Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Top 30 – March 2008

With four events in the books and most players having participated in at least two of them, I have enough information to start reasonably moving people up or down the HD Top 30 list. Like last year, I’ll be factoring in the previous season’s rating (80% at this point with 20% consisting of 2008 performance) to prevent the relatively small amount of data from fluctuating too wildly month-to-month. After the year’s 20th event, the rankings will totally rely on 2008 results.

The numbers in parentheses represent the player’s ranking at the end of 2007, not their preseason HD ranking.

#1 Lorena Ochoa (1)
Won the HSBC Women’s Champions by eleven shots which had us all predicting an even bigger runaway at the MasterCard. Her first-round 76 derailed that scenario but she still came back to finish T8.

#2 Suzann Pettersen (2)
Not playing up to her 2007 standard but she’s not exactly playing like crap – T16, T15 and T30. I heard that after signing with Nike, she was forced to get used to new clubs. Since she’s down from second to T25 in GIR, it sounds like a pretty good excuse for the slow start.

#3 Paula Creamer (3)
Won the Fields Open, third at HSBC, T12 at SBS. Paula has closed the gap on Pettersen considerably and will pass her if Suzann doesn’t turn it around quickly.

#4 Morgan Pressel (5)
How can I rank Pressel ahead of the obviously rejuvinated Sorenstam? Last year still counts for 80% and Morgan is playing fairly well, with a Top 10 at HSBC, a Top 20 at Fields and a Top 25 money list standing.

#5 Annika Sorenstam (12)
Purely on 2008 statistics, Annika is Number One by a nose over Lorena and Paula. Which illustrates one problem with looking at numbers only four events into a season. If you have four different winners, they all look like Player of the Year.

#6 Mi Hyun Kim (4)
Her recovery from knee surgery has been slow. Kim withdrew after two rounds at HSBC and was originally in the MasterCard field but pulled out before the event started.

#7 Seon Hwa Lee (6)
Lee has finished 12th twice with a T17 and a T47. As usual, the Stone Buddah is quietly going about her business and will win a tournament when you least expect it.

#8 Jeong Jang (11)
JJ just missed winning at Fields when Creamer birdied the last three holes. T16 at SBS, T23 at HSBC and T13 at MasterCard moves her up three slots.

#9 Stacy Prammanasudh (7)
Hasn’t quite hit her stride yet. She was T5 at HSBC but her other finishes of T32, T44 and T45 aren’t the Stacy P we’re used to seeing.

#10 Cristie Kerr (8)
Wasn’t playing well at HSBC when she withdrew, did play well in Hawaii (T8 and T15).

#11 Angela Park (9)
Angela tied for fifth at SBS, then finished T25 at Fields and T38 at HSBC.

#12 Jee Young Lee (10)
Got off the deck at MasterCard with her second-round 69, then fell flat on her face with a 78 to finish T50. T68, T66 and T25 certainly wasn’t the way to start a POY season. I find myself now hoping that Jelly can just avoid falling out of the Top 20.

#13 Angela Stanford (16)
Angela was on the verge of jumping into the Top 10 when she missed the MasterCard cut. Finishes of T7, T12 and T16 still bump her up three spots.

#14 Momoko Ueda (NR)
I decided to factor in Momoko’s stats from her four starts in 2007 in an attempt to be more accurate with this ranking. It seemed logical to allow her victory at Mizuno to have some influence here, even though she is technically a rookie in 2008. I get the feeling I have her ranked too high but if that’s truly the case, it will correct itself in a month or two. T5, T25 and T57 in her three LPGA starts this year.

#15 Maria Hjorth (15)
So far, not so great – T42, T23 and T30. She’s been lucky so far in that only Stanford and Ueda have played well enough to pass her while Pak and Castrale have played badly enough to fall below her.

#16 Karrie Webb (23)
Webb’s only LPGA event so far was a great one, T5 at HSBC. That one good outing vaults Karrie over several players who are off to indifferent (or worse) starts. If she plays well at Safeway, I might pick her to win the Kraft Nabisco.

#17 Se Ri Pak (13)
A couple of Seoulsisters regulars think Pak’s shoulder injury back in December was a lot worse than she let on, and that she only played HSBC (and warmed up for it at Fields) because of its importance in the Asian community. Sounds reasonable. All I know for sure – missing a cut and then WDing isn’t the way to get a POY run started.

#18 Nicole Castrale (14)
Missed the cut at SBS, T15 at Fields, T38 at HSBC.

#19 Hee-Won Han (28)
Here comes Mama! T12, T7 and T17 in the three events she was allowed to play in (bad HSBC!) bumps Hee-Won into the Top 20. Han is going to win sometime this year and at her current level of play will be in my Top 10 by May.

#20 Natalie Gulbis (18)
T51 at SBS, missed the cut at Fields, T14 at HSBC. Not exactly what I was expecting.

#21 Ji-Yai Shin (NR)
Like with Michelle Wie in 2006, I’m going to consider Shin eligible for this list while only factoring in her LPGA starts. A Top 10 ranking isn’t out of the question if she can get into five or six more tournaments, especially if she wins one of them. Assuming she’s in the four majors plus Evian, that would be enough opportunity.

#22 Brittany Lincicome (17)
Since last August, Brittany just hasn’t been the same player. T53 at HSBC is her BEST finish so far in 2008. If that’s still true five weeks from now, she’ll be missing from this list.

#23 Christina Kim (27)
Played poorly at SBS (T68) but followed that with back-to-back Top 10s at Fields and HSBC.

#24 Laura Diaz (29)
Two Top 10s – a tied for second at SBS and fifth at HSBC – along with a T35 and a T32 move Laura up the chart.

#25 Sherri Steinhauer (19)
T25 at SBS but finishes in the 60s at Fields and HSBC aren’t enough to keep Sherri in the Top 20.

#26 Juli Inkster (20)
These next five players have only played once in 2008 and their ranking here suffers because of it. Juli finished T25 at HSBC.

#27 Laura Davies (21)
Missed the cut at MasterCard.

#28 Shi Hyun Ahn (22)
T53 at HSBC.

#29 Catriona Matthew (26)
T18 at HSBC.

#30 Sarah Lee (24)
T25 at HSBC. Was originally in the MasterCard field but withdrew several days before the event.

Dropped Out: Sophie Gustafson (25), Pat Hurst (30).
Bubbling Under (with apologies to Billboard Magazine): Jane Park, Karen Stupples, In-Kyung Kim, Louise Friberg.

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