Monday, December 04, 2006

Top 20 - Players 16 thru 20

#16 Sherri Steinhauer (17)
When Steinhauer won the British Open, I first thought “Fluke”. Then I realized she’d won the event two times before, so that would kind of eliminate “Fluke”. Now I think of Sherri as a Specialist. I believe some players “specialize”or play better under particular circumstances like a certain type of course, weather condition, tournament format or field size. Not that I’ve done any research yet to prove it. What I can prove – over 25 events Steinhauer finished 16th in money and in the Top 10 six times, but was only T29 in scoring, and missed the cut four times. I could rank her #15 or #25 and you wouldn’t have much of an argument against either. Sherri is not a great player or even a consistently good one, but one who about a third of the time plays like she’s Juli Inkster and the rest of the time plays like Julia Child. That sounds like a description for several players, like Sophie Gustafson or Meena Lee - doesn’t it? When I figure out what causes the Dr. Jekyll to show up in this type of player, I should be able to make enough money gambling to retire. I probably should just stick to buying lottery tickets.

#17 Stacy Prammanasudh (NR)
Starting with her tie for third at the US Open, Stacy played very well over the second half. She finished only 18th on the money list despite a solid scoring average of 71.08 (only ten players scored better for the season). Her total of only six Top 10s in 27 starts probably explains the discrepancy. She’s a good player but looking over her stats, I get the feeling this level of play is her ceiling. The scoring average says “consistent” but the Top 10 stat and three missed cuts tell me different. Stacy just recently had her first formal golf lesson (!) so if that can give her a little extra length or save her a stroke under pressure every once in a while, she might be able to move up.

#18 Morgan Pressel (19)
The pre-season favorite for ROY honors (unless you live in Japan), Morgan actually started the year reasonably well, struggled a bit during the summer, then closed out with five Top 10s in her last six events. I’ll give her management credit for only scheduling her in 23 events – better to ease her into the LPGA grind gradually. Despite the less-than-average number of starts, she finished 24th on the money list. Had the ninth best Top 10 percentage, 20th in scoring average, with only two missed cuts – of course playing fewer events can help all three of those stats but I feel they aren’t distorted much in this case. Pressel could use a little more length but I expect her to add that as she ages (she’ll be 19 next May).

#19 Ai Miyazato (NR)
Ai made even fewer starts than Pressel (20) because she played a few events in Asia this fall. Scores a little better than Morgan but doesn’t make Top 10 quite as often. They are very comparable players despite their physical and emotional differences (I’ll assume you already know what those are). In case you didn’t notice - there are four rookies in my Top 20 and Creamer and Lincicome are second-year players. I don’t know how to classify Wie but one thing is certain…the coffers of the LPGA are stocked with young talent.

#20 Brittany Lincicome (15)
One of the longest hitters on Tour, Brittany won the HSBC Match Play event beating among others, Juli Inkster, Michelle Wie and Lorena Ochoa. Since that victory she’s managed only one Top 10 in nine starts. Compared to the others in this Top 20, her biggest weakness is scoring average. I think if she learns to give back a little of her length to put more balls in the fairway (T133 in accuracy), that will make her approaches easier and the subsequent first putts will be a little closer to the hole. She’s already ninth in GIR so that tells me her iron play is reasonably good, and getting closer will certainly improve her putting (T80). What I’m trying to say is of the players rated right around her, Brittany has probably the best opportunity to make a big jump in the next couple of years purely because of her length and iron ability.

Meena Lee (16), Shi Hyun Ahn (18) and Jee Young Lee (20) dropped out of the Top 20. I’ll profile them and a few other players during the coming weeks.

No comments: