Monday, July 21, 2008

Top 30 – July 2008

Last year is old news. These rankings are now entirely based on 2008 statistics, as well as my own subjective opinion. About half of the 30 didn’t move much over the last five weeks but the others showed some big swings. A victory – especially a major – will always jump a player over lots of others if they don’t also have a victory.

#1 Lorena Ochoa (1)
Her T31 finish at the U.S. Open snapped a streak of 34 consecutive finishes in the Top 20.

#2 Annika Sorenstam (2)
Annika currently leads Paula Creamer by about $200,000 on the money list, by 0.5 strokes in scoring average and by one Top 10 finish (they are actually tied there but Annika has made three fewer starts). The two are tied with three victories and no missed cuts. If either one of them can win two more times (without Ochoa winning any more), we’ll start debating the #1 spot.

#3 Paula Creamer (3)

#4 Yani Tseng (5)
T16 at Wegmans, a disappointing T42 at the Open and the playoff loss at State Farm. With no missed cuts, Yani is solidly #4 and would have been pushing Creamer if she hadn’t bogeyed 18 on Sunday.

#5 Seon Hwa Lee (6)
My system has Inbee Park a couple of points ahead of Lee but I’m going to leave the Stone Buddah just ahead of the U.S. Open champ on the strength of those two wins in her last five events.

#6 Inbee Park (26)
Nearly leaps into the Top 5. The Open title is only one of the three straight Top 10s she carries into Evian.

#7 Suzann Pettersen (4)
The erosion of 2007’s five-victory campaign is complete. Even so, Suzann still rates this high without a win because she’s in the top 5 in scoring, the top 10 on the money list, hasn’t missed a cut and finishes in the Top 10 about one-third of the time. Still a contender to win every time she tees it up – witness her LET performances this year.

#8 Na Yeon Choi (11)
Seven straight Top 20 finishes, four of them Top 10s. She missed the State Farm playoff by one shot – beating Tseng there would have gone a long way toward evening up the Rookie of the Year race.

#9 Jeong Jang (7)
Still cranking out the Top 20s (T19 at the Open, T11 at Arkansas) despite her limited practice schedule.

#10 Karrie Webb (8)
Karrie usually plays well at Evian and (in recent years) poorly at the British Open. That would fit in perfectly with this up-and-down season. Inconsistent putting (T20 PPGIR but 113 in Putting Average) seems to explain the inconsistent performance.

#11 Eun-Hee Ji (NR)
Shatters Na Yeon Choi’s two-month-old record (16) for highest debut on the Top 30. Going into Wegman’s, Eun-Hee ranked about 50th in my system. Immediately after the win, she was around 20th and her Top 10s at Arkansas and the Farr have her knocking on my Top 10’s door.

#12 Song-Hee Kim (12)
T40, T24 and T22 stops the SH Kim elevator at floor #12. Needs to start driving the ball better (currently T60 in accuracy but only 67 in distance – is she playing 3-wood more often?) to move much higher.

#13 Hee-Won Han (20)
Third at Wegmans (her best finish since giving birth), plus T11 at Arkansas. T71 at the U.S. Open was a bummer but the tie for fourth at State Farm means that Han is now very close to the level of play we saw from her two years ago.

#14 Karen Stupples (13)
Still playing well. Goes to Europe on the heels of a T4 at Arkansas and T13 at the Farr.

#15 Cristie Kerr (14)
Kerr continues to play reasonably well with a current streak of six Top 20s. The only piece of her game that looks to need improvement is her off-the-tee accuracy (70th).

#16 Christina Kim (15)
The usually streaky X-Tina is in an up-and-down pattern these days. She tied for sixth at Wegmans but T53 at the Open, T17 at Arkansas, MC at Farr and T9 at State Farm.

#17 Ji Young Oh (NR)
The State Farm victory puts her in the Top 30 for the first time. Oh’s line for 2008 reads 19 starts, 1 win, 3 Top 10s, 4 total Top 20s, and 2 missed cuts. She’s 14th on the money list. Subjectively I wanted to keep Jee Young Lee ahead of her but all things considered, this JY has a victory and that is the only real statistical difference between the two.

#18 Jee Young Lee (9)
This fall of nine spots surprised me. Jelly missed the cut at Wegmans (a field she should had handled well) but recovered to T13 at the U.S. Open, T17 at Arkansas and T19 at State Farm. She’s gotten passed by three first-time winners (Inbee, Ji and Oh) but her declining money-list standing and Top 10% and the MC cost her just enough points to slide down here.

#19 Stacy Prammanasudh (17)
T28, 12 (U.S. Open), T43, T26 then a flash of last year’s brilliance, T4 at State Farm. Given her already less-than-stellar driving stats, Stacy hasn’t been putting well enough (T40 PPGIR, T45 Putting Average) to contend every week but maybe she’s beginning to turn that around.

#20 Jane Park (29)
Tied for second at Arkansas (her fourth Top 5 of the year). Her performance at Wegmans and the Open were indifferent (T52 and T42) although she finished T16 at State Farm. Something tells me Jane Park will be in my Top 10 before the year is out.

#21 Maria Hjorth (10)
T19 at Wegmans and T51 at the Open. This slide equates to one-part Maria’s recent performance plus one-part Maria’s recent absence from the LPGA stage.

#22 Ji-Yai Shin (21)
T19 at the U.S. Open. I still have no evidence to prove that Shin doesn’t belong on this list. She will be playing at both Evian and the British Open and should be among the favorites to win each.

#23 Mi Hyun Kim (16)
I told you to “look out” for Peanut last month since she took the wrap off her knee. Well, she tied for sixth at the U.S. Open and finished in the 20s at Wegmans and Farr but missed the cut at Arkansas and has started wearing the wrap again. Her stats don’t compare well with the players around her because she hasn’t played quite as many events. She’s still a contender but we’re going into a stretch of the schedule where Kim often doesn’t fare well so the chance of her falling out of the rankings next time is very real.

#24 Laura Diaz (22)
Laura played the first three days at the Farr but then withdrew during the final round for reasons unknown to me. T12 at Wegmans, T27 at the Open.

#25 Stacy Lewis (NR)
She’s only played three events but I felt like Stacy belongs here somewhere and this position seemed logical. My system ranks her 15th but I dropped her ten spots because of the limited schedule. Rates high because of scoring average, Top 10% (1 out of 3) and no missed cuts. Too bad she’s skipping Evian for her sister’s wedding (real life interferes with golfers too!). It would have been nice to see if Lewis could repeat her U.S. Open success versus another great field.

#26 Lindsey Wright (23)
Lindsey has now gone seven straight events without a Top 10. She missed the Wegmans cut, T42 at the U.S. Open and T29 at Arkansas.

#27 Nicole Castrale (NR)
Three Top 10s in her last four events (and four in her last six). She’s obviously on the upswing and judging by her performance in the poor conditions at the Solheim last September, Nicole might surprise us during British Open week.

#28 Angela Stanford (18)
Two months ago Stanford ranked #6. She promptly missed two cuts and finished T25, T33 and T58. The ninth-place finish at the Jamie Farr gave hope for a resurgence but T34 at State Farm raised more questions about Angela’s game.

#29 Morgan Pressel (24)
Pressel falls five spots because her terrible play this spring is still dragging her down more than her recent efforts can prop her up. She’s finished in the Top 20 in four straight events (two Top 10s) and needs to keep playing at least that well to remain in the rankings.

#30 Teresa Lu (NR)
This third-year player from Taiwan has been “bubbling under” my Top 30 for a couple of months now. Teresa’s T10 finish at the U.S. Open was the boost that she needed to clear the wall. In 15 starts this year, Lu has three Top 10s, six total Top 20s, and only one missed cut. She was 63rd on the money list last year and could surpass that mark this year even if she doesn’t earn another dime.

Dropped Out: Sophie Gustafson (19), Juli Inkster (25), Brittany Lang (27), Sun Young Yoo (28), Se Ri Pak (30)
Bubbling Under: Angela Park, Candie Kung

Predictions I Should Have Made Public – Sophie Gustafson arrived at the Ginn Tribute riding back-to-back Top 10 finishes. When she jumped out to a huge lead early on Sunday only to see it go down in flames, I thought that experience would probably send her into a tailspin but I never expressed that in writing. Dumb move. Since that day Gustafson’s line reads MC, T33, MC and T68, knocking her out of the rankings as quickly as she leaped into them.

HISTORICAL NOTE: Coincidentally, two of the players who just dropped out of the Top 30 had been ranked every time I have done this exercise since August 2006 – Juli Inkster and Se Ri Pak. I’m afraid Inkster’s departure may be for good but I assume (and hope) Pak’s is not. FYI – the current list of players who have been in the HD Top 30 (originally 20) every time since its inception are Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr, Mi Hyun Kim, Jeong Jang, Paula Creamer, Seon Hwa Lee, and Hee-Won Han.


The Constructivist said...

How close is Miyazato to the top 30? Has she been moving up lately?

Hound Dog said...

Ai has moved up in recent weeks but she still has work to do. She rates ok in scoring average but she isn't in the money list Top 40, only has a couple of Top 10s and has missed four cuts. She ranks about 50th.

The Constructivist said...

Sounds fair to me. She's squandered chances the last few weeks when playing well to pick up big paychecks and rack up top 10s, so has stayed in the low 40s on the money list. On the bright side, she's making a lot more birdies and getting that scoring average lower and lower. It'll be interesting to see how she handles the next 3 weeks, against tough fields....

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