This post was originally supposed to be a look at the Rookie of the Year race but since Angela Park has rendered that point moot, it becomes an update on how the rookies have fared in their first six months on Tour. In order of their current points standings:
Currently holds a 367-point lead in the Rolex Rookie of the Year standings. Before the season, I picked Park to finish fourth in those standings behind Song-Hee Kim, In-Bee Park and Charlotte Mayorkas. Not too bad with Numbers 2 through 4 – they are all in the Top 5 of the current standings. In 19 starts, Angela has four Top 10s, only one missed cut (last week at the British), she’s 14th on the money list, 10th in scoring, 10th in GIR and T35 in putts per GIR. Oh yeah, she’s also 16th in my latest rankings. Even if there were no Rolex points, she would be an easy choice for ROY. The only way anybody catches her is if they win an event, and that probably won’t be enough.
In 17 starts, Inky has three Top 10s, three missed cuts, 26th on the money list and 37th in scoring. She lost to Ochoa in a playoff at Wegmans and tied for fourth at the Corning. I picked Kim fifth at the beginning of the year.
Na On Min
Completely missed by my pre-season radar, Min is a non-exempt player who (if she makes the cut) often finishes in the Top 20. In 11 events she has missed four cuts but in the seven cuts she’s made, she has four Top 20s with two of those being Top 5s. Na On is 35th in scoring and 36th on the money list. Looking at her stats, I would say when she keeps it in the fairway (or the rough isn’t too severe) she scores very well. T30 in driving distance but only T154 in accuracy and 150 in GIR. T7 in putts per GIR. Hmmm…who does that remind me of….Pat Hurst! If Min makes the field at the State Farm Classic, I predict a Top 10 finish.
My second-favorite ROY choice back in January, In-Bee has only one Top 10 in 17 starts with seven missed cuts. Her performance is miles behind #3 Min, but the difference is masked by the six extra starts Park has gotten because she is fully exempt. I’ve mentioned before that not all LPGA rookies are created equal. In-Bee is 44th on the money list (T4 at the US Open is primarily responsible for that) so she is guaranteed to be exempt again next year. She is only 102nd in scoring, mainly because she ranks T105 in driving average, 112 in accuracy and 155 in GIR.
Pre-season #3 on my ballot, Charlotte has yet to register a Top 10 but has only missed three cuts. Her best finish was a T12 at the Ginn Tribute and she defeated Karrie Webb in the first round at the HSBC Match Play. Mayorkas is 62nd on the money list, so she isn’t yet a lock to finish in the Top 90 and retain her exempt status. A long hitter (18 in distance) and good putter (T21 in putts per GIR) but 128 in accuracy and only 99 in GIR.
Persona non grata in my pre-season picks, Ji is currently sixth in Rolex points even though she’s only played two events (T5 at British, T16 at Evian)! She is an LPGA non-exempt member but has been playing outstanding golf in Asia all year. She won the Macau Championship in January and the KLPGA Phoenix Park Classic in May. Ji is 63rd on the money list, which (as I said for Mayorkas) doesn’t guarantee that she’ll be fully exempt for 2008 – even if she wanted to play here next year. I don’t know what her schedule looks like for the next couple of months but I hope we see her at least a couple of times.
Jin Joo Hong
Hong won the KOLON Championship in Korea last October as a member of the KLPGA to gain full-exempt status for 2007. In her 16 starts this year her best finish was T14 at Wegmans. She has missed six cuts and withdrawn twice, both times after a poor first round. 77th in money but 133 in scoring. The only stat she ranks in the Top 100 in is driving distance, and she’s only T66 there. I picked her seventh before the season started, and here she sits!
Tied for eighth in rookie points, Jane has only played six events so I’ll list her before Cho. No Top 10s (best is T17) but no missed cuts and 28th in scoring average. Ranks number 108 on the money list, so if she can get into two or three events in the next two months I would bet on her earning her full card for 2008. While these numbers are from a small sample size, it’s still very impressive - Park is 18th in GIR and T21 in putts per GIR. If you rank fairly high in both of these categories, you can play.
#8 on my pre-season list, Irene is tied for 8th in Rolex points. In 14 events her best finish is T23, she’s missed seven cuts, only 101st on the money list and 64th in scoring. Overall her stats don’t look too bad, but T99 in putts per GIR when you are 31st in GIR usually means the putter gets the blame.
In 13 events, Kristy has a best finish of T18 and is 93rd on the money list. She has missed six cuts and is 105th in scoring. Like Cho, McPherson has putting problems (T111 in putts per GIR) but unlike Irene, the rest of Kristy’s stats aren’t a whole lot better. Not very likely to retain her full-exempt status without going to Q-School.
I’ve made much better predictions in my life than the ones I made about Song-Hee Kim. On the strength of her five Future Tour wins in 2006, I figured her to be a strong candidate for ROY and gave her a reasonable chance to make it into my Top 20 (now 30) rankings. In 14 starts she has not only missed seven cuts but has yet to finish better than T35. She’s 107th on the money list and 81st in scoring. So what’s gone wrong with her game? Kim is a long hitter, ranking 22nd in distance while her accuracy isn’t too bad (76th). She’s 49th in GIR and T79 is putts per GIR. When I see stats like this that seem to be a little better than the results, I assume that the player has had a tendency to blow up on holes more than average. You know that “others” category when they show what the scores have been on an individual hole today? The LPGA needs to start posting an “Others” category on their stats page. If they think we need to know who makes the most eagles, we need to know who makes the most double-bogeys, too.