Bienvenue! My name is Jamie and I like golf. I grew up playing tennis in eastern Massachusetts, but fell in love with the game after watching Se Ri Pak defeat Jenny Chausiriporn at the 1998 U.S. Womens Open. I studied Hospitality & Tourism Management (with a focus on Event, Tourism, and Convention Management) at the Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Tennis is my first love, but golf is a very close second. I believe style should equal substance, and the latter is nothing without the former.
The LPGA announced today that Rolex is the new presenting sponsor for the LPGA Tour Championship set to take place in Houston in November. Interim commissioner Marty Evans is doing an awesome job in securing title sponsors and events for the LPGA. It’s certainly an encouraging sign, even if she has stated she has no plans on remaining in the position permanently.
The LPGA Tour Championship has completely shifted formats for 2009 after having an exciting and successful run with the ADT Tour Championship Playoffs. The tour championship was limited to 30 players last year which featured a point system to qualify, and broke the season into two distinct halves, and of course the million dollar paycheck to the winner is certainly worth mentioning. The field was cut to the top 16 after 36 holes, and scored wiped clean for the third round. At the end of the 3rd round the field was cut in half and the slate wiped clean, creating a shoot-out for the 8 ladies remaining in the competition.
In a stark contrast, the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship will feature the top 120 players on the LPGA and the shoot-out drama is no longer present. After 36 holes the typical low-70 players will make it to the Saturday with another cut after the third round to the top 30.
It’s quite interesting they’ve expanded the field to the top 120 this year, as even before they adopted the playoff point-qualifying entry system in 2006, the tour championship was typically a 30 player field. I’ve always been a fan of a tour championship being at least semi-exclusive, so I’m not entirely onboard with this 120 player field going on this year. With the talent pool being so big, and so many chances for a surprise winner on tour (i.e. Anna Nordqvist, Eunjung Yi, M.J. Hur), I simply don’t think it’s necessarily a completely fitting end to see someone like Sarah Jane Smith (just as an example) have the week of her life and emerge as tour championship winner.
To me, this week’s Samsung World Championship feels more like a tour championship then the actual LPGA Tour Championship.
The most exclusive tournament on the LPGA, the Samsung World Championship will occur this weekend, and the field is as star filled as ever. Last season American darling Paula Creamer held off Song-Hee Kim by one stroke, Paula will be looking to find the same form at storied Torrey Pines this season. Paula has yet to win in 2009, and if she fails to do so, it will be her first season in her impressive career that she would have failed to nab a win.
It’s not going to be easy for Paula to repeat, the 19 other players are full of talent as is always the case at the Samsung World Championship. The biggest surprise in the field is Lindsey Wright who under the radar has been churning out a fine season for herself, making more money then Michelle Wie who is the first alternate for the event. Wright has two less top 10s then Wie (4 to 6), but Wright has two top 10s in majors (to Wie’s 0). Lindsey is sitting in the 15th spot on the tours money list, amassing a little over $100,000 over #16 Wie. Also missing out in the field is Seon Hwa Lee. The four time tour winner is missing the Samsung World Championship for the first time in her LPGA career.
I don’t have the numbers for the money list for the Safeway, but I wish they could’ve finagled a way for Se Ri Pak to have received the HoFer exemption into the event (Se Ri is currently #30 on the money list) over Karrie Webb who was already qualified via the money list.
All that aside, with such concentrated talent in the field it’s very difficult to pick a winner in this event, all that aside, I still went ahead and picked one.
I am picking Inky to find some form and nab her second win of the season. She should be refreshed from her week off last week, and I think Torrey Pines should set up well for her. With last week’s winner Shin, the red hot Ai Miyazato, the renewed confidence of Suzann Pettersen, this week should produce some phenomenal stuff. I am certainly looking forward to it.
The not much of a rookie, rookie and possibly best lady golfer in the world Jiyai Shin broke the hearts of the Arkansas crowd and the entire Golf Channel production team by birding the last three holes to upend Angela Stanford & Sun Young Yoo on the second playoff hole to capture her third title of 2009 at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday. In sinking the clutch putt on the par-3 15th (second playoff hole) Shin effectively ruined the story of the day (if not weekend) of Angela Stanford making a full circle bounce back from having to deal with the diagnosis of cancer that her mother unfortunately received not too long ago. Much was made of Stanford’s mom making the drive to watch Angela play singles at the Solheim Cup on Sunday, and the same fanfare was given again on this Sunday as her mother was in attendance in Arkansas. Had Stanford been able to close it out it would’ve been a amazingly triumphant come back, from extraordinary personal struggles, and would’ve been the first time she had won an LPGA tournament with her parents in attendance.
Early on it certainly looked to be Stanford’s day, after stumbling out the blocks with a bogey on the 1st, she pitched in for eagle at the par 5 second which brought her to -8 for the tournament just a stroke behind the 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim. If she could’ve continued a bit of a run after this eagle Angela could’ve easily run away with this championship, but was only able to birdie the par 5 14th (while bogeying two other holes) going into the final hole in regulation.
Jane Park had a much worse descent after hitting the -9 mark. She birdied four of her five holes to get there, but then gave nearly all of it back when she bogeyed three of the next four holes. She birdied 11 to get back to -7 which kept her very much in contention, but followed it up with what may have been the biggest meltdown of her career as she went double-bogey-double on holes 13-15 which at the end of the day dropped her out of the top 21 (T21, -2).
As exciting as the three player playoff was, it easily could’ve featured two additional players, or potentially ended in regulation. 36 hole leader Song-Hee Kim showed just how nervous she was attempting to win her first LPGA event, being unable to secure a birdie the entire round. This was perhaps exemplified best on the birdieable par 5 14th. After driving herself into trouble off the tee, Song-Hee attempted to pitch out to a comfortable distance for her 3rd shot. Not entirely sure what happened, but Kim’s pitch-out went a distance, and inexplicably rolled into the water hazard. Kim then had to scramble to save par on a hole that all the leaders found birdie throughout the week. Kim did infact get up an down for par, and gave herself a fighting chance to win this event. She would go to the 18th with Stanford needing a birdie to get into a playoff with Shin and Yoo.
Yoo joined Shin atop the leaderboard after she birdied the 14th hole for the third time this week, but then dropped back to 2nd after she bogeyed the 16th hole for the third time this week. She needed to birdie the 18th to guarantee a playoff with Jiyai. A few groups ahead, Shi Hyun Ahn was in the same predicament, but had to settle for par. After a picture perfect drive, Yoo hit her approach to the front of the green leaving a lengthy 30-40 footer for eagle, and the lead outright. Yoo’s putting speed had looked great all week, and this was no different, she lagged close, tapped in for birdie and made the playoff official.
When the last group arrived at the 18th, Shin had been done her round for a couple hours, and Yoo had just finished. Song-Hee once again drove herself into the rough, but her layup was executed much better this time, and had a decent up-and-down birdie opportunity. Stanford hit an aggressive driver down the fairway, and gave her a shot to reach the green in two, she hit an amazing approach to 25 feet, giving her a chance to tie Shin & Yoo. Kim hit her pitch to the pin, and after a bigish bounce and some backspin found herself a difficult 12-15 downhill sliding putt to get into the playoff.
Stanford was first to putt, and she sunk it, igniting the hopes of the Golf Channel production team, and showing an even bigger sign that this tournament was her destiny. Her celebration was almost as if she had won the tournament, or better yet sunk the clinching putt at the Solheim. Arms stretched, she jumped into the arms of her caddy, it was a touching moment for a player who has had to battle so much in the middle of the best season of her career.
Utilizing Na Yeon Choi’s near identical line just before her, Song-Hee was unable to do what Yoo and Stanford did before her. She hit an aggressive putt, but it slid 3 feet past, and Kim along with NYC will have to wait for their 1st LPGA win. Choi & Kim have the talent to be winning on tour, but they have not been able to keep it together while in contention, something that their countrywomen M.J. Hur & Eunjung Yi were able to do when they won earlier in 2009. Until they can calm these nerves and thoughts, I think it will be more likely to see them win an event like Shin did this week, from behind the pack shooting an amazingly low number.
So there we were, Shin, Yoo, and Stanford in the sudden death playoff. Yoo drew first and smoked her drive down the fairway, setting up a great second shot. Shin hit her tee shot second and missed hers to the left, and was in trouble in the rough. She would be blocked out by trees and a hazard, and would not have a chance to get there in two. Stanford was next and her tee shot was falling off quickly to the right toward the right rough, she was fortunate to get a good kick and was just a few yards behind Yoo’s ball in the middle of the fairway.
Shin pitched to the middle of the fairway. Stanford’s attempt to reach ended up in a very similar position to Yoo’s in regulation, on the front edge of the green. Yoo’s looked great rolling up toward the back middle pin position, but hers was just a little bit too hot, and ended up rolling into the right greenside bunker.
You really needed to see these three next shots in order to really understand how good they were, but it was some of the best golf I’ve seen in a long time. Shin was first and pitched hers to tap-in range for her (3-5 feet). Stanford was next, and nearly holed hers, but again was a tap-in for birdie. Yoo’s bunker shot rolled to inches. All three ladies tapped their birdies in (no relapse of Michele Redman from two weeks ago!) and went to the par 3 15th.
Yoo again was first and was short and right, which was incidentally the same position she was in regulation. She flirted dangerously with the hazard, but hit it far enough to land short of the green. Stanford hit hers about 20 feet short of the pin, which was just outside of Shin’s 12 footer left, and on a very similar line.
Yoo chipped hers from just off the green to three feet, nearly a tap-in for her on this day. Stanford was first, and she piped the left to right putt about five feet past (outside of Yoo’s ball), which set the stage for Shin to putt tow in. Trusting Stanford’s line Jiyai hit a perfect 12 footer, and claimed her third victory of the season.
Shin has a chance to match HOFer Nancy Lopez in winning both the Rookie of the Year & Player of the Year in the same season. She has essentially clinched ROY, but POY is certainly up for grabs.
Stanford should be very happy with her week, and is seemingly back in peak condition like she was earlier this season. I picked Yoo to win this week, so you’ve gotta be sure I was rooting hard for her down the stretch on Sunday. Hopefully Yoo will take a lot of positives in coming this close, and I expect an LPGA win in this player’s near future.
The LPGA Tournament Train continues it’s chug towards the finish with the CN Canadian Women’s Open this week. Katherine Hull won first LPGA title last year. This tournament has one of the biggest purses of the year, and with the money list being as a tight as it is, this could be a week someone could make a big statement. One player who we should expect to do well is Ai Miyzato. The Japanese superstar is on a four tournament top-10 steak, and a three tournament top-5 streak. This is pretty impressive as there was a time earlier in the seasons where some wondered if Mika Miyazato would beat her to the winner’s circle!
The other three players above a million dollars so far on the year are Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, and In-Kyung Kim, all of whom were less then impressive last week in Portland. Kerr was steady and finished T20, Shin was T65, and In-Kyung missed the cut. This was only Shin’s 3rd finish outside the top 25 this year, so expect her to rebound in a big way. I.K. sandwiched two missed cuts with a T3, T8, and a T20, and aside from those MCs and the first two events of the seasons, I.K. has finished in the top 35. So, I wouldn’t expect the MC chain to grow.
With Seon Hwa Lee rounding back into form, Suzann getting a short taste of victory, and a group of other LPGA elites all vying for a big pay day, this weeks top 12 picks could be filled with anyone. So, who did I choose?
My picks might seem a little haphazard and random, and they kind of are. I think I picked with heart this week over brain, and really wanted to mix things up a bit. Meena Lee must seem like a completely random choice, but it isn’t, well maybe it is. I realize Lee’s 3 top 10s at the Canadian Open did not occur in Alberta, and the one time they played in Alberta Meena Lee finished outside the top 50.
With that said, Meena did open with a 67 that week, so I’d say she can do it again, and shock us! Also threw up other favorites who have been struggling like Shi Hyun Ahn & Angela Park who is making her return to the LPGA after a self imposed hiatus.
With 9 being such a magic number right now (mainly talking about the blockbuster District 9), and M.J. Hur’s magical win this week at the Safeway, I thought it would be a great time to revisit a post I did back in January questioning, Whether any of the Cateogry 9ers (a.k.a. DFT graduates) would have a season like Violeta Retamoza’s 2008 season. Let’s run down these 5 players, along with a couple others that I featured in January by their current rank on the money list.
4th on DFT Money List
32nd 2009 LPGA Money List: $330,511
Best Finish: 1st - Safeway Classic
M.J.’s win this past week at the Safeway Classic was nothing short of shocking. M.J. broke 70 all three days, after only breaking 70 twice previously this season. As referenced through the ESPN telecast M.J. is one of the best putters on tour, averaging 28.72 putts per round (7th on tour) and 1.78 putts per green in regulation (T19 on tour). Aside from sand saves (.500, T14) she has struggled nearly everywhere else. Averaging just over 250 yards per drive, she has one of the least accurate drivers .569 (144th!) and this likely leads to her horrendus GIR average of .596 (125th!). Clear this was the week she was able to drive it straight, allowing her to get some more GIR and take advantage of that amazing putter of hers. If she can continue striking the ball well, M.J. could easily cement herself into the top 30 and perhaps even higher!
1st on 2008 DFT Money List
55th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $161,920
Best Finish - T5 Corning Classic
Vicky’s prom picture always makes me laugh. Anyway, Hurst before this week was the clear DFT leader, and seemingly showed a continued strength over the ladies she dominated a year ago. Hurst has had two top 10s this year, and has had a solid, if not uneventful season. For the average rookie, she’s right on the money, but with Hurst’s illustrious amateur career, and her dominance on the DFT last season I think the majroity of us have felt underwhelmed by her performances this year. Hurst is in the top 40 in nearly every major category, and is one of the strongest drivers on tour averaging 268.9 yards off the tee, good for 3rd in Driving Distance. Her accuracy though is one of the worst, only finding the fairway 62% of the time which puts her 131st on tour. As we saw with Hur this week, if she can one great driving week, she could be hoisting a trophy by the time 2009 is done.
Jin Young Pak
5th on 2008 DFT Money List
87th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $76,538
Best Finish: T9 McDonald’s LPGA Championship
Rookie in 2007
Jin Young Pak will need to raise her level if she hopes to continue having high priority for the 2010 season, but for the player playing her first full year on tour, she’s at least above the Top 90 line at the moment. This is mostly due to her solid T9 performance at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship far and away her best finish thus far. It’s the only time she’s been able to break the top 30 this season. She is ranked outside the top 70 in all of her stats aside from GIR (.661, 59th), and Driving Average (251.4 T64), so she’ll need to imrpove everywhere to make more cuts, and earn more money. She has nearly practically set herself up to have decent status for next year, but she’ll definitley look to securing her place in the top 90.
2nd on 2008 DFT Money List
96th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $64,766
Best Finish: T10 Wegmans
Mindy, who has struggled with some injury problems in 2009 has only made three cuts this season. However, when she’s made the cut she has finished in the top 30 both. Mindy is teetering on the edge, and is close but not quite at the top 90 line. She wasn’t able to break 80 in the first round at the Safeway and will have to regroup for this week in Canada. Aside from having one of the best sand save percentages in 2009 (.571, 3) she has struggled nearly everywhere in 2009. Mindy’s transition to the big show hasn’t been as smooth as I had predicted, but when she’s on, she’s good, and hopefully she can get on a roll before the end of the season.
17th on the 2008 DFT Money List
101st on the 2009 LPGA Money List: $57, 432
Best Finish: T33 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic
Chella was one stroke away from upping her cuts in a row streak to 5 this week at the Safeway Classic, had it not been for a late birdie for Stacy Lewis, she’d be looking a pretty decent streak for herself. Unfortunately she’s been unable to break the top 30 barrier so far this year, and has pretty average stats. Her best being her driving acuracy of 72.9% (42nd) likely offset by the fact that she only averages 244 yards off the tee. Chella’s not a strong player, so she’ll need to be as accurate as possible, but she’s really only one top 30 finish away from jumping into the top 90, so if she can just buckle down and be more accurate she could make a bit of a leap, as it’s fairly bunched up down here.
Sarah Jane Smith (Kenyon)
3rd on the 2008 DFT Money List
131st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $18,520
Best Finish: T39 SBS Open
Rookie in 2006
Sarah Jane’s wedding bliss hasn’t translated to bliss on the golf course and for a player who was a rookie four seasons ago she has not been able to use her experience for any solid results on the golf course. She made the cut in her first two events of the seasons, but has only made one other cut since. Sarah Jane ranks very low in almost every major stat, with her only bright spot is her 250.5 yard driving average. Sarah Jane will need to improve every aspect of her game if she wants to avoid Q-school this year.
78th on 2008 DFT Money List
151st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $3,989
Best Finish: T57 J Golf Phoneix LPGA International
Jeehae was one of the most surprising players who received high priority status at 2009 Q-School, and hasn’t been able to translate the same success on the tour this season. It’s may not be a big surprise, as Jeehae struggled on the DFT last year. Lee has already done something that Violeta took all season last year to do, which was make a cut, in her third event of the season. In the beginning of the year Lee’s M.O. was to have two similiar mediocre rounds. As of late she’s had one decent to okay round, and one round in the 80s. She hasn’t been able to get two solid rounds back to back yet, and if she’s able to have one strong finish it might give her the confidence to catapult herself into the top 90. She has one of the most interesting, if not inspiring stories of all the players on the tour, and really hope she can pull off something big by year’s end. She came out of nowhere at Q-School, maybe she can pull the same thing off here.
So thre you have it, those are the six players that I was curious about at the start of the seasons. M.J. Hur’s win was a huge surprise, and I am equally shocked by how poorly Sarah Jane Smith has done so far in 2009. I am a big fan of both Mindy Kim and Jeehae Lee and hope that they can turn it around before season’s end.
Regardless of all that, they have all shown flashes of good play, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these ladies retain a high priority for 2010. Hopefully the rough starts to a lot of their seasons won’t hold them back as they look to finish strong in 2009.
With the second round of the Safeway Classic nearly complete, there are 16 players anxiously awaiting the finishes of Lisa Strom & Kristy McPhereson (playing the 9th and 18th holes, both their last, respectively). If either of them bogeys it will push the cutline up to +1 giving them a chance to play on Sunday. To miss the cut at T71 has gotta be brutal. Notables of this group of 16 players include Laura Davies (who bogeyed her last hole of the day, and three of her last four holes, a group ahead of McPhereson), Monday qualifier amateur Ayaka Kaneko, and tournament winners this season Pat Hurst, In-Kyung Kim, and Catriona Matthew. IK birdied 16 and 18 to give her a chance to make the cut, while Katherine Hull birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to also finish at +1. On the flip side Johanna Mundy & Alison Hanna-Williams both finished double bogey-bogey on 17 and 18 to fall below the cut line.
As I wrote that paragraph Stacy Lewis has birdied the 8th (her 17th) to go above the cutline, meaning Lewis, McPhereson, or Strom need to bogey the 18th to allow those players to make the cut.
Onward to players who will absolutely make the cut and be a factor tomorrow. On top of the leaderboard after 36 holes is McDonlad’s LPGA Champion and rookie Anna Nodqvist. The stauesque Swede had 5 birdies and 2 bogeyes for a 69, good enough for a one stroke lead over Evian Masters Champion Ai Miyazato (68) and Seon Hwa Lee (70).
Two veterans hoping to make the Safeway their first top 10 of the year are Michele Redman (T4, -8) & 1st round leader Beth Bader (T6, -7) who offset her three bogies on her front nine with four birdies on the back, before disaster struck in the form of a double bogey on the 15th. Who knows, maybe one of these vets can steal the show tomorrow.
With 26 players within 6 strokes of the lead, and the fact that birdies come in bunches here this week, this tournament is still up for grabs. Perhaps the two unheralded Thais in the field Russy Gulyamanitia and the alternate for Paula Creamer’s withdrawl Pornanong Phatlum could really shock the field. Russy, who has been nearly invisble after opening the season last year with a runner up at the SBS Classic, was 7-under on the day through 12 holes, despite having two bogies coming in, she still is T-9 at -6. Phatlum, making her LPGA debut on American soil (she played in the HSBC Masters earlier this year, but for some reason that money was not counted as official), followed up her opening 71 with a bogey free 68, and is T15. If she can snag a top 10 she’ll get into the field next week I beleive.
Anna Rawson double bogeyed the 17th, giving the players currently T71 a fighting chance. McPhereson birdied and Strom parred, all their hopes rely on Rawson and Lewis at this point. Anna just birdied the 18th, so Lewis, who just jumped out of the T71, can put the axe on the cutline by parring the 9th.
Lewis did finish by parring the 9th, which means 16 players have missed the cut at +1 finishing a devasting T71.
Se Ri Pak withdrew from the tournament earlier today, after her opening round 69. Hope it’s not serious Se Ri!
I’ve made no attempts to hide my odd fascination for Violeta Retamoza’s 2008 season. Violeta earned her card by finishing in the top 5 of the 2007 Futures Tour Money list, and had exempt status for the 2008 LPGA season. She performed badly, one of the worst seasons by an exempt player in recent memory. She missed all, but one cut, and in the one cut she did make, at the Longs Drugs, she finished last, 7 strokes behind her nearest competitors, and 34 strokes worse then the winner, In-Kyung Kim.
I thought it might be interesting to see how Violeta’s 2007 stats compared to the top players from 2008, to see if any of them are likely to befall a tough 2009 campaign a la Violeta.
In 2007, Violeta Retamoza won once, finished in the top 10 six times, made 16 out of 17 cuts, and had a scoring average of 72.76.
Jin Young Pak………17…..0…….8….17…71.56
All of these ladies have better stats then Violeta, although M.J. has eerily similiar stats. Both finished 4th on the money list, made 16 out of 17 cuts, and had one win. M.J. did have two more top 10s and a scoring average 1/2 a stroke better though.
IMO, none of these ladies are the likely candidates to befall Violeta’s state. Some other FT alums from 2008 may be a better bet… such as
Note that despite Chella Choi’s 17th place finish on the DFT money list, she still had a better stroke average then Violeta.
The best bet out of all the players Category 11 or above to likely have a Retamoza type season (or a Riko Higashio type season if you go back another year) is Jeehae Lee. Jeehae broke 70 more time during the final qualifying school tournament (twice) then she did in her 16 events on the DFT in 2008 (she fired a 69 once).
It’ll be interesting to see just how well the Yale grad will fare next year.