Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How Good are the 2016 LPGA Rookies?

The 2016 LPGA season is sure off to an amazing start. As has been the case the last few years, it seems every tournament goes down to the final hole. In the first tournament of the year we saw Hyo Joo Kim win by 2 strokes over a trio of players. Then just this past week, in the second tournament of the year, we saw Ha Na Jang nose out Brooke Henderson by just 2 strokes.

Megan Khang recorded a score of -13
 in her first tournament as an LPGA member.

What did both of these tournaments have in common? They both had first year players in contention to the very end. In the first tournament (The Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic), rookie Megan Khang was in contention for most of the first 3 rounds, before finishing in 11th place, 5 strokes back. In the second tournament (Coates Golf Championship), rookie In Gee Chun recorded 4 solid rounds and finished just 3 strokes off the lead.

In Gee Chun finished just 3 strokes back in her first event as an LPGA member.

That brings us to today's subject. Just how good is this year's crop of LPGA rookies?

There isn't an adjective I could come up with to describe last year's rookies. It was probably the deepest rookie class in LPGA history. We may never see a group like that again in our lifetime.
Sei Young Kim, Brooke Henderson, Hyo Joo Kim, Ha Na Jang, Minjee Lee, Alison Lee, Charley Hull, and Ariya Jutanugarn were all part of the 2015 rookie class.

Can they be topped in 2016? No, I don't think so. But that doesn't mean that this year's group can't still be among the best in recent years. Let's take a look:

The Very Best:
1- In Gee Chun - By far and away the favorite to win the 2016 Rolex Rookie of the Year Award. She is a rookie in name only. A five time winner on the KLPGA, she was also that tour's leading money winner in 2015. Add to that the fact that she is the defending U.S. Open champion (as a non LPGA member), and you have one special player here.

Future Stars?
2- Megan Khang - Talk about breezing through Q-School, Megan finished 2nd at stage one, 3rd at stage two, and 6th at stage three. She was the low amateur at the 2015 U.S. Open, and helped team U.S.A. win the junior Solheim Cup. At just 18 years of age, she will be a mainstay on the LPGA for years to come.

3- Annie Park - She dominated the Symetra Tour in 2015, winning 3 times and having 4 top 10 finishes. She did this in just 11 starts. She was that tour's Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Park won the 2013 NCAA individual national title while at USC. Park also made headlines in 2012, when she won the Nassau Boys High School Championship by 6 strokes.

The Best of the Rest?
4- Holly Clyburn - Disqualified at Q-school in 2014 because her marker failed to sign her scorecard, she came back strong in 2015 and earned her card. She finished 7th on the LET money list as a rookie in 2013, and 6th the following season. Currently ranked #91 in the Rolex World Rankings.

5- Gaby Lopez - This Arkansas grad finished 2nd to Alabama's Emma Talley at the 2015 NCAA Championship. In her first crack at Q-School she finished 10th to earn her full time playing card for 2016. Is off to a fine start in 2016, as she has made the cut in both appearances and is #54 on the money list.

Could Surprise:
6- Grace Na - She had a sensational career at Pepperdine, where she was a 4 time All American and four time WCC Player of the Year.

7- Budsabakorn Sukapan - We could have a real sleeper here. A two time winner on the Thailand LPGA, she finished runner up to LPGA player Pornanong Phatlum at the Thailand Ladies Masters.

8- Bertine Strauss - She won medal honors at phase 2 of Q-School in 2015. She was the Big 12 Golfer of the Year with 6 top ten finishes in her senior year.

9 -Rachel Rohanna - Rachel had a victory and 6 top ten finishes on the Symetra Tour in 2015. She was a two time First-Team All-Big Ten performer at Ohio State. She made the cut in the first two LPGA events this year. She needs to be more consistent as her rounds are all over the place. If that consistency comes, she can become a very good LPGA player.

10- Lee Lopez - She finished 6th on the Symetra Tour money list last year, posting 9 top ten finishes.

There you have it! My top ten rookie picks of 2016. There are 19 other rookies on the LPGA roster this year, most of which will have to take advantage of limited playing time to move up on the Priority List. Which one of these players will sneak up like Kim Kaufman did in 2014? Time will tell. I will revisit this subject several times throughout the season.

Other Tidbits:
Lucky or unlucky 13? Haru Nomura finished in the #13 spot in both tournaments this year.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Year:
Ha Na Jang Jumps from #14 to #9, while Brooke Henderson leaps from #17 to #12.

Race to the CME Globe: (1 Million Dollars)
Ha Na Jang now leads with 570 points. She is followed closely by Hyo Joo Kim 538, Sei Young Kim 490, Brooke Henderson 350, and Stacy Lewis 349.

Who's Hot:
Sei Young Kim is the only LPGA player to finish in the top ten in both of this year's tournaments.

Who's Not:
Kris Tamulis is the highest ranked player on the LPGA Priority List, to miss both cuts.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Who Will Qualify for the 2016 Women's Golf Olympic Team?

We are just six months away from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After an absence of over 100 years, golf will return.

                How Do the Players Qualify? Let's Take a Look:

1- Qualifications will be based on the world rankings as of July 11, 2016, with a total of 60 players qualifying.

2- All players who are ranked in the top 15 of the Rolex Rankings as of July 11, 2016 will automatically qualify. The only exception to this is that one country may not have more than 4 players.

3- The remaining spots will go to the highest ranked players from countries that do not already have 2 golfers qualified.

4- The International Golf Federation has guaranteed one player from the host country of Brazil.

5- The International Golf federation has guaranteed that at least one golfer from each geographical region ( America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania) will qualify.

Here is the Format:

Seventy-two holes of individual stroke play (four rounds scheduled over four consecutive days). The player with the lowest aggregate score wins. In the event of a tie for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, a playoff will determine the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners.

For all rounds, the intention is to play in groups of three off the first tee. Pairings will be published no later than 2 days before the start of the first round. For rounds 3 and 4 pairings will be done by accumulative score of the previous round, with the leaders teeing off last.

If the event was held today, the following players would qualify: 
(Based on Rolex Rankings of 2/1/16)

1 Lydia Ko NZL
2 Inbee Park KOR
3 Stacy Lewis USA
4 Lexi Thompson USA
5 Sei Young Kim KOR
6 So Yeon Ryu KOR
7 Hyo-Joo Kim KOR
8 Shanshan Feng CHN
9 Cristie Kerr USA
10 Suzann Pettersen NOR
11 Anna Nordqvist SWE
12 Brooke M. Henderson CAN
13 Minjee Lee AUS
14 Teresa Lu TPE
15 Azahara Munoz ESP
16 Karrie Webb AUS
17 Mika Miyazato JPN
18 Shiho Oyama JPN
19 Pornanong Phatlum THA
20 Charley Hull GBR
21 Yani Tseng TPE
22 Sandra Gal GER
23 Xiyu Lin CHN
24 Carlota Ciganda ESP
25 Lee-Anne Pace RSA
26 Karine Icher FRA
27 Julieta Granada PAR
28 Ariya Jutanugarn THA
29 Catriona Matthew GBR
30 Mariajo Uribe COL
31 Nicole Larsen DEN
32 Gwladys Nocera FRA
33 Caroline Masson GER
34 Pernilla Lindberg SWE
35 Christel Boeljon NED
36 Emily Kristine Pedersen DEN
37 Alena Sharp CAN
38 Marianne Skarpnord NOR
39 Paula Reto RSA
40 Ursula Wikstrom FIN
41 Klara Spilkova CZE
42 Stephanie Meadow IRL
43 Kelly Tan MAS
44 Dewi Claire Schreefel NED
45 Christine Wolf AUT
46 Noora Tamminen FIN
47 Maria Verchenova RUS
48 Leona Maguire IRL
49 Giulia Sergas ITA
50 Fabienne In-Albon SUI
51 Laetitia Beck ISR
52 Giulia Molinaro ITA
53 Alejandra Llaneza MEX
54 Michelle Koh MAS
55 Gaby Lopez MEX
56 Chloe Leurquin BEL
57 Paz Echeverria CHI
58 Cathryn Bristow NZL
59 Aditi Ashok IND
60 Victoria Lovelady BRA

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers Preview & Pairings

Congratulations goes out to Hyo Joo Kim for winning the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. It was her third LPGA victory. Her birdie on the 17th hole, after bogeying #16, was the turning point of the tournament. Stacy Lewis (once again), Sei Young Kim, and Anna Nordqvist finished tied for 2nd place, 2 shots back.

This week the LPGA moves to the state of Florida for the playing of the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers. This tournament has a Wednesday start, and will conclude on Saturday (thus avoiding Super Bowl Sunday).

Na Yeon Choi won the inaugural playing of this event last year

This will be tournament #2 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club
Location:  Ocala, Florida
Defending Champion: Na Yeon Choi
Winning Score: 68-70-66-68 = 272 (-16)

Final Field:  120 Players
Par: 36/36 = 72
Yardage: 6,541
Purse:  $1, 500,000

My strength of field rating is a very solid 79% (up from 76% last year). Forty-five of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List, and 38 of the top 50 players from the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Notable absentees this week include: Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng, Karrie Webb, Eun - Hee Ji, Sun Young Yoo, I.K. Kim, and Q-Baek.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
GC Wednesday February 3 - 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET
GC Thursday  February 4 - 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. ET
GC Friday Oct 23 - 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. ET (tape)
GC Saturday Oct 24 - 3:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m. ET

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Lydia Ko
3- Hyo Joo Kim
4- Sei Young Kim
5- Lexi Thompson
6- Jessica Korda
7- Ha Na Jang
8- Anna Nordqvist
9- Brittany Lincicome
10- Brooke Henderson
11- Minjee Lee
12- Charley Hull
My 3 alternates are - Ilhee Lee, Amy Yang, and Mirim Lee

Other Tidbits:
Inbee Park withdrew after the first round of the Pure Silk LPGA Bahamas Classic with lower back pain. She then withdrew from this tournament also. She is not expected to play again until the LPGA plays in Thailand (which means she will be skipping the Australian open also).

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Hyo Joo Kim made the most important move this week, jumping from #10 to #7. Sei Young Kim moved from #7 to #5, while Paula Creamer made the biggest move in the top 100, leaping from #63 to #54. 

Race to the CME Globe: (1 Million Dollars)
Hyo Joo Kim jumps out in front with 500 points, she is followed bt Stacy Lewis, Sei Young Kim, and Anna Nordqvist, each with 300 points.

UPDATE #1:  Stephanie Kono and Benyapa Niphtsophon are the Monday Qualifiers.

Here are the final results:

1Ha-Na Jang-11F
2Brooke Mackenzie Henderson-9F
3In Gee Chun-8F
3Sei Young Kim-8F
3Lydia Ko-8F
6Julie Yang-7F
6Simin Feng-7F
6Suzann Pettersen-7F
9Austin Ernst-6F
9Paula Reto-6F
9Lexi Thompson-6F
9Alison Lee-6F
13Lizette Salas-5F
13Mo Martin-5F
13Haru Nomura-5F
16Brittany Lincicome-4F
16Sakura Yokomine-4F
16Kelly Tan-4F
16Carlota Ciganda-4F
16Candie Kung-4F
16Caroline Masson-4F

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.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic Preview & Pairings

Well.... Here We Go!

It is time to start the 2016 LPGA season. With 34 tournaments on the schedule (including the International Crown), more prize money, and more television coverage, the 2016 season promises to be the biggest and best ever. The season will open in the Bahamas this year with the playing of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

Sei Young Kim won this tournament as a rookie in 2015

This will be tournament #1 of 33 official tournaments on this year's schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Ocean Club Golf Course
Location:  Paradise Island, Bahamas
Defending Champion:  Sei Young Kim
Winning Score: 70-68-72-68 = (-14)

Final Field: 108 players
Par: 36/37 = 73
Yardage:  6,625
Purse:  $1,400,000

My strength of field rating is 65%. Thirty-eight of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List, and 30 of the top 50 players from the Rolex Rankings will be in attendance. Players not teeing it up this week include: Lydia Ko, Amy Yang, So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng, Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Mirim Lee, In Gee Chun, and Karrie Webb.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
Jan 28 - GC 11:30 AM-2:30 PM ET
Jan 29 - GC 11:30 AM-2:30 PM ET
Jan 30 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET
Jan 31 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Inbee Park
3- Lexi Thompson
4- Brittany Lincicome
5- Sei Young Kim
6- Jessica Korda
7- Ariya Jutanugarn
8- Hyo Joo Kim
9- Brooke Henderson
10- Minjee Lee
11- Azahara Munoz
12- Gerina Piller

Other Tidbits:
Brooke Pancake and Georgette Rolle received sponsor exemptions into this week's tournament.

In case you might have missed it, two time LPGA winner Nicole Castrale announced her retirement.

A huge ovation goes out to Morgan Pressel! Her Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer Tournament raised a record 1 million dollars last week for breast cancer research and care, breaking the previous record of  $750,000. This year's fundraiser included a number of Pressel's fellow LPGA professionals including Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lincicome, Cristie Kerr, Sandra Gal, and Natalie Gulbis.

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.

Update 1/25/16 -  The Monday Qualifiers are: Christine Song (64), Brittany Altomare (68)

Update 1/28/16 - Inbee Park withdrew after shooting an 80 in the first round. She gave lower back pain as the reason.

Here are the Final scores:

1Hyo Joo Kim-18F
2Sei Young Kim-16F
2Stacy Lewis-16F
2Anna Nordqvist-16F
5Pornanong Phatlum-15F
5Paula Creamer-15F
5Ilhee Lee-15F
8Brittany Lincicome-14F
8Min Seo Kwak-14F
8Charley Hull-14F
11Ha-Na Jang-13F
11a-Megan Khang-13F
13Haru Nomura-12F
13Hee Young Park-12F
15Mika Miyazato-11F
15Alison Lee-11F
17Brittany Lang-10F
17Jane Park-10F
17Lexi Thompson-10F
17Candie Kung-10F

For full score board see the link on the top of this page.

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