Monday, May 25, 2015

ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer Preview & Pairings

After a one week break, the LPGA moves to the state of New Jersey this week for the playing of the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer.

Stacy Lewis has won the Shoprite Classic twice in the last three years.

Many of you may remember last year's tournament when Stacy Lewis pulled away from the field and won by six strokes. Christina Kim finished in second place.

This tournament will have a Friday start as it is only 54 holes. Weather is always such a big factor here as the winds can turn this golf course from a lamb to a lion. Last year the winds were not a big factor and the 36 hole cut was +2. In 2013 it was quite a different story when the wind brought the field to its knees and the cut was a major championship like +6.

This will be tournament #13 of 32 on this year's LPGA schedule.

If you are in the area, come on out to this beautiful golf course that is just a few miles outside of Atlantic City.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Course, Bay Course
Location:  Galloway, NJ.
Defending Champion:  Stacy Lewis
Winning Score:  67-63-67 = 197 (-16)

Final Field:  144 players
Par:  37/34 = 71
Yardage:  6,177
Purse:  $1,500,000

My strength of field rating is a solid 78.5% (up from 75.0% last year). Forty-five of the top 50 players from the LPGA priority list and 19 of the top 25 players from the Rolex World Rankings will be teeing it up. Notable absentees include: Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda, Charley Hull, Caroline Hedwall, Danielle Kang, and Se Ri Pak.

Here are the pairings for the first round.

Here are the television times:
May 29 - GC 1:00 PM-3:30 PM ET
May 30 - GC 3:00 PM-6:00 PM ET
May 31 - GC 3:00 PM-6:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Shanshan Feng
3- Hyo Joo Kim
4- Inbee Park
5- Lexi Thompson
6- Anna Nordqvist
7- Minjee Lee
8- Sei Young Kim
9- Alison Lee
10- Mirim Lee
11- Julieta Granada
12- Ha Na Jang
My strong picking landed me in 3rd place last week. I am currently in 8th place among the 23 participants.

Other Tidbits
This will be the 27th year that this event will be held. It was on the LPGA schedule from 1986 to 2006, was not played from 2007 to 2009, and returned to the schedule in 2010.

The LPGA'S Canadian Pacific Women's Open will return to Calgary in 2016. The tournament will be played at the Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club. The club last hosted the tournament in 2009.

On the Symetra Tour, Haruka Morita-Wanyaolu won the Symetra Classic in a playoff over Augusta James. Both players finished regulation 12 under par.

On the KLPGA, the Doosan Match Play Championship was won by In Gee Chun.

Be sure to check back here daily for any updates. They will be posted here, at the end of this blog. I will be attending this tournament. Links to all live scoreboards appear at the top of this page. 

Update #1 - Kathleen Ekey and Birdie Kim were the Monday qualifiers.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rating the 2015 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. 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. 

Hyo Joo Kim is already ranked #4 in the world.

In alphabetical order:

Q- Baek -  A winner last year as a non LPGA member, expectations were high that she would be a huge factor in this year's rookie of the year race. The results so far, although not bad, have not been what we expected. She has not had a top 10 finish yet this year in 9 starts. The fact that she is ranked 111th in driving accuracy tells part of the story. She has made 7 of 9 cuts, and is currently 6th in the ROY race. Her 72.42 scoring average is okay for an average rookie, but she needs to improve on that to contend. That said, her #49 ranking on the money list tells me she will have no problem retaining her card. Grade B- 

Laetitia Beck - The first LPGA player from Israel is not off to a very good start. She has teed it up 5 times this year, but has missed 3 cuts and has a 70th place finish. A tie for 27th place earlier in the year is her best finish to date. Her scoring average of 73.57 is not very good, and her current 119th ranking on the money list will have to improve. Grade D+

Kendall Dye - It took Kendall awhile to get her LPGA card, but if she doesn't improve dramatically she is not going to have it very long. The opportunities have been there, but she has made only 1 cut in 9 events this year. Her 75.20 scoring average and her #153 money ranking have her in big trouble. Grade F

Simon Feng - Another player that has had plenty of opportunities but has not taken advantage of them. Feng has only made 3 of 9 cuts this year and her scoring average of 73.36, although better than many on this list, isn't good enough. Her best finish this year is 59th, and she finds herself #118 on the money list. Grade D+

Casey Grice - Her poor priority rating has forced her to play mostly on the Symetra Tour this year, where she is currently #7 on the money list. She has played only 1 LPGA event and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Emma De Groot - Like Casey above, she has played mostly on the Symetra tour this year. She has not faired all that well there and is currently 39th on that tour's money list. She has played only one LPGA event and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Celine Herbin - Has not played on the LPGA tour yet this year. Grade Incomplete

Wei-Ling Hsu - Wei-Ling has played a lot this year and most of the time with decent results. Although her best finish is 25th this year, she has missed only 2 cuts in 10 tournaments. Her 72.94 scoring average could be better, but isn't bad either. Time will tell if her length (96th on the tour) will be a problem. For now her #72 ranking on the money list has her in good shape. Grade B-

Charley Hull - Charley's poor priority ranking has limited her to only 3 starts this year. She certainly took advantage of them. She made all 3 cuts and even has a 7th place finish. The first LPGA reshuffle last week has now put Charley in a position where she can play in all full field events. She will not have to worry about retaining her card for a very long time. Grade B

Ha Na Jang - One of the most consistent players on the LPGA this year, Ha Na has already had 4 top 10 finishes. Her missed cut this past weekend was the first one this year, and she has teed it up 10 times. Her scoring average of 70.79 is very good. She is currently #13 on the money list. Grade A-

Ariya Jutanugarn - Will the real Ariya please step forward. A tale of two seasons so far this year. She started out like she was going to go straight to the top of the Rolex World Rankings. She finished in the top 20 in her first 5 tournaments of the year, finishing in 2nd place at the Pure Silk tournament in the Bahamas. Since then she has played so poorly that you wonder if she is injured. In her last 6 tournaments she has missed 4 cuts and has a 76th place finish. She can't find the fairway anymore, ranking #148 in that category. Her 72.03 scoring average is still good, and she has certainly done enough to retain her card. Grade B

Soo Bin Kim - She has played just enough for her results to meaningful. She has made the cut in 3 of 5 tournaments, with her best finish a tie for 25th. Putting appears to be her problem as her ranking is 107th. Her scoring average of 72.88 needs to come down a bit. Currently #115 on the money list, she needs to take better advantage of her future starts. Grade C- 

Hyo Joo Kim - The cream of the crop. Her 69.64 scoring average is the best, by far, of any rookie. She has made the cut in all of her 9 starts this year, and amazingly has 7 top 11 finishes, and 8 top 20's. Already ranked #4 in this week's Rolex World Rankings, look for her to to battling for the #1 spot soon. Grade A+

Sei Young Kim - Already a 2 time winner this year, Sei Young is a very big surprise. Her 70.40 scoring average is excellent if not compared to Hyo Joo above. Her one achilles heel could be that she is ranked #119 in driving accuracy. That will have to be watched. She has made 10 of 11 cuts this year, but has tailed off lately, finishing 48th and 49th in her last 2 starts.  Grade A

Therese Koelbaek - Has had the opportunities but has not taken advantage of them, making just 2 of 6 cuts. Her scoring average of 73.35 needs to come down some. Currently #125 on the money list, she has a lot of work to do. Grade D

Minjee Lee - An up and down season really turned up this past week as she won the Kingsmill Championship. Her 71.56 scoring average is very good, as is her #14 ranking on the money list. She has made 7 cuts in 11 tournaments this year. Like Hyo Joo above, a superstar in the making. Grade A-

Min Lee - Everything about her season is very mediocre. She has made 5 of 9 cuts, has a scoring average of 73.50 and ranks #100 on the money list. Her best finish to date is a tie for 24th. Her season could go either way. Grade C

Jeong Eun Lee - Has not played this year. Grade Incomplete

Alison Lee - Another future superstar. Her 70.97 scoring average is excellent. She already has 3rd and 4th place finishes this year. Needs to be a bit more consistent as shown by her 3 missed cuts this year, but that will come with time. Currently # 21 on this year's money list. Grade B+

Stephanie Meadow - There will be some who think my grades are very tough. They have to be as many of these players have to take advantage of what may be limited opportunities. If they don't they will lose their playing privileges. Stephanie is the perfect example of someone who came through when she had to. Playing in only 1 tournament this year because of a poor priority rating, she posted a top 20 finish. With the new reshuffle she will now be playing regularly. She entered last week's tournament, but had to pull out when her father passed away. In spite of playing just once she is #95 on the money list, with a scoring average of 71.25. She finished 3rd in last year's U.S. Women's Open. Another future star. Grade B- 

Elizabeth Nagle - Has not played this year on the LPGA tour. She has played regularly on the Symetra tour (currently 29 on that tour's money list) with mediocre results. Grade Incomplete

Ju Young Park - The younger sister of Hee Young Park has had enough opportunities to impress, but has failed to do so. In fact, her season has been nothing short of disasterous. Her scoring average of 74.50 and her #152 ranking on the money list puts her near the bottom of the 32 rookies listed here. She made just 1 cut in 5 attempts and that was a 58th place finish. She should still get quite a few more opportunities, but needs to show a marked improvement to retain her card. Grade F

Sadena Parks - Hasn't shown that her game belongs on the LPGA. She has made just 1 of 9 cuts and is #145 on the money list. Her scoring average of 75.00 won't cut it in the big time. Grade F

Sophie Popov - Has made 2 of 4 cuts this year, but her best finish is 55th. Her scoring average of 73.75 needs to come down. Currently #128 on the money list, she needs to step up her game to retain her card. Grade D-

Debbie Runus - Another rookie that has struggled this year to keep her head above water. Has played regularly but has made only 3 of 8 cuts, with a best finish of 54th. Her scoring average of 73.44 needs to be improved, and her #129 money list ranking has to come down quite a bit to retain her card. Grade D-

Marta Sanz Barrio - Missed the cut in the only tournament she has played this year. Grade Incomplete

Kelly Shon - Her results so far this season show some definite potential. She has teed it up 9 times this year making 4 cuts, with an 11th place finish being her highlight so far. Her scoring average of 73.15 is better than most on this list. Currently #93 on the money list, she doesn't have a lot of room for error. Grade C

Marissa Steen - Another rookie that has had plenty of opportunities but as of now is not in a very good position to retain her playing card. She has made just 3 cuts in 9 starts, with a best finish of 38th. Her scoring average is a very poor 74.28. She is currently #124 on the money list.  Grade D-

Cheyenne Woods - So far the results haven't lived up to what are probably very unfair expectations. She hasn't been horrible, but she hasn't been all that good either. She has made just half of her cuts (4 of 8), and has a very mediocre 73.50 scoring average. Her best finish this year is 24th, and she currently resides at #110 on the money list. Grade C- 

Jing Yan - Her 11th place finish last week has made me erase everything I previously had prepared to write about her. She had previously moved up from #183 to #154 when the reshuffle was posted last week. She will move up more on the next reshuffle. She has made the cut in all 4 her her events and has her scoring average down to 72.50. Currently #94 on the money list, she is heading in the right direction. Grade C+

Julie Yang - Moving up 20 spots to #152 after the reshuffle of the priority list should get her a few more starts. She has made only 1 of 4 cuts but her scoring average of 72.90 says that she isn't playing that badly. Her best finish this year is 34th and she resides at #131 on the money list. Needs to take advantage of the opportunities she gets before the next reshuffle. Grade D

Sakura Yokomine - Although she is having a pretty decent year so far, like Q-Baek, we all expected more. Her 72.00 scoring average is certainly good enough to keep her playing on this tour, but we didn't expect just one top 10 and 4 missed cuts. Currently #51 on the money list her card is secure. Grade B-

Other Tidbits:
Stacy Lewis has now made the cut in 82 consecutive tournaments. That is one more than the 81 reached by Paula Creamer last year. 

With a scoring average of 69.639, Hyo Joo Kim moves ahead of Lydia Ko into third place in the race for the Vare Trophy. Stacy Lewis currently leads the tour with a 69.525. Stacy won that race last year and received a Hall of Fame point for her accomplishment.

Karine Icher had her cut streak stopped at 20. Christine Song has now missed 14 consecutive cuts. 

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Minjee Lee soars up from #59 to #19, while Alison Lee springs up from #100 to #61.

Race to the CME Globe:
Lydia Ko continues to lead with 2,090 points. Inbee Park is next with 1,866, while Stacy Lewis moves past Sei Young Kim into 3rd place with 1,612.

Who's Hot:
Hyo Joo Kim has never finished outside of the top 25 in her 19 career LPGA starts.

Who's Not:
Caroline Hedwall has not finished inside the top 25 in any of her 9 starts this year.
Sun Young Yoo has missed 6 cuts in her last 7 starts.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kingsmill Championship Preview & Pairings

After a one week break, the LPGA moves to the state of Virginia this week for the playing of the Kingsmill Championship.

Lizette Salas will be trying to defend her Kingsmill Championship title

Many of you may remember last year's tournament when Lizette Salas ran away from the field and her final score of -13 was four strokes better than a trio of players.

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 #12 of 32 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:

Course:  River Course at Kingsmill Resort
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Defending Champion:  Lizette Salas
Winning Score:  66-68-65-71 = 271 (-13)

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

My strength of field rating is a very solid 77%, up from 66% last year. Forty-four of the top 50 players on the new reshuffled LPGA priority list (see my recap), and 19 of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings will be in attendance. Players not teeing it up this week include: Shanshan Feng, Na Yeon Choi, and Mirim Lee.

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:
May 14 - GC 9:00 PM-11:00 PM ET
May 15 - GC 9:00 PM-11:00 PM ET
May 16 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET
May 17 - GC 5:00 PM-7:00 PM ET

Here are my Pac Picker picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Hyo-Joo Kim
3- Inbee Park
4- Lydia Ko
5- Cristie Kerr
6- Lexi Thompson
7- Brittany Lincicome
8- Morgan Pressel
9- Sei Young Kim
10- Ha Na Jang
11- So Yeon Ryu
12- Anna Nordqvist

Other Tidbits:
Brooke Henderson and Kathleen Ekey got sponsor exemptions for this tournament. It is the 2nd exemption for Henderson (she is allowed six). Henderson has also been successful twice this year as a Monday qualifier making it seem like she is a a carded LPGA member, which she is not.

On Other Tours:
The LPGA may have been off this past week but there was plenty of action going on elsewhere.

Symetra Tour - Alexandra Llaneza won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic by 1 stroke over Casey Grice.

L.E.T - Shanshan Feng won the Buick Championship on her home soil by 6 strokes over Hyeon Seo Kang.

KLPGA - Jin Young Ko won the KG-E Daily Ladies Open by 3 strokes over Seon Woo Bae.

JLPGA - In Gee Chun won the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup by 4 strokes over former LPGA player Momoko Ueda. Jessica Korda finished in a tie for 4th place, 9 strokes back.

Be sure to check back here daily for any updates. They will be posted here, at the end of this blog.
Links to all live scoreboards appear at the top of this page. 

Update #1 - Beatriz Recari & Mika Miyazato have been removed from this week's field list.

Here are the final results:

1Minjee Lee-15F
2So Yeon Ryu-13F
3Alison Lee-12F
4Perrine DeLacour-11F
5Suzann Pettersen-10F
5Hyo Joo Kim-10F
5Paula Creamer-10F
8Catriona Matthew-8F
8Candie Kung-8F
8Lexi Thompson-8F
11Anna Nordqvist-7F
11Mi Jung Hur-7F
11Jing Yan-7F
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rolex Rankings Movers - Part 1 / LPGA Priority List Reshuffle Recap

Now that we have completed about 1/3 of the LPGA season, I would like to look at the players that have made the biggest leaps, and taken the biggest falls in the Rolex Rankings this year.

The Rolex Rankings system awards points to players based on an accumulated 104-week "rolling" period, with the points awarded in the most recent 13-week period carrying a stronger value. 
A player is then ranked according to her average points per tournament, as determined by dividing her total number of points by the number of eligible tournaments played during the 104-week period. A minimum divisor (35) is also used. 

I have gone back to the first Rolex Rankings of the year and compared them to the current rankings. The only requirements for my list is: (1) A player must have been ranked in the top 100 at the start of the year, or be in the top 100 now. (2) A player must have started the year 2015 with a minimum rating of 0.50 (or else this chart would be filled with unknown names.)
Non LPGA member Brooke Henderson has been one of the biggest movers in the Rolex Rankings this year.

The Year's Biggest Gainers
1- Sei Young Kim - 2.46 to 4.43 = Gain of 1.97 (moved from # 39 to #15)
2- Brittany Lincicome - 3.63 to 5.45 = Gain of 1.82 (move 18-6)
3- Amy Yang - 3.32 to 4.79 = Gain of 1.47 (move 23-12)
4- Ariya Jutanugarn 1.05 to 2.32 = Gain of 1.26 (move 108-41)
5- Morgan Pressel 2.16  to 3.13 = Gain of 0.97 (move 52-23)
6- *Brooke Henderson 0.51 to 1.36 = Gain of 0.85 (move 223-80)

The Year's Biggest Decliners
1- Suzann Pettersen  - 6.85 to 5.14 = Loss of 1.71 (moved from #4 to #9)
2- Michelle Wie - 6.30 to 5.03 = Loss of 1.27  (move 6 to 10)
3- Q-Baek - 4.90 to 3.66 = Loss of 1.24 (move 11 to 19)
4- Karrie Webb - 5.56 to 4.46 = Loss of 1.10 (move 9 to 14)
5- Paula Creamer - 3.47 to 2.58 = Loss of 0.97 (move 20 to 32)
6- *Sun Ju Ahn - 3.97 to 3.22 = Loss of 0.75 (move 15 to 22)

* Non LPGA Member

Priority List Reshuffle:

The LPGA had its first reshuffle of its Priority List this past week. While most of the players moved up or down a few insignificant spots, there were some very significant moves also.

The Priority List is what is used to fill the required amount of spots for any given tournament. Without me getting into the categories, which is potentially confusing, here is a brief explanation. Most full field events have a field of 144 players. Usually 140 of the players come from the Priority List ranking. Two players are Monday qualifiers, and 2 more are sponsor exemptions. So to keep it simple, if your Priority Rating is #150, you have to hope that 10 players decide not to play, or you are probably not getting into the field.

We will be seeing lots more of Charley Hull now that the LPGA has completed its first priority list reshuffle

The following players made the biggest jumps in this week's reshuffle:
Sei Young Kim - 131 to 85
Ha Na Jang - 134 to 89
Ariya Jutanugarn - 127 to 90
Minjee Lee - 126 to 94
Alison Lee - 125 to 91
Maria Hernandez - 128 to 103
Mika Miyazato - 115 to 93

Although the jumps made by the above players look good on paper, it is not that significant as they were playing all full field events anyway.

The following players made the most important gains, and should now be playing in most full field events:
Charley Hull - 178 to 104
Sakura Yokomine - 140 to 96
Maria McBride - 147 to 98
Stephanie Meadow - 173 to147

The following players are not guaranteed to play all full field events, but have a much better chance than before the reshuffle:
Felicity Johnson - 159 to 149
Jane Rah - 167 to 150
Pat Hurst - 169 to 151
Julie Yang - 172 to 152
Jing Yan - 183 to 154
Jenny Suh - 162 to 156

The following players got hurt the most and will be seeing less playing time, or no playing time at all:
Becky Morgan - 150 to 158
Lisa McCloskey - 151 to 159
Alejandra Llaneza - 152 to 162
**Victoria Elizabeth - 130 to 165
Chie Arimura - 153 to 166
**Jenny Gleason - 97 to 185
**Jacklyn Sweeney - 96 to ??? (No longer listed)

** Lost medical exemption

Other Tidbits:
As many of you may know, if a non LPGA member finishes the year with earnings that would have ranked in the top 40, they earn their playing card and do not have to go to Q-School (providing they are of age). Brooke Henderson, although playing in only 3 events this year, has earned $161,557 which would rank her 29th. She has used just 1 of her 6 allowed sponsor exemptions. 

Rolex Movers of the Week:
Cristie Kerr Jumps from #12 to #7, while Brooke Henderson leaps from #91 to #80. 

Race to the CME Globe:
Lydia Ko still leads with 2,035 points. She is followed by Inbee Park with 1,811 and Sei Young Kim with 1,579.

Hard to believe stat of the week:
Lydia Ko has failed to finish in the top 40 in 2 of her last 3 starts.

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