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Rating the 2017 LPGA Rookies - Part 1

Before I begin let me give a big congratulations to Sei Young Kim for winning the Lorena Ochoa Match Play Championship. After defeating 5 different opponents, she met Ariya Jutanugarn in the final match. Sei Young jumped out quickly and hung on, winning 1 up, against the #2 player in the world.

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 8 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, otherwise they have been marked incomplete.

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. 

Image result for sung hyun park
Sung Hyun Park appears to be the huge favorite to win the 2017 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award

In alphabetical order: (SA = scoring average)

Aditi Ashok - Has not played much this year because of a poor Priority Ranking, but when she has she has played fairly well. She has made the cut in all 3 of her starts, with a best finish of 42nd. She is currently ranked #96 on this year's money list. With the reshuffle of the Priority List, she will get more starts in the future. Grade C+

Brittany Benvenuto - Has just one start and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Celine Boutier - Has not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Hannah Burke - Has gotten two opportunities, and has failed to make the cut in each one. Grade F

Peiyun Chien - Has teed it up eight times this year making 4 cuts. Her 11th place finish at the Kia Classic has been her best finish. Currently #63 on the ML. Grade B-

Karen Chung - Has teed it up 6 times this year with very little success. She has made just 2 cuts, with a best finish of 52nd. She is currently #136 on the money list and needs to play better.  Grade D-

Jenny Coleman - Played only once on the LPGA this year and missed the cut - Grade Incomplete

Emily Collins Has not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Daniela Darquea  - Played only once this year and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Justine Dreher Has not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Allyssa FerrellHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Dana Finkelstein - In six tournaments this year she has only seen the weekend twice. Her best finish was a 46th, and she is currently #130 on the ML. Grade D-

Laura Gonzalez Escallon - She has made three cuts this year in eight starts. Her best finish at the Pure Silk, where she finished 9th. Currently # 77 on the money list. Grade C+

Regan De Guzman - Has teed it up four times, missing all four cutsGrade F

Jennifer Ha - In 6 starts this year she has made just one cut. That was a 49th place finish. She currently resides at #141 on the money list. Grade D-

Nasa Hatoaka - Winner of the 2016 Japan Women's Open Championship, this teenager came onto the LPGA tour this year with very high expectations. So far she has not lived up to them. In seven tournaments she has not finished better than 30th place, making just 3 cuts. Her driving distance of just 243 yards, ranks her near the very bottom of the LPGA stats. Currently #118 on the money list. Grade D

Caroline InglisHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Augusta JamesPlayed only once this year and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Min-G KimHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Lauren Kim - Teed it up just once this year, and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Nelly Korda - Has teed it up seven times this year, and has made every cut. The highlight of her season to date is her 5th place finish at the Pure Silk. She currently resides at at # 40 on the ML. Grade B

Olafia Kristinsdottir - Finished second (behind Jaye Marie Green) in the 2016 qualifying tournament, but has struggled on the LPGA Tour so far this year. She has made just 2 cuts in 6 tournaments, with a best finish of 30th place. Currently #116 on the ML. Grade D

Nicole Broch Larsen - This star player from the LET has gotten into just two tournaments (making both cuts), because of a poor Priority Ranking. She is currently #125 on the ML. With the current reshuffle, she will now get into many more events. Look for the poor grade I am giving her to improve big time by the time I revisit this subject later this season. Grade D+

Bronte Law - Made the cut in her only tournament. The reshuffle should help her also. Grade Incomplete

Sung Hyun Park -  She is the heavy favorite to win the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award. Like Nelly Korda above, she has teed it up 7 times without missing a cut. Her best finish this year was at the HSBC, where she finished 3rd. Last year (as a non LPGA player) she had finishes of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th place. She won seven times last year on the KLPGA tour, and comes to the LPGA as an established star expected to win immediately. That is the only thing she has failed to do. If she wants to join the likes of So Yeon Ryu and In Gee Chun as former KLPGA players who made an immediate impact on this tour, she must show she can finish. Stay tuned! Grade A-

Maria Parra - Has struggled to find success so far this year. She has had 6 opportunities, but has made it to the weekend just twice. Her best finish is 69th, and she is #139 on the money list. Grade D-

Emily PedersenHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Katherine Perry - Has played well in spurts this year, making 3 cuts in seven tournaments. Her best finish was 21st, and currently resides at #95 on the ML. Grade C

Krista PuisiteHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Mel Reid - A huge star on the LET for many years, Mel is a 30 year old rookie. She has played well this year making 3 of 5 cuts, with a best finish of 13th place. She is currently #71 on the money list. Grade B-

Madelene Sagstrom - Advertised by most people "in the know" as a can't miss prospect, she has struggled so far this year. She has made just 2 of 6 cuts (missing all 4 cuts by one stroke). Her best finish is 43rd, and is currently #107 on the ML. Look for improvement by my next report. Grade C-

Madeleine ShellsPlayed only once this year and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Mariah Stackhouse - Missed the cut in both her tournaments this year. Grade F

Jesse TangHas not teed it up this year. Grade Incomplete

Emily Tubert - Teed it up just once this year, finishing in 53rd place. Grade Incomplete

Britney Yada Played only once this year and missed the cut. Grade Incomplete

Angel Yin - Probably the biggest rookie surprise so far this year. Prior to this year she had played 9 tournaments as a non LPGA player, never finishing better than 50th. Based on that, not much was expected. She has surprised by making 4 of 7 cuts, and has two consecutive 5th place finishes. She is currently #33 on the ML. Grade B+

Image result for angel yin
Angin Yin has been the biggest rookie surprise so far this season.

Note: There will be one more final reshuffle the third 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.

Other Tidbits:
In spite of her not being in contention much on Sunday afternoons, Brooke Henderson has eight top 25 finishes this year. Only Ariya Jutanugarn has more.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Ariya Jutanugarn squeaks by So Yeon Ryu and into 2nd place. Sei Young Kim jumps up from #12 to #8, while Angel Yin leaps from #86 to #71.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)
Things tightened up quite a bit this week. SoYeon Ryu still leads with 1,605 points, but Ariya Jutanugarn closes in with 1,525. They are followed by Cristie Kerr (1,211), Inbee Park (1,082), and Lexi Thompson (980). 

Who's Hot:
Cristie Kerr has finished in the top ten in each of her last 5 starts. She now has four top five finishes, no one on the LPGA has more.
Ariya Jutanugarn's 2nd place finish this past week was her 8th top 10 finish of the year, which leads the tour. 

Who's Not:
Chella Choi has not registered a top 30 finish in her last 6 starts. 
Mi Hyang Lee has not finished better than 25th in her 9 starts this year.
Christina Kim has failed to register a top 30 finish in 9 starts this year.

This Week's Trivia Question:

This is a tough one! (If you get this you are bordering on LPGA genius)

It is not unusual (in fact it is quite common) for a player to be ranked in the top 75 of the LPGA Priority List but not in the top 75 of the Rolex Rankings. Can you name the only 2 LPGA players that are currently ranked in the top 75 of the Rolex Rankings, but are not in the top 75 of the LPGA Priority List?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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