Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Top 30 – June 2007

By popular demand - ok, one guy suggested I do it and I happened to agree with him - my Top 20 rankings have morphed into my Top 30 rankings. The historical rankings I’ve been doing were already listing 30 players so it made sense to standardize. It makes for a longer post but what the hey, more is better!

The rankings have changed significantly since I last posted them in early April. Two reasons for this: seven tournaments have been played in the interim, and at this point 2007 performance counts for 60% of the rating (up from 25% in April). Since the changes are so radical, I probably should update these a little more frequently and include fewer comments. If you read my
Smatterchew post a couple of weeks ago, you already know who’s dropping a few positions. As usual, my stat system is only a starting point for me to then adjust the rankings as I see fit. The player’s previous ranking is in parentheses.

#1 Lorena Ochoa (1)
No change at the top. A win at Sybase, her second of the year. Leads in money and scoring average, finishes Top 10 in 80% of the events and never misses the cut. In my stat system, she’s as far ahead of #2 as #2 is ahead of #17. She probably should have also won both Ginn events and had one poor round at the Corona that left her two strokes short in that event, but if you look at what she HAS accomplished relative to what every other individual has accomplished – she’s right on track to repeating as POY.

#2 Paula Creamer (6)
#2 through #5 were very close to call. Paula gets the nod this time because she’s finished Top 5 the last three events in a row (four Top 10s in a row). In addition to the SBS win she trails only Ochoa in Top 10 Percentage.

#3 Mi Hyun Kim (5)
Peanut won the SemGroup title in Tulsa, as well as the sentimental support of thousands with her actions immediately following. Three Top 10s in her last five events.

#4 Karrie Webb (2)
Karrie hasn’t been playing poorly, she just hasn’t quite kept up the standard she set for herself in previous seasons. She’s been finishing in the Top 20, but keeps having one or two off-rounds every week to knock herself out of contention.

#5 Annika Sorenstam (3)
Annika made the cut in her return at the Ginn Tribute but faded over the weekend, posting a 76 on Sunday. That’s to be expected until she gets her stamina back. Will she ever get the #1 Rolex or Hound Dog ranking back? I have to bet against it.

#6 Juli Inkster (8)
She turned things around immediately after my last rankings – in the five events since, she’s finished in the Top Five three times. Turns 47 this month.

#7 Morgan Pressel (10)
Did anybody else hear that Morgan’s clubs were stolen after the Nabisco? If you have watched only one tournament in the last two months and paid any attention, you’ve heard that story at least once. Another problem is, the media people who say this keep implying that Pressel hasn’t played well since then because of the theft. Morgan did miss the cut the week after the KNC but she followed that up with three Top 20 finishes (best T10), so I think the replacement clubs are working about as well as the originals did. I wish the media would shut up about this story, but
Pressel brings it up in interviews too so they all need to zip it. I bet Brian Hammonds will be the one to bring it up this weekend.

#8 Stacy Prammanasudh (11)
Stacy’s outstanding 2007 season has continued with two more Top 10s in her last five events. This ranking is also boosted by the added emphasis on ’07 stats. If she hadn’t missed the cut at the Ginn Tribute, she’d be ahead of Pressel.

#9 Cristie Kerr (4)
See my
Smatterchew post. Her third-place finish at the Tribute jump-started her season. I would have dropped her to about 15th if not for that good showing.

#10 Suzann Pettersen (NR)
Prior to last week, Suzann was on quite a hot streak. Over a span of six events she was Top 10 four times including the Michelob win with her worst finish being a T13. Her season and Castrale’s have had quite similar results.

#11 Nicole Castrale (NR)
Your Ginn Tribute winner. Also has three other Top 10s and only one missed cut, so putting her near the Top 10 is justified. She’s been a steady player for over a year now, and it’s nice to see someone like that jump up and grab the ring every once in a while. At first I hesitated to put Pettersen and Castrale this high but when I took a second look at the numbers, it made good sense.

#12 Se Ri Pak (13)
How closely are these players bunched together? I was going to rank Pak 9th when I started writing this post last week. Missing the cut plus Kerr’s Top 5 finish was enough to move Se Ri down to 12th. She officially qualifies for the LPGA Hall Of Fame when she tees off this Thursday, and overall she has played very well this year.

#13 Brittany Lincicome (NR)
I think Brittany has an excellent chance to win a major this year. Why would I single her out? Course conditions at the majors are the toughest you’ll see. Lincicome won the Ginn Open under the worst one-day conditions I’ve ever seen the ladies play, she beat more than one Top 10 player head-to-head last summer at the Match Play event, and she tied for second at the Nabisco.

#14 Jee Young Lee (18)
If she had won the Michelob playoff, she would probably be in the Top 10 right now.

#15 Ai Miyazato (20)
Of the players ranked here from #4 through #15, only Kerr and Castrale could say they enjoyed their week in South Carolina. Webb’s T30 was the best of the rest. It makes it tougher to write glowing comments for somebody who just missed the cut or finished T66. Here goes…with three straight Top 10s entering the Ginn Tribute, Ai is now easily the best LPGA player without a career victory.

#16 Seon Hwa Lee (12)
Playing much better of late, with two Top 10s in her last four starts (four Top 20s in her last six). I didn’t really want to drop her more than a couple of spots, but I can’t rationalize leaving her in front of Ai or Jelly.

#17 Young Kim (NR)
Not only won the Corning Classic, but ran off a streak of four straight Top 20s which ended with a T36 last weekend. If she keeps finishing Top 20, she’ll keep climbing.

#18 Shi Hyun Ahn (16)
Just when I thought Ahn was about to vault up this list, she posts three straight finishes in the 20s, a WD, and a T30 to stall out.

#19 Sherri Steinhauer (19)
Went into the Ginn Tribute with back-to-back Top 10s, giving her four on the year. It has taken me a few months to realize what a solid player Sherri is. If the course is tight, Steinhauer will be up the leaderboard. I hope she makes the Solheim Cup team. Like in 2005, Team USA is going to be filled with young stars and a veteran like Sherri (along with Inkster) can be a steadying influence in addition to being a fine player in her own right.

#20 Hee-Won Han (9)
Baby is due in about four weeks.

#21 Jeong Jang (7)
Smatterchew subject. JJ has one Top 10 and two missed cuts in 2007.

#22 Sarah Lee (NR)
Since missing the cut at SBS, Sarah has seven Top 20s in nine events including third at Michelob, second at Sybase and T4 at the Tribute. The highest ranked player who gets zero points from my stat system for 2006 and the second-best player (behind Miyazato) who has yet to win.

#23 Pat Hurst (17)
In her last six events, Pat has two Top 10s (4th at Corona), a T19, a T50 and two missed cuts. I’m not going to break out the usual literary reference here, you’re probably sick of it already. As I said about Steinhauer but for a different reason, I hope Pat makes the Solheim Cup team. If you are choosing between two players of somewhat equal ability – one plays steady as a rock, the other follows Top 10s with MCs – for a team-oriented event, you should always take the up-and-down player and use her on the very first day of competition. If she’s got her “A-game” that week, keep using her. If she doesn’t, sub in somebody else.

#24 Julieta Granada (14)
Has already missed three cuts after missing three in all of 2006. I originally counted her DQ at the MasterCard as a fourth MC because she would have missed it badly had she correctly signed her scorecard, but have recently reconsidered that stand and only count true MCs now instead of adding in the occasional WD or DQ if the player’s score was high. My stat system needs to be based on solid official data and if I want to subjectively penalize a player for one of these “MC dodges”, I’ll do it there instead. I feel for Julieta, but I can’t help but regard this sophomore slump as a kind of “karmic retribution” for her stealing the rookie thunder from Lee, Miyazato and Pressel by winning the million bucks.

#25 Michelle Wie (15)
The Ginn Tribute debacle aside, I’m going to maintain that Michelle is one of the Top 30 players. Where you want to place her among those 30 (if at all) is your business. If her wrist didn’t hold up for 18 holes after four months of rest, I have my doubts that it will allow her to play four rounds of competitive golf anytime soon.

#26 Angela Stanford (NR)
Five Top 10s in ten starts this year, but has missed the cut twice.

#27 Natalie Gulbis (NR)
Since those three straight missed cuts, she’s finished Top 20 in four of her last six. If I hear one more commentator say the putter has been her problem, I’m going to scream – see
Smatterchew comment. I don’t care if her putting stroke looks like she’s HAD a stroke, she’s not hitting the green in regulation nearly enough to score consistently well.

#28 Laura Davies (NR)
Making what appears to be her final all-out push to qualify for the LPGA Hall Of Fame. Missed a great opportunity to win at the Ginn Open, and has five other Top 20 finishes without missing a cut. Laura would rank in the Top 20 if I were only considering 2007 performance.

#29 Meaghan Francella (NR)
Francella won the MasterCard, beating Annika in a playoff before we knew about The Injury. That doesn’t really take anything away from the achievement. Meaghan has a couple of Top 10s and a couple of missed cuts since then. All in all, a good first-half to a sort-of rookie season (she’s not technically a rookie since she had non-exempt status in ‘06). She would rank about 20th if I only considered 2007 stats.

#30 Angela Park (NR)
The first real rookie to make the rankings in 2007. Angela has played every event so far and (like last year’s ROY Seon Hwa Lee) has not missed a cut. She’s posted two Top 10s – tied for third at Fields and sixth at the Ginn Tribute. She has a good lead in the rookie race and I’m expecting her to hang onto it. In-Kyung Kim is second in rookie points (with less than half of Park’s total) and is exempt but she’s going to have to seriously step it up to catch Angela.