The Best on the LPGA without a Major, September 2014 Edition

With the Evian Championship starting in a couple of days, it’s about time I updated my July 2014 survey of who actually has had the best careers on the LPGA among those who have not yet won a major.  Lexi Thompson was ranked 3rd when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Michelle Wie was ranked 4th when she won the U.S. Women’s Open, but Mo Martin came out of practically nowhere at Royal Birkdale, so who knows who on this list may graduate from it by Sunday?

In what follows, I’ll be relying strongly on my career rankings spreadsheet and major rankings spreadsheet, but the question is how to combine the ranking systems.  Is it better to have a proven record of winning over the course of your LPGA career but not yet have converted that into a major win or is it better to have a history of near-misses in majors?  To me, that’s a judgment call, based on individual careers, so what I’ll do is simply add together the points players have earned in each system to sort players into rough groups, then adjust rankings within each group based on head-to-head comparisons between the players in each of them.  I’ll really fine-tune the future-oriented version of this post when I make my Evian Championship picks for the PakPicker competition at Seoul Sisters.com tomorrow.

[Note:  the numbers in parentheses following each player’s name represent total LPGA victories/KLPGA-JLPGA-LET victories, points in my major ranking system (rank), points in my career ranking system (rank).]

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (4/2, 828 [#18], 3333 [#3]).  She’s the universal favorite for 2014 Rookie of the Year, #1 in the LPGA’s Club 36 (3-to-6-time winners), and already has done surprisingly well in majors, most notably in the Evian Championship last year and the Wegmans LPGA Championship this year.  Here are her best finishes in LPGA majors:

  • Kraft Nabisco Championship:  T25 (2013)
  • Wegmans LPGA Championship:  3rd (2014)
  • U.S. Women’s Open:  T15 (2014)
  • Ricoh Women’s British Open:  T17 (2012)
  • Evian Championship:  2nd (2013)

In January, I wrote, “I’d be shocked if she didn’t improve on her peak performances in 4 of the 5 LPGA majors in 2014.  No pressure, eh?”  So far she’s 2 for 4, but she’ll need to win the Evian to make it 3 for 5.

2. Ai Miyazato (9/17, 668 [#27], 2075 [#10]).  She’s #1 in the Class of 2006, #4 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 in LPGA’s Club 79 (those with 7 to 9 wins on tour).  Her best finishes:

  • KNC  T15 (2007)
  • LPGA:  T3 (2006 and 2010)
  • USWO:  T6 (2009 and 2011)
  • WBO:  T3 (2009)
  • Evian:  T15 (2013) 

Of her 15 JLPGA victories, 2 came in majors, the Japan Women’s Open in 2005 and the Konica Minolta Cup in 2006.  Despite her struggles with her short game this season, her career record justifies her #2 position.  I think her game is finally starting to round into shape.  Let’s see if coming back to a place she’s won twice at can kick-start her year!

3. In-Kyung Kim (3/2, 972 [#15], 1701 [#12]).  She’s #2 in the Class of 2007, #5 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #6 in the LPGA’s Club 36.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  2nd (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2010)
  • USWO:  2nd (2013)
  • WBO:  T3 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Although she has a better record in majors than many major winners, she’s had even more trouble closing the deal in them than in regular tournaments.  I have a feeling that once she finds the next oasis, it’ll make finding ones after it that much easier.  Why not at Evian?

The Contenders

4. Amy Yang (1/4, 742 [#26], 1245 [#19]):  She’s #5 in the Class of 2008, #8 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #1 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  2nd (2012)
  • WBO:  4th (2011)
  • Evian:  T67 (2013)

Although Yang won a KLPGA major in 2011 and finished 2013 hot, she hasn’t been all that impressive in 2014 thus far.  But odds are she’ll improve on last year’s finish at Evian by a lot!

5. Azahara Munoz (1/2, 422 [#40], 1278 [#18]).  She’s #2 in the Class of 2010, #7 in the New Blood Generation, and #2 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T4 (2014)
  • USWO:  T19 (2010)
  • WBO:  T12 (2014)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Even though she’s underperformed in majors relative to her overall career record, she’s on quite a roll in them this season.  In January, I wrote, “I expect her to set career high-water marks in most all of the 2014 majors.” 1 more good major would make her 4 for 5 in 2014!

6. Hee Kyung Seo (1/11, 522 [#32], 1170 [#24]):  She’s #1 in the Class of 2011, #5 among the LPGA’s New Blood, and #6 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T34 (2011)
  • USWO:  2nd (2011)
  • WBO:  T5 (2010)
  • Evian:  T64 (2013)

In addition to her strong performances in most every LPGA major, she won 3 KLPGA majors in 2009.  When she returns from maternity leave, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she pulled a Catriona Matthew!

7. Mika Miyazato (1/2, 441 [#39], 1121 [#25]):  She’s #5 in the Class of 2011, #6 among the LPGA’s New Blood, and #5 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2011)
  • LPGA:  T2 (2012)
  • USWO:  5th (2011)
  • WBO:  4th (2012)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Both her JLPGA victories have come at the most important major on their schedule, the Japan Women’s Open, so she’s another player I’d say is due to do even better in LPGA majors, except for the fact that her short game has been atrocious in 2014.

8. Hee Young Park (2/6, 442 [#38], 1065 [#27]).  She’s #4 in the Class of 2008, #11 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 among the LPGA’s 2-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T14/14th (2011 and 2012)
  • USWO:  T9 (2009)
  • WBO:  T2 (2013)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

As much as she improved on her record in LPGA majors in 2013, I expected her to do even better in 2014.  Her last chance to do so is this week!

9. Lizette Salas (1/0, 294 [#51], 1198 [#21]).  After breaking through for her 1st career LPGA victory this year, Salas not only leapfrogged 3 players I predicted would do it before her (Caroline Hedwall, Chella Choi, and Carlota Ciganda), she’s become a real threat to do it again before Amy Yang and Azahara Munoz, my current top 2 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Plus she’s done great in majors already for someone ranked #3 in her Class of 2012:

  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T25 (2012)
  • USWO:  T15 (2011)
  • WBO:  6th (2013)
  • Evian:  T11 (2013)
She’s coming back from injuries and seems close to regaining her top form.  Let’s see if she make it happen at Evian.

10. Angela Stanford (5/0, 620 [#31], n.a. [n.r.]).  She’s the only LPGA veteran with a strong enough record to make it into this category.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T3 (2010)
  • LPGA:  T4 (2004)
  • USWO:  T2 (2003)
  • WBO:  T5 (2014)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)

At the start of the year, you might have been tempted to think “what have you done for me lately?” when it comes to Stanford’s record in LPGA majors, but you’d have been dead wrong.  She has 8-straight top-20 finishes in the KNC (including a T7 this year), she’s finished in the top 35 in the LPGA Championship in 11 of her last 12 starts (with another top 5 in 2009), she got a top 10 in the USWO in 2005 and top 5s in 2 of her last 4 starts, and she’s got top 25s in the WBO in 5 of her last 6 starts (including a career-best finish this year).  I’m sure if I extended my career ranking system back to the Class of 2001 and the LPGA generation that bears her name, she’d be even higher on this list!

Quantum Leap Candidates

11. Jessica Korda (3/0, 260 [#56], 1173 [#23]).  As the newest member of the LPGA’s Club 36, I’d put her at #5 or #6 in that category if I were redoing the ranking today, and I’d probably be ranking her higher than #3 in the Class of 2011 and #10 in the New Blood generation, as well.  She posted her best finish in 5 consecutive LPGA majors until missing the cut at Pinehurst.

  • KNC:  T24 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T40 (2014)
  • USWO:  T7 (2013)
  • WBO:  T5 (2014)
  • Evian:  T37 (2013)

She’ll have to play well at Evian to extend her new streak to 3!

12. Brittany Lang (1/0, 506 [#34], 896 [#32]).  She’s #6 in the Class of 2006, #16 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #8 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T6 (2006)
  • LPGA:  T18 (2008)
  • USWO:  T2 (2005)
  • WBO:  2nd (2011)
  • Evian:  T57 (2013)

The KNC is definitely her most consistent major, as she finished in the top 21 between 2006 and 2010, but even there she’s been inconsistent of late.  Still, she can contend out of nowhere, as she did as an amateur at the USWO in 2005 and as a pro in 2010 and 2013, as well as at the 2011 WBO.  At the very least, she ought to improve on her Evian record this season.

13. Seon Hwa Lee (4/3, 245 [#58], 1173 [#22]).  Even with her pronounced slump of recent years, her career stats actually remain quite strong (she was still #4 in the very strong Class of 2006 at the start of 2014 and #10 in the Tseng Dynasty).  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  5th (2008)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2008)
  • USWO:  T25 (2007)
  • WBO:  T14 (2008)
  • Evian:  DNP (2013)

You can tell how bad her slump has been by the fact that she hasn’t made a cut in a major since the KNC in 2012 and has missed it in 8 of 11 starts in majors dating back to 2010.  Even worse, she failed to even qualify for 9 of the last 11 majors (including every single one this year).  Imagine how much higher she’d be ranked if she hadn’t fallen off the career cliff and instead been simply mediocre the last few seasons!

14. Jee Young Lee (1/1, 403 [#42], 950 [#31]).  She’s #5 in the Class of 2006, #15 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #11 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  And that’s despite a slump that’s been only a little shorter and shallower than her fellow Lee in the ’06ers.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T13 (2007)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2007)
  • USWO:  7th (2007)
  • WBO:  T2 (2007)
  • Evian:  WD (2013)

She’s failed to finish 8 of the last 13 majors she started and missed out on qualifying for 4 others during that stretch, which dates back to 2011.  Even though she’s started to pull out of her slump in regular tournaments, she hadn’t cracked the top 30 in an LPGA major since the 2010 USWO, until she got a T16 at Mission Hills this year.  Evian is her last shot at turning things around this year.

15. Chella Choi (0/0, 375 [#45], 882 [#33]).  She’s now the top player on the LPGA without a win, #6 in the Class of 2009, and #11 in the New Blood generation.  And she’s been pretty strong in every major:

  • KNC:  T16 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  T13 (2011)
  • WBO:  T10 (2012)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)
Let’s see if she can improve on her great finish last year at Evian and put to rest the ridiculously overblown criticism she’s been facing for what seems like an isolated mistake.


16. Beatriz Recari (3/1, 192 [#68], 1057 [#28]):  She’s #1 in the Class of 2010 (but not when I update my ranking), #8 in the New Blood Generation, and #3 in Club 36.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T19 (2013)
  • USWO:  T27 (2011)
  • WBO:  T17 (2014)
  • Evian:  T9 (2013)

You can tell how well she’s been playing in the last few seasons by how recent her career bests in majors have been, but she’s still underperforming in majors compared to her achievements in regular tournaments.  Like Salas, she’s bouncing back from injuries, but she has the added bonus of helping Team Spain win the International Crown.

17. Julieta Granada (1/0, 359 [#47], 795 [#37]).  She’s flying up my rankings with top 6s in her last 2 LPGA majors.  At #7 in the Class of 2006, #18 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #13 among the tour’s 1-time winners at the start of the season, she’s on track to be in a better place at its end.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2011)
  • LPGA:  T6 (2014)
  • USWO:  T10 (2007)
  • WBO:  T5 (2014)
  • Evian:  T57 (2013)

It’s looking like she’ll establish her 3rd-straight career-best finish in an LPGA major this week!

18. Caroline Hedwall (0/5, 278 [#53], 869 [#35]).  Despite fine play at the International Crown, she’s still in a deep slump in stroke play events.  Her best finishes in majors aren’t that great (besides at the KNC), but they aren’t that bad, either:

  • KNC:  T3 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T37 (2013)
  • USWO:  T31 (2013)
  • WBO:  T27 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Maybe playing in Europe will be just what the doctor ordered for her!

19. Meena Lee (2/4, 237 [#59], 872 [#34]).  The veteran has been playing very good golf in 2014.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T29 (2006)
  • LPGA:  T6 (2011)
  • USWO:  T5 (2014)
  • WBO:  T11 (2013)
  • Evian:  T31 (2013)
She couldn’t quite manage career bests in Birkdale or Pittsford, but I have a feeling one is coming at Evian.

20. Jenny Shin (0/0, 271 [#55], 759 [#40]).  This Class of 2011er has been blossoming in recent years.  Many of her best finishes have come this season:

  • KNC:  T39 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T13 (2014)
  • USWO:  T10 (2014)
  • WBO:  T17 (2012 and 2013)
  • Evian:  T31 (2013)

I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes it 4 for 5 in 2014 at the end of this week!

The Best of the Rest

21. Sandra Gal (1/0, 274 [#54], 726 [#42]).
22. Kristy McPherson (0/0, 409 [#41], 565 [#51]).
23. Gerina Piller (0/0, 223 [#61], 740 [#41]).
24. Jennifer Johnson (1/0, 222 [#62], 681 [#44]).
25. Pornanong Phatlum (0/2, 210 [#63], 694 [#41]).
26. Caroline Masson (0/1, 330 [#49], 546 [#53]).
27. Ilhee Lee (1/0, 211 [#63], 638 [#45]).
28. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (0/0, 232 [#60], 594 [#47]).
29. Haeji Kang (0/0, 199 [#65], 537 [#54]).
30. Carlota Ciganda (0/3, 158 [#73], 582 [#48]).
31. Austin Ernst (1/0, 56 [#79], 620 [#46]).
32. Jane Park (0/0, 184 [#73], 458 [#56]).
33. Ji Young Oh (0/0, 77 [#78], 575 [#50]).
34. Mi Jung Hur (1/0, 55 [#80], 563 [#52]).
35. Chie Arimura (0/13, 187 [#70], 420 [#60]).
36. Vicky Hurst (0/0, 143 [#74], 474 [#55]).
37. Katie Futcher (0/0, 249 [#57], 365 [#65]).
38. Ayako Uehara (0/3, 187 [#70], 376 [#62]).
39. Natalie Gulbis (1/1, 486 [#35], n.a. [n.r.]).
40. Candie Kung (4/0, 483 [#37], n.a. [n.r.]).

So who would you add to this list, and where?  How would you suggest reordering it?  What do you think of my way of combining my 2 ranking systems?

The Best in LPGA Majors Since 2000, September 2014 Edition

The Best to Join the LPGA Since 2005, September 2014 Edition

It’s time to welcome Austin Ernst to the top 50 of my ranking of the best to join the LPGA since 2005, which I last updated in mid-August, before the Wegmans LPGA Championship.  For the full rundown, check out my spreadsheet.  The first number in brackets following each active player’s name and point total represents how many points they have gained or lost since my last ranking; the 2nd, how many they have gained or lost in 2014.

Simply the Best
1. Ya Ni Tseng (3702) [-45] [-222]

The Contenders
2. Ji-Yai Shin (3376)
3. Lydia Ko (3333) [-5] [n/a]
4. Stacy Lewis (3110) [-14] [+408]
5. Inbee Park (3090) [+227] [+365]
6. Na Yeon Choi (2705) [+17] [-119]
7. Paula Creamer (2678) [-17] [-17]
8. So Yeon Ryu (2606) [+221] [+142]

The Next Best
9. Lexi Thompson (2076) [-36] [+234]
10. Ai Miyazato (2075) [-23] [-143]
11. Michelle Wie (1906) [+/-0] [+549]

Quantum Leap Candidates
12. In-Kyung Kim (1701) [+14] [-58]
13. Anna Nordqvist (1688) [+18] [+241]
14. Shanshan Feng (1680) [-10] [+57]
15. Mirim Lee (1491) [-16] [n/a]

16. Brittany Lincicome (1474) [+35] [-13]

17. Morgan Pressel (1298) [-8] [-57]
18. Azahara Munoz (1278) [+41] [+97]
19. Amy Yang (1245) [-15] [+6]
20. Song-Hee Kim (1226)
21. Lizette Salas (11198) [-17] [+229]
T22. Seon Hwa Lee (1173) [+/-0] [-51]
T22. Jessica Korda (1173) [-23] [+311]
24. Hee Kyung Seo (1170) [+/-0] [-89]
25. Mika Miyazato (1121) [-21] [-106]
26. Angela Park (1114)
27. Hee Young Park (1065) [-10] [-123]
28. Beatriz Recari (1057) [-19] [-107]
29. Eun-Hee Ji (1046) [+2] [-1]
30. Sun Young Yoo (1013) [-9] [-52]
The Best of the Rest
31. Jee Young Lee (950) [-12] [-58]
32. Brittany Lang (896) [-7] [-41]
33. Chella Choi (882) [+22] [+100]
34. Meena Lee (872) [-2] [+21]
35. Caroline Hedwall (869) [-21] [-128]
36. Mo Martin (840) [+6] [~+436]
37. Julieta Granada (795) [+4] [+41]
38. Line Vedel (772) [+101] [n/a]
39. Momoko Ueda (765)
40. Jenny Shin (759) [-4] [+121]
41. Gerina Piller (740) [-1] [+48]
42. Sandra Gal (726) [-7] [-4]
43. Pornanong Phatlum (690) [+2] [+86]
44. Jennifer Johnson (681) [-11] [-7]
45. Ilhee Lee (638) [+7] [-88]
46. Austin Ernst (620) [n/a] [n/a]
47. Teresa Lu (606)
48. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (594) [-11] [-69]
49. Carlota Ciganda (582) [+18] [-186]
50. Ji Young Oh (575) [-7] [-37]

Ernst’s victory caused her to bump Kristy McPherson out of the top 50.  Ernst is the 65th player from the Classes of 2005 and up whose careers I track in detail.  I hope to move backwards to include Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen, both in the Class of 2003, in my end-of-the-year ranking.

The Best in LPGA Majors Since 2000, August 2014 Edition

With the 4th LPGA major of 2014 just hours away, it’s time I unveiled my updated ranking of the top performers in LPGA majors since the start of the 2000 season (excepting the du Maurier, which last counted as an LPGA major that season).  What’s different than the April 2014 and June 2014 and July 2014 editions?  The 1st 3 majors of 2014 (duh!).  Please join me in welcoming Mo Martin to the top 50!

You can find more details on my spreadsheet, which is basically a modification of my career ranking system of the LPGA’s rookie classes from 2005 to 2014, but in a nutshell its core idea is to reward both consistency and peak performances, with a special bonus for being able to win more than one major and an even bigger bonus for winning the same major more than once (it’s kind of like Yahtzee that way!).  The formula I use to put it all together results in the following ranking, with the number of points gained or lost since the last ranking [in brackets] following each player’s point total (in parentheses):

Simply the Best

1. Annika Sorenstam (3034)
2. Ya Ni Tseng (2030) [-54]
3. Karrie Webb (1948) [-23]
4. Inbee Park (1831) [-3]

The Contenders

5. Stacy Lewis (1613) [-30]
6. Lorena Ochoa (1569)

The Next Best

7. Ji-Yai Shin (1423) [-40]
8. Suzann Pettersen (1406) [+62]
9. So Yeon Ryu (1392) [-49]
10. Se Ri Pak (1342) [-16]
11. Cristie Kerr (1295) [-17]
12. Na Yeon Choi (1142) [-34]
13. Paula Creamer (1117) [-20]

Quantum Leap Candidates

14. Michelle Wie (976) [-20]
15. Morgan Pressel (975) [-17]
16. In-Kyung Kim (972) [-26]
17. Lexi Thompson (865) [-31]
18. Catriona Matthew (814) [-11]
19. Grace Park (795)
20. Eun-Hee Ji (779) [+25]
21. Shanshan Feng (769) [+140]
22. Amy Yang (765) [-20]
23. Juli Inkster (762) [+/-0]
24. Anna Nordqvist (736) [-4]
25. Ai Miyazato (682) [-12]
26. Brittany Lincicome (678) [-12]
27. Angela Park (664)
28. Mo Martin (631) [+564]
29. Angela Stanford (626) [+31]
30. Song-Hee Kim (621)
31. Lydia Ko (580) [-44]
32. Jeong Jang (527) [-6]
33. Hee Kyung Seo (522) [+/-0]
34. Brittany Lang (514) [-8]

The Best of the Rest

35. Sun Young Yoo (487) [-11]
36. Natalie Gulbis (486) [+/-0]
37. Candie Kung (478) [-7]
38. Hee Young Park (453) [-9]
39. Mika Miyazato (453) [-7]
40. Kristy McPherson (418) [-9]
41. Jee Young Lee (413) [-7]
42. Chella Choi (385) [-11]
43. Lindsey Wright (380) [+/-0]
44. Christina Kim (372) [-4]
45. Azahara Munoz (369) [+9]
46. Hee-Won Han (353) [+/-0]
47. Caroline Masson (312) [-24]
T48. Lizette Salas (307) [+/-0]
T48. Julieta Granada (307) [+38]
50. Meaghan Francella (296) [+/-0]

It’s interesting to see who performs better in majors than regular events and vice versa–although as you can see from the big movers, there’s a bit more volatility on this list than in my career ranking system.

The Best to Join the LPGA Since 2005, August 2014 Edition

It’s about time I welcomed Mo Martin, Mirim Lee, and Line Vedel to the top 50 of my ranking of the best to join the LPGA since 2005, which I last updated in early July, before the Women’s British Open.  For the full rundown, check out my spreadsheet.  The first number in brackets following each active player’s name and point total represents how many points they have gained or lost since my last ranking; the 2nd, how many they have gained or lost in 2014.

Simply the Best
1. Ya Ni Tseng (3747) [-12] [-177]

The Contenders
2. Ji-Yai Shin (3376)
3. Lydia Ko (3338) [+192] [n/a]
4. Stacy Lewis (3124) [-34] [+422]
5. Inbee Park (2863) [+36] [+138]
6. Paula Creamer (2695) [-22] [+/-0]
7. Na Yeon Choi (2688) [-36] [-136]

The Next Best
8. So Yeon Ryu (2385) [+39] [-79]
9. Lexi Thompson (2112) [-73] [+270]
10. Ai Miyazato (2098) [-19] [-120]
11. Michelle Wie (1906) [-20] [+549]

Quantum Leap Candidates
12. Shanshan Feng (1690) [+55] [+67]
13. In-Kyung Kim (1687) [-7] [-72]
14. Anna Nordqvist (1670) [-8] [+223]
15. Mirim Lee (1507) [n/a] [n/a]

16. Brittany Lincicome (1439) [-10] [-48]

17. Morgan Pressel (1306) [-11] [-49]
18. Amy Yang (1260) [+6] [+21]
19. Azahara Munoz (1237) [-8] [+56]
20. Song-Hee Kim (1226)
21. Lizette Salas (1215) [+/-0] [+246]
22. Jessica Korda (1196) [+26] [+334]
23. Seon Hwa Lee (1173) [+/-0] [-51]
24. Hee Kyung Seo (1170) [+/-0][-89]
25. Mika Miyazato (1142) [-6] [-85]
26. Angela Park (1114)
27. Beatriz Recari (1076) [+4] [-88]
28. Hee Young Park (1075) [-10] [-113]
29. Eun-Hee Ji (1044) [+12] [-3]
30. Sun Young Yoo (1022) [-6] [-43]
The Best of the Rest
31. Jee Young Lee (962) [-7] [-46]
32. Brittany Lang (903) [-6] [-34]
33. Caroline Hedwall (890) [-23] [-107]
34. Meena Lee (874) [-5] [+23]
35. Chella Choi (860) [-14] [+78]
36. Mo Martin (834) [n/a] [~+430]
37. Julieta Granada (791) [+21] [+37]
38. Momoko Ueda (765)
39. Jenny Shin (763) [-7] [+125]
40. Gerina Piller (741) [-12] [+49]
41. Sandra Gal (733) [+8] [+3]
42. Jennifer Johnson (692) [-12] [+4]
43. Pornanong Phatlum (688) [-6] [+84]
44. Line Vedel (671) [n/a] [n/a]
45. Ilhee Lee (631) [-11] [-95]
46. Teresa Lu (613)
47. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (605) [-19] [-58]
48. Ji Young Oh (582) [-7] [-30]
49. Kristy McPherson (568) [-8] [-36]
50. Carlota Ciganda (564) [+/-0] [-204]

The newbies bumped Mi Jung Hur, Haeji Kang, and Caroline Masson out of the top 50.  With Harukyo Nomura and Thidapa Suwannapura also joining my overall ranking, I now track 64 players’ careers in detail.  I hope to move backwards to include Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen, both in the Class of 2003, in my end-of-the-year ranking.

The Best on the LPGA without a Major, July 2014 Edition

With the Women’s British Open starting in a couple of days at Royal Birkdale, it’s about time I updated my June 2014 survey of who actually has had the best careers on the LPGA among those who have not yet won a major.  Lexi Thompson was ranked 3rd when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Michelle Wie was ranked 4th when she won the U.S. Women’s Open, so let’s see if we can keep the streak going this week!

In what follows, I’ll be relying strongly on my career rankings spreadsheet and major rankings spreadsheet, but the question is how to combine the ranking systems.  Is it better to have a proven record of winning over the course of your LPGA career but not yet have converted that into a major win or is it better to have a history of near-misses in majors?  To me, that’s a judgment call, based on individual careers, so what I’ll do is simply add together the points players have earned in each system to sort players into rough groups, then adjust rankings within each group based on head-to-head comparisons between the players in each of them.  I’ll really fine-tune the future-oriented version of this post when I make my WBO picks for the PakPicker competition at Seoul Sisters.com.

[Note:  the numbers in parentheses following each player’s name represent total LPGA victories/KLPGA-JLPGA-LET victories, points in my major ranking system (rank), points in my career ranking system (rank).]

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (3/2, 624 [#28], 3146 [#4]).  She’s the universal favorite for 2014 Rookie of the Year, #1 in the LPGA’s Club 36 (3-to-6-time winners), and already has done surprisingly well in majors, most notably in the Evian Championship last year.  Her best finishes:

  • Kraft Nabisco Championship:  T25 (2013)
  • Wegmans LPGA Championship:  T17 (2013)
  • U.S. Women’s Open:  T15 (2014)
  • Ricoh Women’s British Open:  T17 (2012)
  • Evian Championship:  2nd (2013)

In January, I wrote, “I’d be shocked if she didn’t improve on her peak performances in 4 of the 5 LPGA majors in 2014.  No pressure, eh?”  She couldn’t do it at Mission Hills, but she did it at Pinehurst.  Let’s see how she handles Royal Birkdale!

2. Ai Miyazato (9/17, 694 [#24], 2117 [#10]).  She’s #1 in the Class of 2006, #4 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 in LPGA’s Club 79 (those with 7 to 9 wins on tour).  Here are her best finishes in LPGA majors:

  • KNC  T15 (2007)
  • LPGA:  T3 (2006 and 2010)
  • USWO:  T6 (2009 and 2011)
  • WBO:  T3 (2009)
  • Evian:  T15 (2013) 

Of her 15 JLPGA victories, 2 came in majors, the Japan Women’s Open in 2005 and the Konica Minolta Cup in 2006.  Despite her struggles with her short game this season, her career record justifies her #2 position.

3. In-Kyung Kim (3/2, 998 [#14], 1694 [#12]).  She’s #2 in the Class of 2007, #5 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #6 in the LPGA’s Club 36.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  2nd (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2010)
  • USWO:  2nd (2013)
  • WBO:  T3 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Although she has a better record in majors than many major winners, she’s had even more trouble closing the deal in them than in regular tournaments.  I have a feeling that once she finds the next oasis, it’ll make finding ones after it that much easier.  She won in England last week.  Can she make it back-to-back victories?

The Contenders

4. Amy Yang (1/4, 785 [#20], 1254 [#17]):  She’s #5 in the Class of 2008, #8 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #1 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  2nd (2012)
  • WBO:  4th (2011)
  • Evian:  T67 (2013)

Although Yang won a KLPGA major in 2011 and finished 2013 hot, she hasn’t been lighting it up in 2014 as of yet, but she’s coming off a very good performance at Pinehurst.

5. Hee Kyung Seo (1/11, 522 [#32], 1170 [#22]):  She’s #1 in the Class of 2011, #5 among the LPGA’s New Blood, and #6 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T4 (2012)
  • LPGA:  T34 (2011)
  • USWO:  2nd (2011)
  • WBO:  T5 (2010)
  • Evian:  T64 (2013)

In addition to her strong performances in most every LPGA major, she won 3 KLPGA majors in 2009.  When she returns from maternity leave, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she pulled a Catriona Matthew!

6. Azahara Munoz (1/2, 360 [#44], 1245 [#18]).  She’s #2 in the Class of 2010, #7 in the New Blood Generation, and #2 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T8 (2011)
  • USWO:  T19 (2010)
  • WBO:  T19 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Even though she’s underperformed in majors, she has a strong overall record and is on something of a roll again.  In January, I wrote, “I expect her to set career high-water marks in most all of the 2014 majors.”  She did at the KNC, but couldn’t at Pinehurst.  Let’s see about Royal Birkdale!

7. Mika Miyazato (1/2, 460 [#38], 1148 [#24]):  She’s #5 in the Class of 2011, #6 among the LPGA’s New Blood, and #5 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2011)
  • LPGA:  T2 (2012)
  • USWO:  5th (2011)
  • WBO:  4th (2012)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Both her JLPGA victories have come at the most important major on their schedule, the Japan Women’s Open, so she’s another player I’d say is due to do even better in LPGA majors, except for the fact that her short game has been atrocious in 2014.

8. Hee Young Park (2/6, 462 [#37], 1085 [#26]).  She’s #4 in the Class of 2008, #11 in the Tseng Dynasty, and now #2 among the LPGA’s 2-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T7 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T14/14th (2011 and 2012)
  • USWO:  T9 (2009)
  • WBO:  T2 (2013)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

As much as she improved on her record in LPGA majors in 2013, I expect her to do even better in 2014.  She couldn’t do it at Mission Hills or Pinehurst.  It’ll be a tall order for her to do it at Royal Birkdale, that’s for sure!

9. Lizette Salas (1/0, 307 [#47], 1215 [#20).  After breaking through for her 1st career LPGA victory this year, Salas not only leapfrogged 3 players I predicted would do it before her (Caroline Hedwall, Chella Choi, and Carlota Ciganda), she’s become a real threat to do it again before Amy Yang and Azahara Munoz, my current top 2 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Plus she’s done great in majors already for someone ranked #3 in her Class of 2012:

  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T25 (2012)
  • USWO:  T15 (2011)
  • WBO:  6th (2013)
  • Evian:  T11 (2013)
I’m sure she was very disappointed she had to withdraw at Pinehurst; I’m looking for her to come out strong at Royal Birkdale.

Quantum Leap Candidates

10. Angela Stanford (5/0, 595 [#30], n.a. [n.r.]).  She’s the only LPGA veteran with a strong enough record to make it into this category.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T3 (2010)
  • LPGA:  T4 (2004)
  • USWO:  T2 (2003)
  • WBO:  T13 (2002)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)

You might be tempted to think “what have you done for me lately?” when it comes to Stanford’s record in LPGA majors, but you’d be dead wrong.  She has 8-straight top-20 finishes in the KNC (including a T7 this year), she’s finished in the top 35 in the LPGA Championship in 10 of her last 11 starts (with another top 5 in 2009), she got a top 10 in the USWO in 2005 and top 5s in 2 of her last 4 starts, and she’s got top 25s in the WBO in 4 of her last 5 starts.  I’m sure if I extended my ranking system back to the Class of 2001 and the LPGA generation that bears her name, she’d be even higher on this list!

11. Brittany Lang (1/0, 522 [#32], 909 [#32]).  She’s #6 in the Class of 2006, #16 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #8 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T6 (2006)
  • LPGA:  T18 (2008)
  • USWO:  T2 (2005)
  • WBO:  2nd (2011)
  • Evian:  T57 (2013)

The KNC is definitely her most consistent major, as she finished in the top 21 between 2006 and 2010, but even there she’s been inconsistent of late.  Still, she can contend out of nowhere, as she did as an amateur at the USWO in 2005 and as a pro in 2010 and 2013, as well as at the 2011 WBO.  Maybe she’ll find something at Royal Birkdale!

12. Seon Hwa Lee (4/3, 245 [#55], 1173 [#21]).  Even with her pronounced slump of recent years, her career stats actually remain quite strong (she was still #4 in the very strong Class of 2006 at the start of 2014 and #10 in the Tseng Dynasty).  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  5th (2008)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2008)
  • USWO:  T25 (2007)
  • WBO:  T14 (2008)
  • Evian:  DNP (2013)

You can tell how bad her slump has been by the fact that she hasn’t made a cut in a major since the KNC in 2012 and has missed it in 8 of 11 starts in majors dating back to 2010.  Even worse, she failed to even qualify for 6 of the last 8 majors (including this year’s KNC and USWO).  Imagine how much higher she’d be ranked if she hadn’t fallen off the career cliff and instead been simply mediocre the last few seasons!

13. Jee Young Lee (1/1, 420 [#40], 969 [#30]).  She’s #5 in the Class of 2006, #15 in the Tseng Dynasty, and #11 among the LPGA’s 1-time winners.  And that’s despite a slump that’s been only a little shorter and shallower than her fellow Lee in the ’06ers.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T13 (2007)
  • LPGA:  T10 (2007)
  • USWO:  7th (2007)
  • WBO:  T2 (2007)
  • Evian:  WD (2013)

She’s failed to finish 7 of the last 11 majors she started and missed out on qualifying for 4 others during that stretch, which dates back to 2011.  Even though she’s started to pull out of her slump in regular tournaments, she hadn’t cracked the top 30 in an LPGA major since the 2010 USWO, until she got a T16 at Mission Hills this year.  Let’s see if she can keep turning things around over the rest of 2014.

14. Jessica Korda (3/0, 181 [#68], 1170 [#22]).  As the newest member of the LPGA’s Club 36, I’d put her at #5 or #6 in that category if I were redoing the ranking today, and I’d probably be ranking her higher than #3 in the Class of 2011 and #10 in the New Blood generation, as well.  She posted her best finish in 5 consecutive LPGA majors until missing the cut at Pinehurst.

  • KNC:  T24 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T49 (2013)
  • USWO:  T7 (2013)
  • WBO:  T25 (2013)
  • Evian:  T37 (2013)

She’ll have to play well at Royal Birkdale to start a new streak!

15. Beatriz Recari (3/1, 167 [#69], 1072 [#27]):  She’s #1 in the Class of 2010 (but not when I update my ranking), #8 in the New Blood Generation, and #3 in Club 36.  Her best finishes:

  • KNC:  T25 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T19 (2013)
  • USWO:  T27 (2011)
  • WBO:  T26 (2012)
  • Evian:  T9 (2013)

You can tell how well she’s been playing in the last few seasons by how recent her career bests in majors have been, but she’s still underperforming in majors compared to her achievements in regular tournaments.  And in 2014 that’s extended to regular-season events, as well, no thanks to a truly horrific short game thus far.  None of which bodes well for Royal Birkdale.

16. Chella Choi (0/0, 396 [#41], 874 [#34]).  She’s now the top player on the LPGA without a win, #6 in the Class of 2009, and #11 in the New Blood generation.  And she’s been pretty strong in every major:

  • KNC:  T16 (2014)
  • LPGA:  T5 (2013)
  • USWO:  T13 (2011)
  • WBO:  T10 (2012)
  • Evian:  T6 (2013)
T15 at Pinehurst is nothing to sneeze at.  Let’s see what she has up her sleeve for Royal Birkdale!

17. Caroline Hedwall (0/5, 306 [#48], 913 [#31]).  She’s in a deep slump but is due to come out of it soon!

  • KNC:  T3 (2013)
  • LPGA:  T37 (2013)
  • USWO:  T31 (2013)
  • WBO:  T27 (2010)
  • Evian:  T19 (2013)

Playing in Europe may be just what the doctor ordered for this Solheim Cup star!

18. Meena Lee (2/4, 230 [#57], 879 [#33]).  The veteran has been on fire lately, capped off by a great T5 at Pinehurst.

  • KNC:  T29 (2006)
  • LPGA:  T6 (2011)
  • USWO:  T5 (2014)
  • WBO:  T11 (2013)
  • Evian:  T31 (2013)
Let’s see what she has in store for us at Royal Birkdale!

The Best of the Rest

19. Julieta Granada (1/0, 269 [#53], 770 [#36]).
20. Jenny Shin (0/0, 240 [#56], 770 [#35]).
21. Kristy McPherson (0/0, 427 [#39], 576 [#45]).
22. Sandra Gal (1/0, 285 [#51], 725 [#39]).
23. Gerina Piller (0/0, 215 [#60], 753 [#38]).
24. Jennifer Johnson (1/0, 228 [#58], 704 [#40]).
25. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (0/0, 270 [#52], 624 [#43]).
26. Pornanong Phatlum (0/2, 210 [#63], 694 [#41]).
27. Caroline Masson (0/1, 336 [#46], 531 [#50]).
28. Ilhee Lee (1/0, 223 [#59], 642 [#42]).
29. Haeji Kang (0/0, 210 [#61], 552 [#48]).
30. Carlota Ciganda (0/3, 119 [#73], 564 [#47]).
31. Ji Young Oh (0/0, 78 [#76], 589 [#44]).
32. Chie Arimura (0/13, 195 [#66], 459 [#52]).
33. Katie Futcher (0/0, 262 [#54], 370 [#59]).
34. Jane Park (0/0, 163 [#70], 459 [#53]).
35. Mi Jung Hur (1/0, 52 [#78], 566 [#46]).
36. Vicky Hurst (0/0, 143 [#71], 474 [#51]).
37. Ayako Uehara (0/3, 206 [#64], 386 [#58]).
38. Natalie Gulbis (1/1, 486 [#35], n.a. [n.r.]).
39. Candie Kung (4/0, 485 [#36], n.a. [n.r.]).
40. Lindsey Wright (0/0, 380 [#42], n.a. [n.r.]).

So that’s the 3rd edition of my top 40.  Who would you add to this list, and where?  How would you suggest reordering it?  What do you think of my way of combining my 2 ranking systems?

The Best in LPGA Majors Since 2000, July 2014 Edition

With the 3rd LPGA major of 2014 one week away, it’s time I unveiled my updated ranking of the top performers in LPGA majors since the start of the 2000 season (excepting the du Maurier, which last counted as an LPGA major that season).  What’s different than the April 2014 and June 2014 editions?  Just wins in the 1st 2 majors of the season by Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie!

You can find more details on my spreadsheet, which is basically a modification of my career ranking system of the LPGA’s rookie classes from 2005 to 2014, but in a nutshell its core idea is to reward both consistency and peak performances, with a special bonus for being able to win more than one major and an even bigger bonus for winning the same major more than once (it’s kind of like Yahtzee that way!).  The formula I use to put it all together results in the following ranking, with the number of points gained or lost since the last ranking [in brackets] following each player’s point total (in parentheses):

Simply the Best

1. Annika Sorenstam (3034)
2. Ya Ni Tseng (2084) [-55]
3. Karrie Webb (1971) [-23]
4. Inbee Park (1834) [-43]

The Contenders

5. Stacy Lewis (1643) [+73]
6. Lorena Ochoa (1569)

The Next Best

7. Ji-Yai Shin (1463)
8. So Yeon Ryu (1441) [+5]
9. Se Ri Pak (1358) [-16]
10. Suzann Pettersen (1344) [-23]
11. Cristie Kerr (1312) [-18]
12. Na Yeon Choi (1176) [-18]
13. Paula Creamer (1137) [-11]

Quantum Leap Candidates

14. In-Kyung Kim (998) [-24]
15. Michelle Wie (996) [+204]
16. Morgan Pressel (992) [-20]
17. Lexi Thompson (896) [+32]
18. Catriona Matthew (825) [+14]
19. Grace Park (795)
20. Amy Yang (785) [+26]
21. Juli Inkster (762) [new]
22. Eun-Hee Ji (754) [-26]
23. Anna Nordqvist (740) [-26]
24. Ai Miyazato (694) [-15]
25. Brittany Lincicome (690) [-1]
26. Angela Park (664)
27. Shanshan Feng (629) [+1]
28. Lydia Ko (624) [+4]
29. Song-Hee Kim (621)
30. Angela Stanford (595) [-7]
31. Jeong Jang (533)
T32. Brittany Lang (522) [-8]
T32. Hee Kyung Seo (522)

The Best of the Rest

34. Sun Young Yoo (498) [-11]
35. Natalie Gulbis (486) [-8]
36. Candie Kung (485) [-5]
37. Hee Young Park (462) [+6]
38. Mika Miyazato (460) [-13]
39. Kristy McPherson (427)
40. Jee Young Lee (420) [-8]
41. Chella Choi (396) [+9]
42. Lindsey Wright (380)
43. Christina Kim (376)
44. Azahara Munoz (360) [-10]
45. Hee-Won Han (353)
46. Caroline Masson (336) [-19]
47. Lizette Salas (307) [-24]
48. Caroline Hedwall (306) [-11]
49. Meaghan Francella (296)
50. Katherine [Hull] Kirk (295) [-3]

It’s interesting to see who performs better in majors than regular events and vice versa–although as you can see from the big movers, there’s a bit more volatility on this list than in my career ranking system.