Saturday, August 09, 2008

American Dreams

I’ve written and spoken many words lately on the successes of Asian players and how those successes don’t mean that the demise of the LPGA or American women’s golf is eminent. Even though there is only one American currently ranked in my top 14, there are several reasons why my U.S.-based readers should hold out hope for the future.

Paula Creamer
With the imminent retirement of Annika Sorenstam, Paula really has only one player standing between her and the title of World Number One. Having just turned 22, Creamer is closer to reaching that goal than you may think. If she can just put that Major Thing out of her head, she could catch Lorena this year with a couple more wins and a well-placed stumble or two by the front-runner. Even if that doesn’t happen, Paula is by far the best American player and the best hope moving forward for a U.S. player to win Player of the Year since it last occurred in 1994.

Cristie Kerr
Kerr was the fourth-best player on Tour in 2006 by my reckoning and despite her U.S. Open win, she took a huge step backwards in 2007. Cristie has gotten her consistency back in recent weeks, collecting eight straight Top 20 finishes with four Top 10s. There isn’t a fiercer competitor in women’s golf. I wouldn’t bet against a Kerr victory before the year is out.

Christina Kim
Twenty lashes with a wet noodle if you thought Christina was “just another Korean”. She is of Korean descent but she was born and raised in California and played on the 2005 U.S. Solheim team. Kim is a feel player so the weeks that she’s not “feeling it” can be disappointing but when she’s on, she can contend with anybody. Hasn’t won since 2005 but has three second-place finishes over the last 12 months.

Jane Park
Another “Korean” who is as American as I am. Jane was born in Chicago, grew up in California, won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2004 and played at UCLA for one season before turning pro. She’ll be 22 this December and has a great chance to be a Top 10 player next year. Three finishes in the top three so far in 2008.

Stacy Lewis
Turned pro just before the U.S. Open and promptly finished in a tie for third. Stacy won an NCAA individual championship while at Arkansas and played on this year’s victorious Curtis Cup team.

Angela Park
The third player so far on this list with a public Asian perception problem (I hereby dub thee the “PAPP Syndrome”), and Angela’s is the most serious of the bunch. She was born in Brazil of Korean parents and moved to California at age eight. While still retaining her Brazilian citizenship, Park became a U.S. citizen this past June. If you want to put an asterisk by her new nationality, go ahead (she doesn’t currently qualify to play on the Solheim team) but don’t say she’s Korean. Anyway, Angela was the 2007 Rookie of the Year and while she didn’t start this season well, she has rallied to place herself back among the best on Tour. Oh yeah - Johnny Miller thinks she has the best swing in women’s golf.

Stacy Prammanasudh
Make that four players on this list with the PAPP Syndrome - Stacy was born and raised in Oklahoma. She’s only had four Top 10s this year and only one since mid-May but with wins in ’05 and ’07, Stacy has shown she knows how to get it done.

Morgan Pressel
Last year’s Kraft Nabisco champion hasn’t played very well this year. Her missed cut at the British Open (fifth of 2008) makes it certain that her name will be missing from my next Top 30 list. If Morgan can come to terms with her lack of length and redouble her efforts on those other parts of her game which brought her to prominence in the first place, we’ll be able to legitimately include her among these other American contenders.

I should also mention Laura Diaz, Angela Stanford, Candie Kung (U.S. citizen born in Taiwan), Kristy McPherson, Nicole Castrale and of course, Juli Inkster. All of these players have the game to contend under the banner of Old Glory. Just don’t fall prey to PAPP and confuse a player’s nationality with her ancestry.


sag said...

I wouldn't say that no one other than Annika stands between Paula and Lorena. If not for the minimum 35 divisor rule, Yani would be at a whopping 11.98 and ahead of Annika. As it is, Yani could pass Paula within a few weeks (or even less, with say a top 3 at the Canadian).

Hound Dog said...

I understand what you're getting at, Sag, but if "Yani could pass Paula within a few weeks", then right now she isn't standing between Paula and #1.

I'm not sure I'm ready to put Tseng ahead of Creamer no matter what Rolex might say. Sure Yani has an LPGA Championship and four second place finishes but Paula has three wins plus a second and a third. If Tseng wins the Canadian Open this week like I think she will, they would be close.