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.

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"you can't make harmony, when everyone is singing the same note."

 

Lang Leads By 1

In 2005, Brittany Lang was a 20 year old rising junior at Duke playing in her first U.S. Women’s Open Championship. There Lang (along with fellow amateur Morgran Pressel) took the LPGA by storm nearly winning the event, before finishing T2 two strokes behind Birdie Kim. After the finish Lang quickly turned pro.

5 years later Lang returns to the top of the U.S. Women’s Open after being the only player to break 70 at Oakmont Country Club. 5 birdies and 3 bogeys led to her opening round 69, pretty good numbers considering she was only averaging 229 yards off the tee, only hit 8 fairways and 11 greens. Since her magical finish in 2005, Lang has gone 2 for 4 in made cuts at the U.S. Women’s Open with her best finish being a T31 in 2008.

Looking to do one better then Lang’s open debut is amateur Kelli Shean who turned in an impressive 1-under 70 to share second place with Amy Yang, M.J. Hur, and Inbee Park. Shean is a rising senior at the University of Arkansas. Shean impressed in her LPGA debut last year at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship where she finished T27 as a sponsor’s exemption.

Inbee Park looks to be finally shaking off the U.S. Open curse that afflicted her since her win in 2008. Park has had a phenomenal start to her JLPGA career (winning once in 2010), and has had 6 top 10s in 2010, and has made nearly $500,000, which is almost double what she made in all of 2009.

Amy Yang had an impressive career in Australia and the LET, and has been one of the best players on the tour in 2010. Yang is 13th on the money list and has had two top-10 finishes thus far.

2nd year member M.J. Hur has had a pretty good season in 2010 as well, coming off the heels of her successful rookie campaign that saw become a Rolex First Time Winner. Hur is in the top 20 on the money list and has two top 10s as well.

Of the 14 players at 1-over and T-8 only two of them have wins on the LPGA in 2010. #1 player in the world Cristie Kerr and KLPGA member Hee Kyung Seo.

The scoring at Oakmont was nothing drastically worse like expected. The big story at the bottom of the leaderboard is Michelle Wie’s opening round of 82, which had 3 double bogeyes, and no birdies. 

Shin Leads (duh!) Rookie of the Year

If you added Anna Nordqvist + Michelle Wie’s points together, they would still not have enough to overtake Jiyai Shin for Rookie of the Year. What a season.

Also, do you think the rookies ranked 4-6, Mika Miyazato, Vicky Hurst, or Stacy Lewis might switch seasons with 7th ranked M.J. Hur who earned a victory at the Safeway Classic?

Should a win mean more in this ranking?

Category Nines Revisited

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.

M.J. Hur
4th on DFT Money List
32nd 2009 LPGA Money List: $330,511
Best Finish: 1st - Safeway Classic
2009 Rookie

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!

Vicky Hurst
1st on 2008 DFT Money List
55th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $161,920
Best Finish - T5 Corning Classic
2009 Rookie

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.

Mindy Kim
2nd on 2008 DFT Money List
96th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $64,766
Best Finish: T10 Wegmans
2009 Rookie

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.

Chella Choi
17th on the 2008 DFT Money List
101st on the 2009 LPGA Money List: $57, 432
Best Finish: T33 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic
2009 Rookie

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.

Jeehae Lee
78th on 2008 DFT Money List
151st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $3,989
Best Finish: T57 J Golf Phoneix LPGA International
2009 Rookie

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.

M.J. Who? M.J. Hur Wins in a Playoff

In an exciting final round 2009 Rookie M.J. Hur outlasted Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman in a two-hole playoff to claim her first tour victory. Down the stretch it was a question of who wanted to win as a series of errant shots, missed putts, and opportunities turned a would be blowout into one of the most exciting finishes so far in 2009.

When Suzann Pettersen reached the 13th she was in the lead by 3 at -15, with M.J. Hur & Michele Redman leading the charge at -12. M.J. Hur, playing a couple groups ahead of Pettersen and Redman hit her approach close on 14, and sunk the ensuing birdie putt to get within two of Suzann. M.J. continued her stealth iron play and hit another close shot at 15. In the meantime on the 14th, Suzann was on the green after her tee shot to the par 3, but was too agressive with her birdie putt and ran it by. In the short 3 footer coming back, Suzann missed it. Unbeknownst to Hur who now had a putt to tie Suzann. She did not make a solid putt and remained one back of Suzann.

Pettersen on the 15th hole, a par 5, laid up into a decent position after two shots. With a wedge in hand Suzann did the unthinkable, she badly flew the green actually going over the t.v. tower. After dropping to get eye line relief, Suzann hit her pitch short of the green. From there she hit a poor chip, and was finally on the green in 5. Unable to convert her putt for bogey Suzann had to settle for double. Dropping her a stroke behind M.J. Hur.

Meanwhile Hur had another birdie chance at the 16th, of similiar length as the one she had on 15. Hur, perhaps feeling rookie nerves of being in contention, again missed the putt. She would settle for pars at the driveable par-4 17th, and the tough as nails 18th, and posted the -13 number.

Suzann and Michele went to the 220 yard par-4 17th, and both missed the green with their tee shots. Michele, up first, missed hers badly to the left and had a buried lie in the primary rough. Suzann also missed left, but was a bit better, and had a clean lie in the bunker. Michele’s shot was a doozy, buried lie, green running away toward the creek. We had just seen Christina Kim’s pitch run past the hole, off the green, and nearly in the hazard. Michele showing her wily veteran skills, played a perfect delicate pitch that played off the ridge behind the pin, rolling just a few feet away. Suzann hit another good shot, a bit outside of Michele’s setting up two birdie putts for a share of the lead. They both sank to tie M.J. Hur at -13.

Quietly the final group on the course had two players at -11 when they got to the tee at the birdieable 17th. Ai Miyazato and Seon Hwa Lee both had birdie putts on the 17th hole. Ai made hers, Seon Hwa did not. Ai could seemingly birdie the 18th and get into the playoff.

That was if, Redman and Pettersen did not birdie the final hole. The 18th was playing very difficult on this day, and had only 2 birdies and that point in the day. Redman, after a picture perfect drive, hit hers short of a ridge, but directly on line to the pin. Suzann had the opposite fate, she pushed her driver far right, and it bounced off the rocks in the hazard, and landed in the rough. She layed up from there, and hit her third shot to 10-15 feet of the pin. Redman, didn’t quite hit her putt hard enough, but left an easy tap in to ensure there was a playoff. Pettersen had a test par putt, and found the nerve to sink it to make it at least a 3-way playoff.

Miyazato, needing birdie to get into the playoff, hit her tee shot wayward right, and it landed in the primary rough. She missed the green on her approach, made an aggressive pitch, then two-putted finishing at -11 and tied 4th with Seon Hwa Lee and Michelle Wie.

Pettersen had a 2-0 record in playoffs, M.J. Hur was playing in her first LPGA playoff, and Redman had not been in a playoff in 20 years I beleive. Who would settle their nerves?

All three of them had picture perfect drives all in line with eachother. Redman’s approach landed in a very similiar place to her shot in regulation, if not a few feet further away and to the left. Hur was long and to the left and in the rough. Suzann played a beautiful approach and had a 8-12 footed for birdie. Suzann’s was the only shot that looked makeable. Hur left her chip about 5 feet short, and after wrestling with those type of putts down the stretch, definitley left herself some work. Redman putted to 2 feet, marked, and it set the stage for Pettersen.

Suzann must have been the favorite to win out of these three, winning 5 times in 2007, and never losing in a playoff. Here she had a ten footer to claim the sweet feeling of victory. She missed to the left. Hur steadied herself and sank her 6-footer, but Redman missed her two footer. A sad end to a player who really fought hard this weekend, you never want to miss a chance to win like this.

Pettersen & Hur went to the 17th and hoped to get on the green and one. Hur again was short and to the left, but left a doable pitch shot to get a birdie. Pettersen hit one of the worst shots I’ve ever seen her hit, and she was short and to the right, luckily not rolling into the creek that was short of the hole. Her shot was that poorly hit that it was short of the hazard.

Hur pitched to 6 feet, leaving an uphill birdie putt. Pettersen’s approach nearly bounced into the cup, but rolled 20 feet past. Pettersen gave it a good aggressive go for birdie, but it wasn’t good enough. Hur with the tournament in her hands, finally sank a short birdie putt giving her her first career win.

She is the third rookie to win on tour this year after Jiyai Shin & Anna Nordqvist, and made only her 7th cut this year. We’ll see if Hur can continue an ascension upward on the LPGA, or if she’ll fall into Eunjung Yi land.

Christina Kim got up to -12 at one point, but struggled down the stretch. Seon Hwa Lee never got it going today, and even though finished at T-4, was not really a factor. Neither was Anna Nordqvist.

Russy Gulyanamitta had a surprise top 20 finishing T-12 at -7. Her compatriot Poranong Phatlum, had a hole in one, but struggled mightily dropping all the way down to 60th after a 78. Jeong Jang joined Gulyanamitta at T-12, and Jennifer Rosales notched a top 20 finishing at -6 and T-17.

It was adorable watching Haeji Kang try to spray M.J. Hur with champagne after the finish. After not being able to get the spray action she wanted, and Hur fleeing for safety in the gallery, Kang settled for dumping the champagne all over her. Hur teared up hugging her parents, and spoke solid English in a post tournament interview.

Will any of the 2009 Category 9ers be a Violeta Retamoza?

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.

PLAYER…………EVENTS..WINS..TOP 10..CUTS…..AVG
Vicky Hurst………..13…..4…….9….13…70.28
Mindy Kim………….17…..3……11….17…71.12
Sarah-Jane Kenyon…..10…..1…….6….10…70.97
M.J. Hur…………..17…..1…….8….16…72.16
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

PLAYER…………EVENTS..WINS..TOP 10..CUTS…..AVG
Chella Choi………..17…..0…….4….16…72.47
Jeehae Lee…………16…..0…….0…..8…74.98

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.