2013)
You can tell how bad her slump has been by the fact that she hasn't made a cut in a major since the KNC in 2012 and has missed it in 8 of 11 starts in majors dating back to 2010.  Even worse, she failed to even qualify for 6 of the last 8 majors (including this year's KNC and USWO).  Imagine how much higher she'd be ranked if she hadn't fallen off the career cliff and instead been simply mediocre the last few seasons!

16. Beatriz Recari (3/1, 169 [#66], 1084 [#26]):  She's #1 in the Class of 2010, #8 in the New Blood Generation, and #3 in Club 36.  Her best finishes:
  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T19 (2013)
  • USWO:  T27 (2011)
  • WBO:  T26 (2012)
  • Evian:  T9 (2013)
You can tell how well she's been playing in the last few seasons by how recent her career bests in majors have been, but she's still underperforming in majors compared to her achievements in regular tournaments.  And in 2014 that's extended to regular-season events, as well, no thanks to a truly horrific short game thus far.  None of which bodes well for Pinehurst.

17. Chella Choi (0/0, 387 [#40], 853 [#34]).  She's now the top player on the LPGA without a win, #6 in the Class of 2009, and #11 in the New Blood generation.  And she's been pretty strong in every major:
  • KNC:  T16 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  T13 (2011)
  • WBO:  T10 (2012)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)
Plus, she's got the short game to contend at Pinehurst!

The Best of the Rest

18. Caroline Hedwall (0/5, 317 [#47], 929 [#31]).
19. Julieta Granada (1/0, 273 [#52], 761 [#37]).
20. Kristy McPherson (0/0, 427 [#39], 578 [#46]).
21. Meena Lee (2/4, 173 [#65], 856 [#33]).
22. Sandra Gal (1/0, 290 [#50], 726 [#39]).
23. Gerina Piller (0/0, 222 [#58], 763 [#36]).
24. Jennifer Johnson (1/0, 233 [#56], 705 [#40]).
25. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (0/0, 284 [#51], 637 [#43]).
26. Jenny Shin (0/0, 149 [#68], 747 [#38]).  She's got the short game to compete at Pinehurst!
27. Ilhee Lee (1/0, 231 [#57], 651 [#42]).
28. Caroline Masson (0/1, 355 [#44], 532 [#49]).
29. Haeji Kang (0/0, 214 [#60], 557 [#48]).
30. Pornanong Phatlum (0/2, 110 [#72], 656 [#41]).
31. Carlota Ciganda (0/3, 120 [#71], 584 [#45]).
32. Chie Arimura (0/13, 220 [#59], 481 [#51]).
33. Ji Young Oh (0/0, 78 [#75], 590 [#44]).
34. Ayako Uehara (0/3, 237 [#55], 396 [#58]).
35. Katie Futcher (0/0, 262 [#53], 371 [#59]).
36. Jane Park (0/0, 167 [#67], 464 [#53]).
37. Mi Jung Hur (1/0, 52 [#77], 562 [#47]).
38. Vicky Hurst (0/0, 143 [#69], 477 [#52]).
39. Natalie Gulbis (1/1, 494 [#34], n.a. [n.r.]).
40. Candie Kung (4/0, 490 [#35], n.a. [n.r.]).

So that's the 2nd edition of my top 40.  Who would you add to this list, and where?  How would you suggest reordering it?  What do you think of my way of combining my 2 ranking systems?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Look Who's Ready for Pinehurst!

I didn't get a chance to watch much of the men in the U.S. Open the last several days, but what little I did see led me to believe that the key to scoring at Pinehurst is to hit greens, scramble well when you miss them, and of course putt well.  I know, I know, not exactly earth-shaking realizations, but bear with me for a second.

My question is, if this is true, then how do we tell which of the top players on the LPGA are best prepared to do this coming into this week?  After all, the LPGA keeps very few stats relative to the PGA Tour, so it's not like you can go to and look it up.  So what I did was develop ways of tracking (1) who has the best history of scrambling so far in 2014, (2) who has the best overall short game on tour thus far this season, and (3) who, therefore, is best prepared for the unique challenges Pinehurst offers.

Here's how I did it.  On (1), I decided to add together a player's rates of hitting greens in regulation and making sand saves and divide that total by their average total putts per round.  That formula would give me a rough measure of who best augments their GIR rate with good scrambling out of bunkers and good putting on the greens.  For ease of reference, and for reasons that will be clear in a few paragraphs, I multiplied each result by a thousand, and came up with the following ranking:

Scrambling Index
1. Lydia Ko (45.724)
2. Michelle Wie (45.063)
3. Karrie Webb (43.663)
4. Inbee Park (43.115)
5. Lizette Salas (42.939)
6. Lexi Thompson (42.682)
7. Line Vedel (42.089)
8. Catriona Matthew (41.950)
9. Chella Choi (41.923)
10. In-Kyung Kim (41.650)
11. Jenny Shin (41.759)
12. Julieta Granada (41.178)
13. Gerina Piller (41.148)
14. Stacy Lewis (41.125)
15. Jee Young Lee (40.891)
16. Azahara Munoz (40.839)
17. Morgan Pressel (40.500)
18. Mo Martin (40.413)
19. Harukyo Nomura (40.317)
20. Sun Young Yoo (40.108)

On (2), I wanted to take into account how well someone putts when they hit greens in regulation, via the putts per green in regulation stat the LPGA keeps.  I figured what better way to incorporate it than to multiply it by the divisor in (1)--average total putts per round--to further reward those with the strongest putting stats.  Here's what resulted from those calculations:

Short Game Index
1. Michelle Wie (25.517)
2. Lydia Ko (25.516)
3. Inbee Park (24.708)
4. Karrie Webb (24.530)
5. Lexi Thompson (23.898)
6. Lizette Salas (23.895)
7. Line Vedel (23.806)
8. Stacy Lewis (23.649)
9. Chella Choi (23.473)
10. Catriona Matthew (23.228)
11. Jenny Shin (23.164)
12. Julieta Granada (23.134)
13. Morgan Pressel (22.830)
14. Azahara Munoz (22.815)
15. Harukyo Nomura (22.765)
16. Gerina Piller (22.534)
17. Paula Creamer (22.483)
18. In-Kyung Kim (22.321)
19. Ya Ni Tseng (22.053)
20. Hee Young Park (22.042)

On (3), I decided to subtract each player's Short Game Index score from (2) from their scoring averages for the year.  Here's what happened when I did that (note for this one that the lower the player's rating, the higher-ranked that player is):

Overall Rating
1. Michelle Wie (43.781)
2. Lydia Ko (44.654)
3. Inbee Park (44.926)
4. Stacy Lewis (45.351)
5. Karrie Webb (46.906)
6. Lexi Thompson (46.151)
7. Chella Choi (46.640)
8. Jenny Shin (47.155)
9. Azahara Munoz (47.342)
10. Line Vedel (47.467)
11. Lizette Salas (47.579)
12. Catriona Matthew (47.746)
13. Julieta Granada (47.784)
14. Cristie Kerr (48.092)
15. Gerina Piller (48.139)
16. Suzann Pettersen (48.231)
17. Harukyo Nomura (48.279)
18. Paula Creamer (48.406)
19. Morgan Pressel (48.483)
20. Jessica Korda (49.040)

One way of thinking about this rating is that it roughly estimates how much a player's short game has contributed to her overall scoring average in 2014.

Very roughly!  And it does nothing to help anyone predict who will figure out Pinehurst the quickest and the longest.  But it's better than nothing.  Right?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Suntory Ladies Sunday: Don't Call It a Comeback--Sun-Ju Ahn Cruises to Sweet 16th JLPGA Victory

Sun-Ju Ahn has picked up a couple of nicknames during her illustrious career:  Big Mama and Ahn of Green Gables (from when she dyed her hair really red).  But now that she's taken her 16th career victory at the Suntory Ladies (and 3rd of 2014) by firing a 7-birdie 66 to beat Akane Iijima by 5 shots and Momoko Ueda by 6, I think it's about time she picked up some new ones.  How about "Knockout" (in honor of LL Cool J, who provided my title allusion)?  I'm sure my imaginative readership can top me.  After all, we ought to do something in honor of Ahn's sweet 16, right?

On a day when the only round better than Ahn's came from Mi-Jeong Jeon (a bogey-free 65 that vaulted her from the bottom of the pack to the top 25 at E), there was very little drama.  Sure, Ueda eagled the par-5 17th to vault ahead of Kaori Ohe (70, -7, 4th) and the group at T5 that included living legend Yuri Fudoh, 17-time winner Ji-Hee Lee, a resurgent Miki Saiki, and a clearly outgunned Haruka Kudo.  And Shiho Oyama did the same to sneak into the top 10 with Na-Ri Lee and amateur Haruka Morita.  It was certainly nice to see Akiko Fukushima shoot a 69 to catch Ji-Yai Shin among others at +2 (T33).  But basically this Sunday belonged completely to Ahn.

Knockout birdied 3 of her 1st 5 holes to take a commanding lead, but Iijima responded with 3 birdies in a row to close out the front 9 to cut that lead to 2 while Ueda and Ohe lurked 3 back.  But Big Mama's bogey-free 32 on the back was beaten only by Jeon (31) and approached by Oyama and Yuko Mitsuka (33s), which led to the huge margin of victory that made her 2014's 1st 3-time winner in the world of women's golf.

It also brought Ahn of Green Gables back to the top of the JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥69.05M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥62.27M
3. Misuzu Narita ¥53.76M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥37.84M
5. Ayaka Watanabe ¥36.74M
6. Erina Hara ¥35.62M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M

8. Miki Sakai ¥29.23M
9. Rikako Morita ¥28.06M

10. Esther Lee ¥27.55M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥26.57M
12. Teresa Lu ¥25.34M
13. Ji-Hee Lee ¥24.31M
14. Ritsuko Ryu ¥23.70M
15. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥21.11M
16. Lala Anai ¥20.22M
17. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥19.57M
19. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.83M
20. Mamiko Higa ¥17.13M
21. Yukari Baba ¥16.12M
22. Mami Fukuda ¥16.10M
23. Saiki Fujita ¥15.54M
24. Junko Omote ¥15.54M
25. Kaori Ohe ¥14.99M
26. Akane Iijima ¥14.46M
27. Sakura Yokomine ¥14.46M
28. Na-Ri Lee ¥13.97M
29. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.83M
30. Momoko Ueda ¥13.64M
31. Yumiko Yoshida ¥13.38M
32. Soo-Yun Kang ¥13.35M
33. Miki Saiki ¥12.45M
34. Shiho Oyama ¥12.15M
35. Haruka Kudo ¥10.23M

With many of the JLPGA's finest competing next week in the U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst, the Nichirei Ladies field is weaker than usual.  But it's a great opportunity for players like Bo-Mee Lee, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, and Miki Saiki to make moves of their own.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Suntory Ladies Set-Up: Sun-Ju Ahn and Haruka Kudo Share 2-Shot Lead

26-year-old Sun-Ju Ahn has 15 JLPGA victories to her name while 21-year-old Haruka Kudo can boast of a best finish this year in T15, but they're tied for the 54-hole lead at the Suntory Ladies.  At -8, they're 2 shots ahead of Momoko Ueda, Na-Ri Lee, and Akane Iijima, 3 shots ahead of Ji-Hee Lee, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Kaori Ohe, and amateur Haruka Morita, and 5 shots ahead of Erina Hara, Ai Suzuki, Hikari Fujita, and Yukari Nishiyama.  With the likes of Yuri Fudoh, Shiho Oyama, Miki Saiki, and Yukari Baba at -2, all those ahead of them can't rest easy, either.

Particularly given the volatility of scoring this week.  After all, Oyama and 15-year-old amateur Minami Katsu both shot 66s on Friday, the low rounds of the week thus far, but Katsu followed up her 66 with a 77 to fall to E, tied at 26th with Ji-Yai Shin, while Oyama's 74 shows that even veterans can have trouble following up really good days.  Rikako Morita, one of a large JLPGA contingent playing in the U.S. Women's Open next week, missed the cut this week with consistently mediocre rounds, but fellow young guns Ritsuko Ryu (71-79) and Erika Kikuchi (71-77) were all over the place, with the same results.  And amateur Shoko Sasaki went 69-70-80 to drop out of contention, while Shinobu Moromizato's 81 and Bo-Mee Lee's and Mi-Jeong Jeon's 78s today dropped them even lower down the leaderboard.

So if Ahn, Lee, and Sattayabanphot can fire their 3rd round of the week in the 60s tomorrow, odds are the tournament will come down to the 3 of them.  But if they don't and other players put together their own 2nd sub-70 rounds of the week, it would be a wild and wooly Sunday finish in Hyogo!

Who Among the U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifiers Has the Best Chance to Make Some Noise Next Week?

Don't look now, but Cheyenne Woods opened her Symetra Tour tune-up for the U.S. Women's Open with a 4-birdie 69 that left her only 2 shots off the 1st-round lead.  She hasn't been making that much noise in the States so far in 2014, but the season is still young and nobody can take that LET victory Down Under away from her!

Woods's round got me thinking about which of the other USWO sectional qualifiers have the best chance of making some serious noise at Pinehurst.  With Ariya Jutanugarn failing to qualify, it's down to only 3 good bets, in my book:

Best Bets
Misuzu Narita, Minjee Lee, Yueer Cindy Feng

Long Shots
Laura Davies, Ayaka Watanabe, Ashleigh Simon, Belen Mozo, Stacey Keating, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Marissa Steen, Jaye Marie Green, Cheyenne Woods, Brooke Mackenzie Henderson

Apologies to everyone else who played their way into the USWO, but making the cut alone would be a huge accomplishment, even for many on this list!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Peak Performances in the U.S. Women's Open Since 2000

So instead of watching golf or writing about golf, I actually played golf today, but since there was literally nothing to write home about from my 1st round of 2014, let me focus instead on some people who really know how to play the game, like, say, the golfers who have done the best in the U.S. Women's Open since 2000 (listing only each player's peak performance):

  • 2 wins:  Karrie Webb, Inbee Park
  • 1 win:  Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Eun-Hee Ji, Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu
  • 2nd place:  Se Ri Pak, Angela Stanford, Candie Kung, Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang, In-Kyung Kim, Angela Park, Amy Yang, Hee Kyung Seo
  • 3rd place:  Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal
  • 4th place:  Catriona Matthew, Natalie Gulbis, Shanshan Feng, Ilhee Lee
  • 5th place:  Brittany Lincicome, Ji-Yai Shin, Mika Miyazato
  • top 10 (outside top 5):  Grace Park, Jeong Jang, Christina Kim, Karine Icher, Ai Miyazato, Jee Young Lee, Julieta Granada, Jane Park, Ya Ni Tseng, Hee Young Park, Chella Choi, Jessica Korda, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Lexi Thompson
  • top 20 (outside top 10):  Lindsey Wright, Meaghan Francella, Kristy McPherson, Song-Hee Kim, Momoko Ueda, Anna Nordqvist, Vicky Hurst, Haeji Kang, Azahara Munoz, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang
I'll go out on a limb and predict that Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Lizette Salas, and Azahara Munoz will have career-best finishes in a USWO this year at Pinehurst!  I also wouldn't be surprised if Stacy Lewis and Shanshan Feng did the same, but I won't go that far out on a limb and make it a formal prediction....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Best in LPGA Majors Since 2000, June 2014 Edition

With the 2nd LPGA major of 2014 and probably the biggest tournament in women's golf one week away, it's time I unveiled my updated ranking of the top performers in LPGA majors since the start of the 2000 season (excepting the du Maurier, which last counted as an LPGA major that season).  What's different than the April 2014 edition?  Just the Kraft Nabisco Championship!  You can find the details on my spreadsheet, which is basically a modification of my career ranking system of the LPGA's rookie classes from 2005 to 2014.  Its core idea is to reward both consistency and peak performances, with a special bonus for being able to win more than one major and an even bigger bonus for winning the same major more than once (it's kind of like Yahtzee that way!).

Here's how my major ranking formula works.  As in my career ranking formula, I determine how often players win, finish in the top 3, top 10, and top 20, and avoid WDs, DQs, and MCs in LPGA majors, and I turn those rates into points as follows:  each percentage point in winning rate is worth 32 points, each in top-3 rate is worth 16, each in top-10 rate is worth 8, each in top-20 rate is worth 4, and each in finish rate is worth 1.  Instead of keeping track of career winnings and winnings per start and finish, however, I instead assign points to career best finishes in each of the LPGA's 5 majors:  whereas a player earns 100 points each time she wins a major, the maximum points she can earn for non-winning high water marks are 50 for a silver medal, 40 for a bronze, 30 for 4th place, 25 for 5th place, 20 for 6th- through 10th-place finishes, and 10 for 11th- through 20th-place finishes.  The other big difference from my career ranking formula is that players can earn points in this one for every LPGA major they competed in, whether or not they were members of the LPGA at the time (only non-member wins are counted in my other system, which, after all, focuses on LPGA careers).

This results in the following ranking, with the number of points gained or lost [in brackets] following each player's point total (in parentheses):

Simply the Best

1. Annika Sorenstam (3034)
2. Ya Ni Tseng (2139) [-62]
3. Karrie Webb (1994) [-16]
4. Inbee Park (1877) [-45]

The Contenders

5. Stacy Lewis (1570) [+68]
6. Lorena Ochoa (1569)

The Next Best

7. Ji-Yai Shin (1463) [-27]
8. So Yeon Ryu (1436) [-94]
9. Se Ri Pak (1374) [+17]
10. Suzann Pettersen (1367)
11. Cristie Kerr (1330) [+5]
12. Na Yeon Choi (1194) [-19]
13. Paula Creamer (1148) [-21]
14. In-Kyung Kim (1022) [-25]
15. Morgan Pressel (1012) [-7]

Quantum Leap Candidates

16. Lexi Thompson (864) [+418]
17. Catriona Matthew (811) [-2]
18. Grace Park (795)
19. Michelle Wie (792) [+64]
20. Eun-Hee Ji (770) [-18]
21. Anna Nordqvist (766) [-6]
22. Amy Yang (759) [+28]
23. Ai Miyazato (709) [-14]
24. Brittany Lincicome (691) [-12]
25. Angela Park (664)
26. Shanshan Feng (628) [+55]
27. Song-Hee Kim (621)
28. Lydia Ko (620) [-64]
29. Angela Stanford (602) [+17]

The Best of the Rest

30. Jeong Jang (533)
31. Brittany Lang (530) [-12]
32. Hee Kyung Seo (522) [-24]
33. Sun Young Yoo (509) [-9]
34. Natalie Gulbis (494) [-8]
35. Candie Kung (490) [-6]
36. Mika Miyazato (473) [-15]
37. Hee Young Park (456) [-17]
38. Jee Young Lee (428) [+7]
39. Kristy McPherson (427)
40. Chella Choi (387) [+21]
41. Lindsey Wright (380) [-8]
42. Christina Kim (376) [+6]
43. Azahara Munoz (370) [+73]
44. Caroline Masson (355) [+21]
45. Hee-Won Han (353) [-4]
46. Lizette Salas (331) [-29]
47. Caroline Hedwall (317) [-12]
48. Katherine [Hull] Kirk (298) [-6]
49. Meaghan Francella (296)
50. Sandra Gal (290) [-5]

It's interesting to see who performs better in majors than regular events and vice versa--although as you can see from the big movers, there's a bit more volatility on this list than in my career ranking system.  More in this vein tomorrow, with a focus on those who haven't yet won a LPGA major!