Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Surprises and Disappointments 2017 - Part 2

Back in early April I wrote who I thought were the biggest surprises and biggest disappointments of the year. The LPGA had only played 7 tournaments at that point. So much has changed since then. The LPGA has now played 21 of the 34 tournaments on this year's schedule, and I think it is time to take another look.

Biggest Surprises:

Image result for I.K. Kim wins marathon
I.K. Kim's two victories have been the year's biggest surprise
1- I.K. Kim - At the start the 2017 season many questioned I.K.'s motivation. Her pattern throughout most of the 2016 campaign was to play a couple of weeks and then take off a couple. She played in just 17 of 33 official tournaments. She was still playing quality golf, but her better days seemed to be behind her. This year has been an up and down year. She still has only played in 11 of 20 events, and most of the time hasn't played all that well (missing 4 cuts). But who expected her to be one of only 2 players to have two victories this year? Nobody! You could argue that her 2 victories were playing against the weakest fields of the year, but they are still victories and that is enough to put her on the top of my list as the year's biggest surprise.

2- Moriya Jutanugarn - While all the attention is being paid to her younger sister (Ariya), she is having one heck of a year. In 18 starts this year she has 16 top 25 finishes. That leads the LPGA. She also has 6 top ten finishes. She was always a solid player, but now she is a consistent contender that just might get that first victory soon. Last year she finished #40 on the money list, she is currently #13.

3- Cristie Kerr - Cristie had a mediocre year in 2016. She has reduced her schedule this year (she has skipped 6 of the first 20 events), and that has certainly worked in her favor. She has 5 top five finishes this year (including a victory), and that is only topped by Lexi Thompson (7), and So Yeon Ryu (6). She finished #39 on last year's money list, and currently resides at #10.

4- Danielle Kang - A two time amateur champion, superstar was written all over her from day one. She teased us from time to time with her stellar play, but she came into this year as an underachiever. This year has changed all that. She made her first win a Major Championship by winning the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. She has three top five finishes, and has improved her money list standing from #36 in 2016 to #9 this year.

5- Michelle Wie - Last year was a disaster for Michelle, as she finished #105 on the year's money list. She has turned it all around this year. In 15 starts, she has 5 top five finishes, and is #17 on the year's money list.

6- Marina Alex - A marginal player the first few years of her career, Marina has become one of the most improved players on tour. Her 4 top ten finishes, and 6 top 15's, have her in the running for a Solheim Cup pick. She is currently all the way up to #32 on the year's money list.

7- Sung Hyun Park - I put her this far down my list only because many people in the know will say this is not a surprise. Yes I know she won 7 times on the KLPGA tour last year. Success on other tours doesn't always translate into success on the LPGA. So I say show me. She showed me. Not only did she win the U.S. Open, but has 6 top tens. She has 14 top 25 finishes this year in 15 starts. She is currently #2 on the year's money list.

Honorable Mentions: Nelly Korda, Austin Ernst, Angel Yin, Katherine Kirk, Jeong Eun Lee, and Cydney Clanton.

Biggest Disappointments:
Image result for Lydia ko
Lydia Ko has been this year's biggest disappointment

1- Lydia Ko - It is very unusual that the year's biggest disappointment to date would have 7 top ten finishes, but our expectations for Lydia are much higher than that. The truth is she has not been in contention for most of those finishes, and a big final round made the result look better than it was.
She has just one top five finish this year, and has looked like just a shell of the player she was in the past. She started the year as the world's #1 player, and has slipped to #4. Her recent play suggests that she can fall farther. In 2016 she was #2 on the year end money list, this year she has fallen all the way down to #23.

2- Brittany Lang - Last year's U.S. Open winner has yet to get on track this year. She has made 16 starts and has yet to register a top ten finish. She must turn it around quickly as she is just barely holding on to a Solheim Cup spot. Last year she finished #9 on the money list, this year she has fallen all the way down to #58.

3 -Hee Young Park - I don't know how else to put it except to say that this has been a total collapse. In 17 starts this year, she has yet to have a top 35 finish. She has missed 11 cuts. One of the most likeable players on the LPGA tour, she has dug herself into a hole that she may not be able to climb out of. Her 2018 playing privileges are now in serious danger. Last year she finished #34 on the money list, this year she is #126.

4- Candie Kung - Always a consistent performer, it has been a struggle for Candie this year. In 17 starts she has yet to register a top 10 finish. She finished last year #25 on the money list, this year she sits at #63.

5- Na Yeon Choi - Some will say that this is not a major surprise as we saw this coming the second half of last year. What is a surprise is that in 14 starts she has failed to finish better than 43rd, and has missed 8 cuts. She currently resides at #132 on the money list.

6- Azahara Munoz - If it wasn't for Carlota Ciganda's solid play, this could have been named "The whole Spanish team," as Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo are underperforming also. Azahara does not have a top ten finish this year in 16 starts. Her best finish is 22nd, and she has fallen all the way down to #70 on this year's money list.

Other disappointments: Mo Martin, Alison Lee, Lee-Anne Pace, Morgan Pressel, Hyo Joo Kim, and Paula Creamer.

I will revisit this subject for a final time when the LPGA completes its schedule.

This Week's Trivia Question:  (for those who might have missed it earlier).

Who are the oldest and youngest players to make the cut in an LPGA event?

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

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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