Monday, May 23, 2016

LPGA Volvik Championship Preview & Pairings

Congratulations go out to Ariya Jutanugarn for winning the Kingsmill Championship. Ariya's final round 67 was was good enough to win by a single stroke. It was Ariya's 2nd consecutive victory, and vaulted her to #2 on the year's money list.

The biggest winner this past weekend however, may have been the runner-up Su Oh. She is a player with limited playing status, who shot a final round 65 to take home the second place purse of almost $120,000. The LPGA will have a second reshuffle in 2 weeks, and Oh (from Australia) will then get to play much more regularly. It also means that she will finish in the top 80 this year, and have full playing privileges in 2017.

LPGA Player Victoria Elizabeth was on hand to announce this new event.

This week the LPGA moves to the state of Michigan for the inaugural playing of the Volvik Championship. Michigan will now be the host to two tournaments on the LPGA schedule. This tournament will be played in Ann Arbor, while the Meijer Classic will be held in Grand Rapids in a few weeks.

This will be tournament #14 of 33 on the 2016 LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Travis Pointe Country Club
Location:  Ann Arbor, Michigan
Defending Champion:  This is the inaugural event
Winning score:  N/A

Final Field:  144 players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,709
Purse:  $1,300,000

My strength of field rating is a mediocre 63%. Thirty-five of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List, and 28 of the top 50 players from the Rolex Rankings, will be teeing it up. The field will include such big names as Lydia Ko, Inbee Park (who is still in the field as of now), Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Brooke Henderson, and Ariya Jutanugarn (trying to win her 3rd straight tournament). Missing from this week's field include: Stacy Lewis, Anna Nordqvist, Morgan Pressel, Ha Na Jang, Na Yeon Choi, Jenny Shin, and Gerina Piller.

Here are the pairings for round 1.

Here are the television times:
May 26 - GC 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM ET (Tape)
May 27 - GC 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM ET (Tape)
May 28 - GC 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM ET
May 29 - GC 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this week's tournament:
1- In Gee Chun
2- Lydia Ko
3- Lexi Thompson
4- Ariya Jutanugarn
5- Sei Young Kim
6- Minjee Lee
7- Amy Yang
8- So Yeon Ryu
9- Shanshan Feng
10- Brooke Henderson
11- Hyo Joo Kim
12- M.J. Hur
My streak of excellent picking continued last week with my 2nd consecutive win (and 3rd in 5 weeks). After the first 13 weeks of the season, I am currently tied for first place among the 18 contestants.

Other Tidbits:
So Yeon Ryu has now made 50 consecutive cuts. 
Carlotta Ciganda had her cut streak stopped at 19.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Sei Young Kim makes the most important move, jumping from #7 to #4. Ariya Jutanugarn leaps from #21 to #13, while Su Oh catapults from #165 to #61.

Race to the CME Globe: (1 Million Dollars)
Lydia Ko still leads with 2,172 points, but Ariya Jutanugarn has now moved into second place with 1,545. Haru Nomura is third with 1,502.

Fight for Olympic Spots:
Gerina Piller moves into the #15 spot in the world rankings, which now qualifies her for an Olympic spot. There were no changes on the South Korean side, as Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim, In Gee Chun, and Amy Yang continue to hold onto spots. That leaves Ha Na Jang (by the smallest of margins), So Yeon Ryu, and Hyo Joo Kim on the outside.

Strange Stat of the week
Seven of the last eight LPGA winners are neither from the USA or South Korea.

Symetra Tour:
Madelene Sagstrom fell one stroke short of getting immediate LPGA playing privileges. She finished second at the Gosling's Dark 'n Stormy Classic. A win would have been her third of the season. She did set a new Symetra Tour record for money earned in a season ($103,181), and incredibly she did it in just 7 starts. Look for her to be up in the big show very soon.  

Who's Hot:
Gerina Piller now has 6 top 10 finishes in a row, and 7 in her last 8 starts. Only Brooke Henderson (8) has more top tens this year.

Who's Not:
Alison Lee has missed 4 straight cuts (in spite of leading the tour in putting average). Kris Tamulis has missed 8 cuts in 11 starts.

Here are the leaders after round 3:

1Ariya Jutanugarn-10F
2Jessica Korda-9F
2Christina Kim-9F
4Suzann Pettersen-7F
4Hyo Joo Kim-7F
6Belen Mozo-6F
6Marina Alex-6F
6So Yeon Ryu-6F
9Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras-5F
9Amy Yang-5F
9Jane Park-5F
9Brooke Mackenzie Henderson-5F
9Minjee Lee-5F
14Sadena Parks-4F
14Lindy Duncan-4F
14Sydnee Michaels-4F
14Min Lee-4F
14Gaby Lopez-4F
14Azahara Munoz-4F
20Kim Kaufman-3F
20Angela Stanford-3F
20Caroline Masson-3F
20In Gee Chun-3F
20Charley Hull-3F

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog.  Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found at the top of this page.

Follow @tonyjesselli  on Twitter (Currently 1,469 followers)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kingsmill Championship Preview & Pairings

This week the LPGA moves to the state of Virginia for the playing of the Kingsmill Championship.

Minjee Lee will be trying to defend her title at the Kingsmill Championship

Many of you may remember last year's exciting finish when Minjee Lee and So Yeon Ryu made the turn on Sunday tied for the lead. Minjee's eagle on the par five 15th hole, led to her shooting a back nine total of 31. It was enough to win by 2 shots.

This tournament has a long history of big name winners including: Cristie Kerr (3 times), Jiyai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, and Annika Sorenstam.

This will be tournament #13 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  River Course at Kingsmill Resort
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Defending Champion:  Minjee Lee
Winning Score:  68-67-69-65 = 269 (-15)

Final Field:  144 players
Par:  36/35 = 71
Yardage:  6,379
Purse:  $1,300,000

My strength of field rating is a very solid 78% (up from 77% last year). Forty-four of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List, and 19 of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Players that will be skipping the event include: Shanshan Feng, Ha Na Jang, and Charley Hull.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
May 19 - GC 9:00 PM-11:00 PM ET (Tape)
May 20 - GC 9:00 PM-11:00 PM ET (Tape)
May 21 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET
May 22 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker picks for this week's tournament:
1- Lydia Ko
2- In Gee Chun
3- Lexi Thompson
4- Minjee Lee
5- Stacy Lewis
6- Brooke Henderson
7- Ariya Jutanugarn
8- Amy Yang
9- Gerina Piller
10- So Yeon Ryu
11- Sei Young Kim
12- Suzann Pettersen
My alternates are: Haru Nomura, Candie Kung, and Inbee Park
My spot on picking gave me the victory at the Yokohama Classic. After the first 1/3 of the season, I am in a tie for first place among the 19 participants.

On other tours:

Shanshan Feng was the winner of the Buick Championship. She successfully defended her championship by winning in a playoff over Na Yeon Choi.

Jiyai Shin was the winner of the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies tournament on the JLPGA.

Su Yeon Jang was the winner of the NH Investments & Securities Ladies Championship on the KLPGA.

On the Symetra Tour, Erica Popson was the winner of the Symetra Classic.

UPDATE #1 - Danielle Kang no longer appears on the field list.

UPDATE #2 - The Monday qualifiers are: Emee Herbert (73), and Britney Yada (75).

UPDATE #3 - Third round tee times pushed back 2 hrs 20 minutes do to rain.

Here are the Final Results:

1Ariya Jutanugarn-14F
2Su-Hyun Oh-13F
3Gerina Piller-12F
3Sei Young Kim-12F
5Mi Jung Hur-10F
5Lexi Thompson-10F
5Pornanong Phatlum-10F
8Anna Nordqvist-9F
8Brittany Lincicome-9F
10Caroline Masson-8F
10Jessica Korda-8F
10Minjee Lee-8F
10So Yeon Ryu-8F
10In Gee Chun-8F
15Mo Martin-7F
15Amelia Lewis-7F
15Mika Miyazato-7F
18Austin Ernst-6F
18Brittany Altomare-6F
18Lydia Ko-6F
18Chella Choi-6F
18Cristie Kerr-6F
18Laetitia Beck-6F

Links to all live scoreboards appear at the top of this page. 

Be sure to check back here daily for any updates. They will be posted here, at the end of this blog.

Follow @tonyjesselli  on Twitter (Currently 1,469 followers)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rating the 2016 LPGA Rookies - Part 1

With the LPGA season about 1/3 complete I would like to take a look at how the rookies are faring so far this year. I will do this again at the 2/3 mark and a final time at the end of the season.

 These ratings are strictly based on how they fared in LPGA events only. Any successes or failures on other tours are not considered here. My main objective here is to analyze the chances of these rookies retaining their LPGA cards next season.

 Depending on the player's  Priority rating, some have played up to 10 events this year, others haven't teed it up at all. I have given grades to all players that have played in at least 2 tournaments.

You might think that some of these grades I have given are harsh, but this is the big time now, and these players have to take advantage of every opportunity, or risk losing their cards. 

 Ideally you would like to finish in the top 80 on the money list. That will guarantee you a priority list ranking good enough to compete in all full-field events. If you finish further down the money list you then have to deal with the top 10 ladies coming off the Symetra Tour, and qualifying school graduates getting to play ahead of you. If you finish in the top 100 on this year's money list, you will still play in most events next year. Further down the list than that, there are no guarantees about playing time.

 Let's take a look at how they are doing so far. 

In Gee Chun appears to be the heavy favorite to win the 2016 Rookie of the Year award.

In alphabetical order: (SA = Scoring Average)

SSU Chia Cheng  Has teed it up 4 times this year and made 3 cuts, with a best finish of 40th place. She is currently # 121 on the money list, and has a SA of 73.4. The latest reshuffle was kind to her and she moved from 177 to 155 on the priority list, so she may get more chances. Look for her to take advantage. Grade C

In Gee Chun - With Brooke Henderson choosing to pass on being a 2016 rookie, there really isn't any competition here for Rookie of the Year Award. In Gee is clearly the best player of the 2016 crop. She has made all 6 of her cuts, and is #8 on this year's money list in spite of having a second place finish that didn't count in official earnings. Her SA of 69.8 ranks 3rd on the LPGA. She hasn't won yet this year, but has finished 2nd, three different times. A future make that a star right now. Grade A+

Holly Clyburn - Already a star on the LET (Currently #7 on that money list), Holly has teed it up 6 times this year on the LPGA, making 4 cuts. She is #100 on the money list, has a best finish of T20, and a SA of 72.7. Look for her to climb up the money list as she plays more LPGA tournaments. Grade C+

Hanna Collier - Hanna has missed the cut in all three of her starts this year, and carries a 76.0 SA. Grade F

Ani Gulagan - Has had just one start on the LPGA this year and missed the cut. Her SA is 79.0.
Grade Incomplete

Ginger Howard - Missed the cut in her only appearance, and has a 79.5 SA. Grade Incomplete

Jaclyn Jenson - Has teed it up twice this year, and has failed to make the cut on both occasions. Her SA is 78.3. Grade F

Megan Khang - She has either been great, or just plain awful. There has been no in-between. She has teed it up 9 times this year, and missed the cut 6 times. The three times she has made the cut, she has been in contention, finishing 7th, 4th, and 11th. Her consistency will improve. She is currently #43 on the money list, with a SA of 71.8. Megan is just 19 years old, and I predict she will be in the top ten of the world rankings by the time she is 21. Grade B 

Lee Lopez - Lee has made the cut in 5 of her 9 starts this year, but is still on the outside looking in at #101 on the money list. Her best finish is T31, and her SA of 73.4 must improve a bit to stay on this tour. Grade C

Gaby Lopez has been the biggest rookie surprise so far this year.

Gaby Lopez - A pleasant surprise! Gaby has teed it up 10 times this year, missing only 2 cuts. She has 3 top 20 finishes, and is currently #56 on the money list. Her SA of 71.8 matches that of  the much more publicized Megan Khang. Grade B

Brianna Mao - In four starts this year, she has made the cut twice, with a best finish of T33. She is currently #124 on the money list. Her priority rating improved 10 spots (to 153) after the last reshuffle, which should result in more starts. Her SA of 72.7 isn't that bad. Look for her to improve by my next report. Grade C

Ally McDonald - Has not played this year. Grade Incomplete

Wichanee Meechai  - Has played just one event this year, and missed the cut with a SA of 77.0. Grade Incomplete

Grace Na -  Grace has had plenty of opportunities this year but has failed to take advantage of them. In nine tournaments, she has only seen the weekend once. She currently ranks #151 on the money list , with a best finish of 70th place. Her SA of 75.4 will not cut it on this tour. Grade F

Benayapa Niphatsophan - This is the 2nd (Meechai was the first) of 7 rookies from Thailand on the LPGA tour this year. A very impressive showing. The problem thus far is that not one of them appear to be ready, or have had any success. Combined they have teed it up 29 times, missing 21 cuts. In fact, the best finish for the bunch was a T45. Benayapa has teed it up 8 times, making just 3 cuts. Her best finish is T49, and her SA is 74.0 Grade C-

Su Oh - It has been a nice year so far for Oh, and with her improved priority ranking (169 to 138), look for it to get even better. She has made the cut in 4 of her 5 starts, and has 2 top 20 finishes. She is currently #81 on the money list, and has a solid 72.0 SA. Grade B-

Annie Park - I expected more from Annie, but it has been pretty good nonetheless. In 10 starts, Annie has made the cut 6 times. She does have a top 10 finish, and carries a SA of 73.1. She is currently #82 on the money list, but I expect that to improve. Grade B-

Ashlan Ramsey - It has been a struggle so far for Ashlan, as she has made just 2 of 9 cuts this year. Her best finish is a T69, with a 75.2 SA. She is #145 on the money list. Grade D-

Marion Ricordeau - She has made 2 cuts in her 4 starts this year, with a best finish of T23. She has split her time playing both the LPGA and the LET. With the new reshuffle, her priority rating has improved from 177 to 155. This will result in more starts. She is currently #113 on the money list, and her SA is an okay 72.7.
Grade C-

Cyna Rodriguez - It's been a tough start of the year for Cyna. She has only seen the weekend twice in 9 starts. Her best finish of T67, SA of 75.0, and money list ranking of #147, must all improve if she is to have any chance of retaining her playing card. Grade D- 

Rachel Rohanna - It's been a mixed bag for Rachel so far this year. She is very capable of going low, and just as capable of shooting 10 strokes higher the next day. The talent is there, it's just a matter of consistency. She has made 5 cuts in 9 tries this year, with a best finish of T31. Her SA of 73.6 should improve, and along with it her #103 money rank. Grade C

Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong - If I am going to have to type that name, I wish she would at least get a start. That hasn't happened yet this year. Grade Incomplete

Bertine Strauss - In 8 starts this year she has made 4 cuts, with a best finish of T24. She is currently #108 on the money list, and her Sa is 73.0. Grade C

Budsabakorn Sukapan - She has had plenty of opportunities this year, but has not been able to finish better than 45th. She has made just 3 cuts in 9 tournaments, and has a SA of 74.0.  She is currently #134 on this year's money list. Grade D 

Anne-Catherine Tanquay - In two starts this year, she has failed to make it to the weekend. Her SA is 74.5. Grade F

Prima Thammaraks - She has also not been able to make the weekend in her 2 starts this year, and sports a 77.5 SA. Grade F

Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras - She has not been able to make an impression this year, in spite of playing regularly. She has only made 2 cuts, while teeing it up 9 times. Her best finish is a T65, and has a SA of 74.9.  She currently ranks #152 on the money list. Grade D-

Pavarisa Yoktuan - Didn't make the cut in her only start of the year. Has a SA of 75.0. Grade Incomplete

Jiayai Zhou - Has 2 starts this year and has not made a cut. She has a 76.5 SA.
Grade F

Note: There will be one more final reshuffle the second week of June. In some cases it only takes one made cut to improve your priority ranking and get the chance to play in more events.

The LPGA resumes its schedule next week with the playing of the Kingsmill Championship. Look for my preview, and lots more, in a few days.

Follow @tonyjesselli  on Twitter (Currently 1,468 followers)