#6 Mi Hyun Kim (5)
The biggest advantage Juli Inkster has over Kim? Nine fewer starts. If you need an example of a player running out of gas at the end of a long season, Peanut fits the bill. She tied Julieta Granada for the most starts on Tour (30), started all three Asian events plus the Corona, Samsung and TOC, and didn’t finish better than T16 in any of them despite the smaller fields and arguably weaker competition in Asia. Despite the extra starts and two victories to Inkster’s one, Kim earned virtually the same amount of money. She made the final round at ADT but since Inkster made it to Saturday I felt that wasn’t enough to keep Kimmie in the 5th spot. She’s one of my favorite players (especially when she’s putting) and as such, I want to see her play but she gets more TV time when she’s in the Top 10 and I think she stands a better chance of doing that if she gets some rest every few weeks. Ranking at #6 here is nothing to be ashamed of, though.
#7 Jeong Jang (7)
Even though I rank her behind Kimmie, JJ is the Korean player who plays the most consistently well. The others, while they have their occasional streaks of great play, can’t match Jang’s mark of 48% Top 10s (she was even better in ’05, over 50%). She won the Wegmans in June, is eighth on the money list, eighth in scoring and only one missed cut. IMO, the best bunker player on Tour.
#8 Hee-Won Han (10)
Two victories – Corning and Thailand – seventh in scoring, ninth in money and one missed cut. Since June only one Top 10 besides the Thailand win (British). Give her JJ’s consistency and she would be Top 5. Being a short hitter, her success comes with the irons and putter. I think the primary reason the Koreans score so well is their ability on the greens – of the 15 players at the top of the Putts Per GIR stat, 8 of them are Korean. Han and her husband (who will be pitching in the Baltimore Orioles organization next year) recently announced they are expecting their first child. That event will certainly shorten Hee-Won’s 2007 season and will most likely prevent her from maintaining this Top 10 ranking (like I’m sure she’s really worried about that right now). Congratulations!
#9 Paula Creamer (8)
Despite not winning and getting jumped here because Han won in Thailand, Paula finished the year strong – eighth or better in her last five events. Finished Top 10 52% of the time, sixth in scoring, eleventh on the money list (over a million – joins Gulbis in 2005 as the only players to do that without a victory), always makes the cut. If she doesn’t win multiple times next year, I’ll be shocked.
#10 Seon Hwa Lee (9)
The 2006 Rookie Of The Year, by enough of a margin that she clinched it almost two months ago. By placing her 10th, I obviously agree with that award. Won at ShopRite in June, 12th in money, 14th in scoring with no missed cuts (an outstanding accomplishment for a rookie). She definitely wore down over the second half as new players on Tour often do. The best putting stroke around, and she’s got the stats to back it up (tied for second in putts per GIR, seventh in total putting average).