Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rating the Rookies - Part 3 - Final Analysis

Let me start by saying that 2014 was a very good year for LPGA rookies. Thirteen of the 28 rookies have retained their playing cards based on their 2014 LPGA performance. That is 46.4%, up from 22.8 % in 2013, when only 8 of 35 rookies retained their cards. Two more rookies retained their playing cards for 2015 as a result of their play on the Symetra Tour, and 3 did in 2013.

Below are my ratings for all 2014 LPGA rookies. These ratings are strictly based on how they fared on the LPGA tour this season. Any successes or failures on other tours, excluding the Symetra Tour, are not considered here. Success in retaining their 2015 LPGA playing card was my determining factor for my final ratings.

Kim Kaufman may have been the biggest surprise of 2014

The Best:
1- Lydia Ko - We may never see another rookie like Lydia again in our lifetime. Lydia not only won three times, but had ten top five finishes. She did not miss a cut in any of her 27 starts. She finished #3 on the money list, and is presently ranked #3 in the Rolex World Rankings. The sky is the limit.

2- Mirim Lee - If this was just about any other year, she would have won the Rookie of the Year award. Mirim won twice, had 4 top tens, and 10 top twenties. She made 20 of 24 cuts, and finished #14 on the money list.

Strong Rookie Seasons:
1- Line Vedel - Line quietly put together quite a strong 2014 season. She had 3 top five finishes, highlighted by a 4th place finish at the Swinging skirts LPGA Classic. She made 19 of 24 cuts, and finished #44 on the money list. She was #3 in the Rookie of the Year race.

2- Kim Kaufman - Kim might have been the biggest surprise of the 2014 season. With a terrible Priority List rating, she did not get into an event until the season was 1/3 over. When she got her chance, she sure took advantage of it finishing 4th at the North Texas Shootout. After that tournament the LPGA had their first reshuffle, giving Kim full playing status. She would finish her abbreviated season with 2 top fives, 3 top tens, and 5 top twenties. She also made 12 of 19 cuts. Kim finished #58 on the money list and was 4th in ROY points.

Consider Them A Success:
1- Amy Anderson - It was an up and down year for Amy in 2014. Her first half of the season was actually better than the second. Her best finish was 7th place at the Lotte Championship, and she had two other top twenty finishes. She finished 5th in the ROY race, and 80th on the money list.

2- Paula Reto - It looked like she would would be going back to Q-School until she shocked us all by finishing 3rd at the Yokohama Classic. It was her only top twenty of the year, but it was good enough to place her #77 on the money list.

3- Xi Yu Lin - Her cut ratio, 15 of 21, was excellent, but she had a lot of poor finishes where she barely made it to the weekend. Her 8th place finish at the Portland Classic was the highlight of her year, and her only top 10 finish. She finished #81 on the money list and 6th in the ROY race.

4- Kelly Tan - Kelly's 4th place finish at the Marathon Classic was her only top twenty finish of the year, but it was good enough for her to finish #89 on the money list. She made the cut in half of her 20 starts.

5- Jaye Marie Green - So talented. So much potential. Lydia Ko defeated her for the Amateur Championship in 2013, but it took her 35 holes to do so. A great ball striker; her extreme aggressiveness sometimes becomes her worst enemy. She led the Marathon Classic after the first few holes of the final round, but finished 18th. She made 11 of 22 cuts, and finished 93rd on the money list.

6- Joanna Klatten - One of the longest hitters on the tour, Joanne finished 4th in driving distance. Her 13th place finish at the Shoprite Classic was the highlight of her season, where she made 8 of 14 cuts.
She placed 99th on the money list and barely (top 100) kept her full time playing card.

Retaining Their Card Through the Symetra Tour:
1- Jackie Stoelting - Played only one LPGA event this year because of her poor Priority List ranking, but made the cut. None of that matters as she not only retains her card, but will have full time playing privileges next year. She accomplished this by finishing #3 on the Symetra tour money list. Jackie was also the winner of the Big Break earlier in the year.

2- Yueer Cindy Feng - Played in only 5 LPGA events in 2014, but did have a 13th place finish at the U.S. Women's Open. She made 2 of 5 cuts, but also retains her card by finishing 7th on the Symetra Tour money list.

They Are Going Back to Q-School:
The following 3 players are going back to Q-school to improve their Priority List status for 2015. They still have a playing card, but did not play well enough to guarantee them many starts in 2015.

1- Jennifer Kirby - Jennifer made the cut in 9 of her 18 starts, but without a top 20 finish could not finish higher than #111 on the money list.

2- Guilia Molinaro - Made 8 of 18 cuts, but finished #114 on the money list.

3- Stacey Keating - Stacy only made 5 of 16 cuts, and finished #120 on the money list.

The following players finished outside the top 125 on the money list, and have lost their playing cards for the 2015 season. They will try to get them back at Q-School next week.

1- Brittany Altomare - Did not get into a single LPGA event this year.
2- Dottie Ardina - Failed to make the cut in all 6 of her starts.
3- Lindy Duncan - Missed the cut in her only LPGA event.
4- Megan Grehan - Missed the cut in 16 of her 18 starts and finished #147 on the money list.
5- Dani Holmqvist - Made just 2 of ten cuts and finished the year at #160.
6- Emma Jandel - Missed 10 of 13 cuts and finished in the #141 position.
7- Megan McChrystal - Made just 5 of 14 cuts and finished the year at the #135 spot.
8- Erica Popson - Made just 5 cuts in 19 attempts. She finished #134 on the money list.
9- Natalie Sheary - Missed the cut in all 7 of  her LPGA starts.
10- Marta Silva - Missed the cut in both her starts.
11- Caroline Westrup - Made just 1 of ten cuts and finished #159 on the money list.

Giving up the LPGA?
The following players have lost their playing cards and have not registered for Q-school.

1- Anya Alverez - She made just 2 of 12 cuts and finished #150 on the money list.
2- Kristie Smith - Missed the cut in her only start.

Be sure to check back here next week for my preview of phase 3 Q-School.
Ryann O'Toole, Kathleen Ekey, Vicky Hurst, and Veronica Felibert are among the many LPGA players who have lost their cards and will be trying to get them back.
Other notables trying to get their cards for the first time include; Charley Hull, Stephanie Meadow, Madison Pressel, Ariya Jutanugarn, Mingee Lee, and Cheyenne Woods.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stats & Facts - Volume 22 - Final 2014

We have now come to the end of 2014 LPGA season. A season that was without a doubt the best season ever. Every week we were treated to exciting and competitive events. It certainly seemed that week in and week out the outcome wasn't decided until the final hole. There were 8 tournaments that went to a playoff. We had winners from 7 different countries. Last year I asked, "How are they going to top this year?" They certainly did. Now I am thinking, "How can they top this next year?" Well, Commissioner Michael Whan is sure going to give it a try. His announcements last week that 2015 will have 33 tournaments plus the Solheim cup, higher purses, and 10% more television coverage, tells me they are off to a flying start.

Team Spain won the first playing  of the International Crown

On that note I would like to look at some of the most important statistics from 2014:

Rolex Player of the Year:
Winner:  Stacy Lewis - 231 points (receives Hall of Fame point)
Runner Up:  Inbee Park - 226
3rd Place:  Lydia Ko:  182

Vare Trophy:
Winner:  Stacy Lewis - 69.53 (receives Hall of Fame point)
Runner Up:  Inbee Park - 69.68
3rd Place:  Michelle Wie - 69.82

Official Money:
Winner:  Stacy Lewis - $2,539,039
Runner Up:  Inbee Park -  2,226,641
3rd Place:  Lydia Ko - 2,089,033

Rolex Rookie of the Year:
Winner:  Lydia Ko - 1,720 points
Runner Up:  Mirim Lee - 941
3rd Place:  Line Vedel - 538

Most Top Ten Finishes:
1- Stacy Lewis - 18
2- Inbee Park - 17
3- So Yeon Ryu - 15
3- Lydia Ko - 15
5- Michelle Wie - 13

Most Top Twenty Finishes:
1- Stacy Lewis - 22
2- Chella Choi - 20
2- So Yeon Ryu - 20
4- Lydia Ko - 19
4- Inbee Park - 19

Most Consecutive Tournaments Without a Missed Cut:
1- Stacy Lewis - 72
2- Lydia Ko - 42 (has never missed a cut in an LPGA event ever)
3- Shanshan Feng - 38
4- Julieta Granada - 21
5- Brittany Lincicome - 16

Most Wins by Country:
1- United States - 13
2- South Korea - 10
3- New Zealand - 3
4- Australia - 2
4- Sweden - 2

Most Bizarre Statistic of the Year:
Team Spain won the inaugural International Crown, but no player from that country won an LPGA event in 2014.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Spectacular Ending to 2014 LPGA Season

If this was a movie script we would have said that "it could never happen that way." The fact that it actually did, left us all with smiles on our faces, as the 2014 LPGA season came to an end. In the opinion of many, this was the greatest LPGA season ever.

I have said over and over again that it seems that every tournament this year came down to the 72nd hole, and many weren't even decided then. The last three tournaments of the season all went to a playoff. There were eight playoffs this year.

Lydio Ko, the amazing 17 year old from New Zealand was the latest playoff winner, winning the CME Group Tour Championship on the fourth hole of a sudden death playoff. She defeated Julieta Granada and Carlotta Ciganda, as all three players finished regulation at ten under par.

Besides winning the $500,000 first prize check, Lydia also won the $1,000,000 bonus.

Lydia Ko Won the $1,000,000 Bonus

Carlotta Ciganda had a chance to win the tournament on the 3rd playoff hole, but missed a short putt and play would continue. Carlotta's 2nd shot on the fourth playoff hole went into the hazard. When she had to take a drop and a one stroke penalty, it was all but over.

The tournament was filled with many other joyful accomplishments and bitter disappointments.

The weekend's biggest winner however, turned out to be Stacy Lewis. Stacy, who would finish in 9th place, would wind up the winner of every season ending award. She also earned two big Hall of Fame points. Stacy won all of the following:

  • Player of the Year award, which comes with a Hall of fame point.
  • The Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average), which also comes with a Hall of Fame point.
  • 2014 money list winner.
Stacy Lewis wins all the big season ending awards

Stacy had made it quite clear all week that winning those 2 Hall of Fame points was what was most important to her.

It was Stacy's 2nd consecutive Vare Trophy win, and second Player of the Year award in the last 3 years. It now gives Stacy 16 of the 27 points needed to get into the Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, the weekend also had its disappointments. Inbee Park, who had a chance at all the awards that Stacy won, was never in contention.

Inbee Park came up short at a most crucial time

Inbee had come into this tournament as the LPGA's hottest golfer. She finished in the top ten in her last nine events, but her game let her down at the most crucial time of the season. Her 24th place finish this week left her with empty hands, as Stacy Lewis grabbed every award. It was a bitter disappointment for what was otherwise a very good season.

With the conclusion of the 2014 season, it has left us all looking forward to what is in store next year.

I want to congratulate Commissioner Michael Whan for all his efforts in bringing us this extroadinary 2014 LPGA season.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

LPGA Announces 2015 Schedule

The LPGA announced its 2015 LPGA schedule at 3:00PM today, and continued its current trend of upward momentum. 

LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann hosted the live stream which took place at the CME Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. Commissioner Michael Whan and Chief Commercial Officer John Podany jointly announced increased prize money, increased television coverage, and another increase in the  total number of tournaments.

Here are the highlights:

1- There will be 33 official tournaments in 2015, up from  32 in 2014. 

2- The 2015 LPGA season will kick off on Jan 28-31 with the Coates Golf Championship, in Ocala Florida. This is a brand new event. It will have a Saturday finish as the next day is the Super Bowl.

3- There will be 33 tournaments televised in 2015 (32 official tournaments and the Solheim Cup). The Mizuno Classic remains the only tournament with no TV coverage.

4- There will be 410+ hours of television coverage, up from 380 hours in 2014. Television ratings for the LPGA were up 15% this past season.

5- Prize money will be a record high $61.6 million. That is up over $4 million from 2014.

6- ANA Airlines will be the new sponsor for the first major championship of the year (Formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship). All Nippon Airlines (ANA) has signed on through the year 2019.

LPGA Tour 2015 Season By the Numbers:
2014 Schedule   2015 Schedule   
Total Official Money Events 3233
Total Purse$57.55 Million $61.6 Million
Average Purse $1.79 Million$1.81 Million 
Official North American Events2122
Official Asian Events99
Official European Events22
Televised Events3233
Televised Hours380+410+
Unofficial Team Event International CrownSolheim Cup

Once again Commissioner Michael Whan must be commended for the continued growth in the sport that we all love. The Commissioner took over a "sinking ship" 5 years ago that had only 23 tournaments on its schedule. 

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CME Group Tour Championship

This is the one!

 If you are an LPGA fan, and you are not excited about this week's tournament, then maybe you should start watching curling or water polo.

The LPGA's overwhelmingly successful 2014 season comes to an end this week with the playing of the CME Group Tour Championship. With one million dollars and many of the most important awards still undecided, this figures to be the most exciting tournament of the year.

At stake this week are the following prizes and awards:
  1. Nine players will have a chance at the $1 million bonus for winning the 72 hole event. The top 3 players (Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, and Lydia Ko) have their fate in their own hands. If they win the championship, the $1 million will go to one of them.  
     2. The Rolex Player of the year award will be decided. Stacy Lewis currently leads Inbee Park by a 229-226 count. Player of the Year points are given out in the following way:

1st place - 30 points
2nd place - 12 points
3rd place - 9 points
4th place - 7 points
5th place - 6 points
6th place - 5 points
7th place - 4 points
8th place - 3 points
9th place - 2 points 
10th place - 1 point

          As you can clearly see, Stacy has a very slim advantage. The winner of the Player of the Year award will receive a Hall of Fame point.

      3- The Vare Trophy Award will be decided. Stacy Lewis currently holds a slim advantage (69.476 to 69.571) over Inbee Park. This may very well go down to the final stroke of the final hole. The winner of the Vare Trophy will receive a Hall of Fame point.

     4- The 2014 money list title is also at stake here. Stacy Lewis has earned $2,502,309. Once again it is Inbee Park with $2, 209,460 who is threatening that lead.

How much more excitement can a tournament provide than this?

Here are some more of the key details:

Course:  Tiburon Golf Club
Location:  Naples, Florida
Defending Champion:  Shanshan Feng
Winning Score:  66-74-67-66 = 273 (-15)

Final Field: 72 players qualified. (69 are playing)
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  Not indicated on LPGA website
Purse:  $2,000,000 

This will be one of the strongest fields of the year. The only player in the top 25 on the LPGA Priority list not in attendance is Amy Yang. 

Here are the first round pairings.

Here are the television times:
Nov 20 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM ET
Nov 21 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM ET
Nov 22 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM ET
Nov 23 - GC 1:30 PM-4:00 PM ET

Here are my picks for this week's tournament:
1- Inbee Park
2- Shanshan Feng
3- So Yeon Ryu
4- Lydia Ko
5- Stacy Lewis
6- Michelle Wie
7- Brittany Lincicome
8- Pornanong Phatlum
9- Chella Choi
10- Azahara Munoz
11- Suzanne Pettersen
12- Cristie Kerr
I am currently in 3rd place among the 22 Pak Picker players. I still have an outside chance to win it all.

Other Tidbits:
Christina Kim's victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational was the 13th win by an American player this year, clinching the 2014 title for the U.S.A. Late charging South Korea has 10.

Rolex Rankings Mover of the Week:
Christina Kim catapults up from #76 to #49.

Race to the CME Globe: 
This is all explained above.

Who's Red Hot:
Inbee Park has 5 consecutive top 5 finishes, and nine consecutive top tens.

Who's Ice Cold:
Hee Young Park has failed to register a top 25 finish in her last 6 starts. She has only one top ten in 28 starts this year.

Here are the third round leaders:
1Carlota Ciganda-7F
1Julieta Granada-7F
3Morgan Pressel-6F
4Michelle Wie-5F
4Sarah Jane Smith-5F
4Sandra Gal-5F
7Chella Choi-4F
7So Yeon Ryu-4F
9Moriya Jutanugarn-3F
10Brittany Lang-2F
10Jennifer Johnson-2F
10Jenny Shin-2F
10Lydia Ko-2F
10Belen Mozo-2F

Be sure to check back here for any tournament updates. Results will be posted here after every round. Links to live scoreboards are always available at the top of this page.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Preview & Pairings

First let me say congratulations to Mi Hyang Lee for winning the Mizuno Classic. Lee won on the 5th hole of a three player playoff. It has been quite an exciting year for the LPGA with almost every tournament going down to the final hole, or going to a playoff.

With the Asian swing of the tour completed, the LPGA moves to Mexico this week for the playing of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. With a field of just 36 players, this will be the smallest field of the year.

Defending Champion Lexi Thompson holds up her trophy

This will be tournament # 31 of 32 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Club de Golf Mexico
Location:  Mexico City, Mexico
Defending Champion:  Lexi Thompson
Winning Score:  72-64-67-69  = 272 (-16)

Final Field:  36 players
Par: 36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,684 
Purse: $1,000,000

My strength of field rating is just 44.5%, but in this case that is a bit misleading. The low rating is because the field lacks depth with only 36 players, but the top 7 players in the world will be teeing it up. Players skipping the event this week, although they would have qualified, include: Karrie Webb, Chella Choi, Jessica Korda, and Na Yeon Choi.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
Nov 13 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET
Nov 14 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET
Nov 15 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET
Nov 16 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Inbee Park
3- Lexi Thompson
4- So Yeon Ryu
5- Shanshan Feng
6- Lydia Ko
7- Michelle Wie
8- Suzann Pettersen
9- Cristie Kerr
10- Azahara Munoz
11- Anna Nordqvist
12- Mi Hyang Lee
My accurate picking last week moved me up to 2nd place among the 22 contestants that have played this year.

Chella Choi will be taking the week off. This will break her streak of  playing in 106 consecutive tournaments. Every LPGA player has now taken at least one week off this year.

Ayaka Uehara's top ten finish at the Mizuno Classic was her first in her last 36 starts. Morgan Pressel's top ten finish broke a drought of 22 tournaments without one. 

Rolex Rankings Movers of the week:
Mi Hyang Lee vaults up from #75 to #50, while Jessica Korda moves up 2 spots to #22.

Race to the CME Globe:
Stacy Lewis increases her lead this week and now has 4,823 points. She is followed by Inbee Park with 3,912 and Lydia Ko with 3,313.

Who's Hot:
Chella Choi now has 19 top 20 finishes this year. Only Stacy Lewis (21) has more.
Pernilla Lindberg has been flying under the radar but playing the best golf of her career. She has 6 top 20 finishes in her last 12 starts.

Who's Not
P.K. Kongkraphan has not finished better than 49th in her last 16 starts.
Jennifer Johnson has failed to finish in the top 20 in any of her last 10 starts.

Here are the final results:

1x-Christina Kim-15F
2Shanshan Feng-15F
3Inbee Park-11F
4Brittany Lincicome-9F
4So Yeon Ryu-9F
6Pornanong Phatlum-8F
7Jenny Shin-7F
7Azahara Munoz-7F
9Angela Stanford-5F
9Lydia Ko-5F

Be sure to check back here daily for any tournament updates. Tournament results will be posted here at the completion of the round. Links to live scoreboards are always available at the top of this page.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mizuno Classic Preview & Pairings

After another exciting finish in Taiwan, the LPGA moves to Japan for the playing of the Mizuno Classic. This will be the 6th and final leg of the Asian swing. This is one of the longest running tournaments on the LPGA. It was first won in 1976 by Donna Caponi. It is also one of the few 54 hole events that remain on the LPGA schedule.

2013 Mizuno Classic Winner Teresa LU

This will be tournament #30 of 32 on the LPGA 2014 schedule.

Here are the Key details:

Course:  Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Location:  Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan
Defending Champion:  Teresa Lu (non-LPGA member)
Winning Score:  70-68-64 = 202 (-14)

Final Field:  78 players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,506
Purse:  $1,200,000

My strength of field rating is just 36.5%, making it the weakest field of the year. The field will include Stacy Lewis, who will be attempting to take back the #1 spot. There will also be several top players from the JLPGA tour teeing it up.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

There is no television coverage of this event.

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Chella Choi
3- Na Yeon Choi
4- Sun Ju Ahn
5- Teresa Lu
6- Karrie Webb
7- Mirim Lee
8- Jessica Korda
9- Jiyai Shin
10- Ilhee Lee
11- Ayaka Uehara
12- Bo-Mee Lee
With the 3 weeks left I am currently in 3rd place, but still have an outside chance of coming out on top of our field of 21 players.

Other Tidbits:
Danielle Kang may not have won an LPGA tournament yet in her young career, but she sure is getting good at winning cars. For the second consecutive week she has aced the hole that had an automobile as the prize for doing so. I wonder what the Vegas odds would be for her doing it for a third consecutive time.

Azahara Munoz has become the 9th player this year to pass the 1 million dollar mark in 2014 LPGA earnings.

Stacy Lewis now has six second place finishes this year to go along with her 3 wins.

Since I had pointed out several times earlier in the season how the American players were dominating the first half of the schedule, it is only fair that I now point out that players from South Korea have now won 8 of the last 11 tournaments. They now have nine wins this year, but will need to win the remaining 3 events to tie the Americans.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Amy Yang moves up from #24 to #19, while Pernilla Lindberg jumps up from #108 to #97.

Race to the CME Globe:
Stacy Lewis continues to have a huge lead with 4,783 points. She is followed by Inbee Park with 3,912 and Lydia Ko with 3,313.

Who's Red Hot:
Inbee Park has now finished in the top ten, eight consecutive tournaments.
Mariajo Uribe very quietly has six top thirteen finishes in her last 8 starts.

Who's Ice Cold:
I.K. Kim has only 1 top ten finish in her 17 starts this year.
Ai Miyazato has now failed to register a top ten in her last 37 tournaments.

Here are the final results:
1x-Mi Hyang Lee-11F
2Kotono Kozuma-11F
2Ilhee Lee-11F
4Saiki Fujita-10F
4Sakura Yokomine-10F
4Morgan Pressel-10F
4Ayako Uehara-10F
4Jessica Korda-10F
4Karrie Webb-10F
4Na-Ri Lee-10F
4Chella Choi-10F
4Laura Davies-10F

Be sure to check back here periodically for tournament updates and tournament results. Links to all live scoreboards are available at the top of this page.

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