Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Player Profiles - Part 4

Angela Stanford (#16)
Didn’t win a tournament and only finished in the Top 5 twice, but had about as good a year as you can have otherwise – 12 Top 10s (only Ochoa and Creamer had more), 11th in scoring, 19th on the money list, with three missed cuts and an undefeated record at the Solheim Cup. Like Suzann Pettersen, Stanford vaulted from the mid-30s in my 2006 rankings but the lack of a victory held Angela back. Finished third in GIR but still needs to work on her putting (T30) to reach “the next level”, as they say.

A couple of months ago I was trying to devise a way to combine a player’s rank in two raw stats to show a meaningful measure, like a Total Driving stat which combines a player’s accuracy with their distance. The idea was, if a player does well in both they rank high but if they are great in one and not-so-great in another, they would rank lower. I didn’t really come up with a measure that I was happy with, but the player who kept coming up #1 in Total Driving no matter how I tweaked it was Angela Stanford. She finished T22 in distance and 36 in accuracy. If you check the overall lists of both categories, you won’t find anyone better at both. This is not unusual for Angela – in 2006 she ranked 26 and 36 in those categories.

Brittany Lincicome (#17)
Brittany won the wind-swept Ginn Open in April, her second win in as many seasons. She played pretty well through the middle of July, but was unable to register a single Top 10 over the final five months. She finished with only four Top 10s (one of them a tie for second at the KNC), 13th in money, 24th in scoring and two missed cuts. Being T75 in putts per GIR, I would bet Brittany will be working hard with the putter this off-season.

Natalie Gulbis (#18)
During July, I had completely written Natalie Gulbis off. She had fallen out of my Top 30 rankings, had only one Top 10 and missed three straight cuts early in the spring. To make things worse, Natalie hurt her back while working out and withdrew from the only two events she had entered in June. She finished T65 at the Farr and lost her first-round match at the HSBC.

The very next week she beat Jeong Jang in a playoff at Evian to finally earn that first LPGA victory. If not for Silvia Cavalleri, I might have chosen this as the fluke victory of the year. Gulbis later proved her win was not a fluke as she closed out the year with three Top 5s in her last four events. For the year she totaled five Top 10s, only those three early missed cuts, 12th in money and she finished 28th in scoring after her abysmal start. Her struggles stemmed from missing the green in regulation too much (T63, down from eighth in ’06) not bad putting (T3, up from T11), despite what your friendly TV commentator told you.

Sherri Steinhauer (#19)
Won the State Farm Classic in a duel over Christina Kim in the most exciting finish we saw on U.S. TV all year (Pettersen’s win over Davies in Thailand was apparently a doozy, too). Sherri is one of the more reliable players on Tour, with wins in three of the last four seasons. From week-to-week, however, she’s in Pat Hurst territory as far as consistency goes. I really need to do that study to figure out where Steinhauer/Hurst/Gustafson/et al play well and not so well. I think the answer for Sherri might be “links courses”. Steinhauer wound up with five Top 10s, only one missed cut, 24th in money and 29th in scoring.

Juli Inkster (#20)
Nobody gets their age stated during LPGA telecasts more often than Juli (Dottie doesn’t do it, it’s those jackass men sitting beside her!), so I won’t repeat it here. Unfortunately I was right when I predicted last fall that Inkster wouldn’t be able to maintain her lofty HD ranking (#5) but she didn’t collapse completely. She managed six Top 10s (five of those were Top 5s), 18th in money, 22nd in scoring and only two missed cuts. Juli had troubles putting this year (down from T20 to T48) and hit the green a little less often (down from 7 to 16). You wouldn’t expect her to rebound a whole lot, but weirder things have happened.

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