Michelle Wie’s 2013 season is off to a rough start

Michelle Wie is a very popular LPGA player.  She really made her name as an amateur and was viewed as the golden girl who would help rejuvenate the struggling brand of women’s golf when she turned pro in 2005 (note: her LPGA Rookie year is 2009.)  Fast forward to 2013 and Michelle Wie is still a popular player on the LPGA tour but she has not achieved the “greatness” bestowed on her as an Amateur.

In the press this week Michelle Wie spoke about all the hard work she had done during the off-season — working on every part of her game.  Unfortunately at the Women’s Australian Open this week Wie missed the cut by 2 strokes or 1-over par.  That might not seem bad but it is awful compared to the leader (after two rounds) at 15-under par.  So Wie starts her 2013 year where she ended her 2012 season — missing cuts.

2012 really was a horrible year for Wie. She played 23 tournaments and missed the cut 10 times.  We could state this in a positive way and say she made the cut (or played the weekend and earned money) 13 out of 23 times (or 56% of the time) but that is still awful.

Let’s look at some statistics for the last three years.

Chart of Stats for Wie

Michelle Wie has never been a great putter and in 2012 she had no confidence.  She would stand over a putt for an eternity and still miss it.  Wie has always been long off the tee (she is ranked 4 in overall driving distance) but being long does not matter when you look at Wie’s greens in regulation (GIR) and driving accuracy statistics which are poor.  In general, the statistics I have looked at indicate that many of the top players have GIRs between 72% and 76%. The top players also have putting averages below 30 (the really great putter’s have averages between 25 to 27).  Let’s look at Wei’s statistics against two other American stars.

Stats Comparision ChartOne last comparison (for fun) — Michelle Wie was in the LPGA rookie class of 2009.  Another member of the 2009 class, Jiyai Shin.  Shin won the Women’s Australian Open this week beating Yani Tseng (#1 Ranked women golfer in the world) and Lydia Ko (#1 ranked amateur golfer in the world).  Shin is also the current RICOH Women’s British Open Champion.  In 2012, Shin played 18 LPGA tournaments and made the cut in all 18 events. In 2010, Shin was the #1 player in the world rankings for 16 weeks.  Shin is a serious contender in 2013.

Will Michelle Wie ever achieve the success of, Jiyai Shin, her LPGA rookie year classmate?  Will Wei regain some of the glory of her amateur career?  Will she find the success so many people expected of her since turning pro?  Only time will tell but it crossed my mind today that maybe time is running out for Wie to achieve “greatness.”  Given Wie is only 23 years old that might seem like a ridiculous statement but the LPGA is full of young talented players so it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Wie may have missed her time to dominate.  My hope for Wie is that she finds her game soon.

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LPGA Q-School Stage III Results

The grind of Q-school is over for the ladies and congratulations to the women that got their LPGA cards for 2013!  For anyone following my blog you know that I have been following the LPGA Q-school since stage I.  After stage II I reported that I would be watching four players in Stage III:

  1. Moriya Jutanugam (Thailand) – One of the top amateur players in women’s golf.
  2. Brooke Pancake – Winner of the 2012 Collegiate Women Sports Award for Golf.
  3. Anya Alvarez – A player from the 2012 Big Break Atlantis.
  4. Christina Kim  –  LPGA Professional that has been on tour for 10 years, is very popular, well-known on Twitter, and struggling with her game.

Note: On September 4, 2012, I wrote an overview of the LPGA Q-School.

LPGA Stage III Q-School Results

Stage III of the LPGA Q-school was held Nov 28 to Dec 2, at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida.  They played two courses, the Champion & Legends.  The full results give the scores for all five rounds and the final positions. The top 20 get full-status on the LPGA tour for 2013 and players finishing 21-45 get conditional status (so they may get to play a few tournaments but not many).  If you want to see a good list of the 20 players to secure their cards read the Golf Week Article.  Here are how the four I followed finished:

  1. Moriya Jutanugam – Tied 1st place, total score 347 (13 under par). As a winner she will forever have the title of medalist honors for Q-School!  This is a good omen given that past medalists include Stacy Lewis (2012 Player of the Year). I am not surprised she won since she has been one of the top amateur players this year.  But, she did not end with a solo win.  Jutanugam shares the medalist honors with Rebecca Lee-Bentham (who was a rookie on the LPGA in 2012 but needed to go to Q-school to retain her LPGA status).
  2. Brooke Pancake – Tied 11th, total Score 356 (four under par). I’ve been following Pancake since her last year in college (because I liked her name and now I am a fan of her game).  It will be fun to watch her during her rookie year in 2013.
  3. Anya Alvarez – Tied 54th, total score 363 (four over par). Unfortunately for Alvarez she did not get her tour card.  Shooting 75, and 75 the first two days was not a great start and even with a 69 on day three she did not recover and shot 74, and 70 to finish out her week.
  4. Christina Kim – Tied 39, total score 361 (one over par). Kim only had one good day during the week.  Round 2 she shoot a 67 (but the rest of her scores were 72,73,74,75 – not in that order).  But Kim fares better than Alvarez because of her career she will play with sponsor exemptions too.  I wasn’t sure how sponsor exemptions work so I tweeted a question to Stina Sternberg, Senior Editor, Golf Digest, covering women’s golf.  As Sternberg explains, Kim won a conditional card (for finishing in T39) but that does not help a lot.  But she gets in to at least 6 tournaments on sponsor exemptions; and can play in USWO (United States Women’s Open) qualifiers to get into the US Women’s Open.
Image of Twitter Conversation with Stina Sternberg

Twitter Conversation with Stina Sternberg

Results for Big Break Alum

Anya Alverez was not the only Big Break Alum in Stage III.  There were two other players at Q-school from past Big Break shows.

  1. Kim Welch – Tied 11th, total score 356 (4 under par).  Welch was the winner on Big Break Ka’anapali in 2008 so it just shows how hard it is to make it on to the LPGA tour.
  2. Kelly Jacques – Tied 17th, total score 357 (3 under par).  However, Jacques (from Big Break Ireland 2011) had a more heartbreaking end to her Q-school.  Jacques ended in seven-player tie for the final four spots in the top-20 so she had to go into a playoff.  Unfortunately she did not win one of the 4 spots and only got conditional status but it is still a great accomplishment.

Final Thoughts

The LPGA Q-school is great golf drama and I wish it had been televised on the Golf Channel.  I know it is expensive to televise golf but I think the final round would have been exciting for golfers to watch on TV.  At a minimum, I would have liked the Golf Channel to have more video from each day.  After all, the Golf Channel did show clips from the PGA Q-school on Golf Central each day.  Perhaps next year the Golf Channel will give air time to LPGA Q-school.  Given that the PGA is changing their process for next year and getting rid of Q-School for the PGA tour — maybe, just maybe the LPGA will get the spotlight next year.

LPGA (Q-School) Qualifying Tournaments Overview

One of the rights of passage for golfers that want to be “on tour” is Q-school (or as the LPGA likes to call it, LPGA Qualifying Tournaments.)  The LPGA kicks-off the 2012 tournaments today, September 4th with the first of three stages.  The three stages culminate in December with the final event determining which golfers get “LPGA Membership” for the 2013 golf season.

Overview of the LPGA Q-School Tournament process:

If you want to learn all the details you can go to the LPGA website and download the PDF’s.  The information below is a basic overview for those interested in the stages of qualifying.

Stage I – Takes place from September 4 to September 7, 2012 and is 72-holes of stroke play competition. The total field is 240 players.  The players must be 18-years-old by January 1, 2013 (the age requirement to play on the LPGA tour unless the player petitions for a special exemption.)  The players also pay a $1,500 entry fee to compete.  The top 60 plus ties will advance to Stage II.

Stage II – Takes place from October 9 to October 12, 2012 and is 72-holes of stroke play competition.  The total field is 216 players.  This stage includes the players advancing from stage I and players from the Symetra Tour, Class A LPGA members (they are not on tour right now), Rolex-Ranked players, and CN (Canadian Tour) Qualifiers.  The entrance fee is $1,500 for the Stage 1 qualifiers and $3,000 for the other players.  The top 70 plus ties will advance to Stage III.

Stage III – Takes place November 28-December 2, 2012 and is 90-holes of stroke play competition (with a 72-hole cut.)  This stage will include the players from Stage II, Symetra tour (money leaders that did not get their card as part of the Volvik Race for the Card ) and current LPGA tour players that need to improve their status. The goal of all the players from stage three is to get full-status to be eligible for all LPGA events.  The entrance fee for Stage III is $2,500.  The top players will get LPGA “membership” (number of members and status are TBD) and all other players will get Symetra Tour status for 2013.

It is important to note that player status ties to the LPGA Player Priority List which is “used to fill all Standard Eligibility Tournament fields.”  For example, in the 2012 season, the top 80 players on the money list from 2011 have first priority to play in tournaments.  The next group on the “priority list” is the top 20 players in career earnings money list (e.g. in 2012 only one player has this status, Laura Davies).  The priority list has many status categories and the lower the priority status the less likely a player will get into a tournament.  You can access the current 2012 list at the LPGA website, Player drop down menu will provide a link to the Priority List PDF.

Players to watch in Stage 1:

If you are a golf geek, you will recognize the names of the players that I will be following in stage I of Q-school.  They are Cheyenne Woods, Jaye Marie Green, and Brooke Pancake.

(1) Cheyenne Woods is the niece of Tiger and so everyone will be watching to see if she makes the LPGA tour.  Woods turned professional in May 2012 and won her first event on the Suncoast Series where the top prize money was $3,000.  The Suncost series is a mini-tour.  Think of the Suncost mini-tour as equivalent to Double-A minor league baseball — a step below the Triple-A league (e.g. in women’s golf the Symetra Tour).  Of course, the “major league” equivalent in women’s golf is the LPGA.

(2) Jaye Marie Green is an amateur that I followed during the US Women’s Amateur.  Green’s claim to fame is that she came in second behind Lydia Ko.  Green is ranked 5th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).  Considering how “hot” Ko is right now, I was impressed with how Green competed in the final day of match play at the US Women’s Amateur.

(3) Brooke Pancake caught my attention when she clinched a final putt to help her college team, Alabama, win the NCAA National title. Pancake also won the 2012 Honda Sports Award in golf, given annually to the nation’s top female collegiate golfer.   I will admit that Pancake’s personal story is very moving. In her senior year in high school her father committed suicide and it is impressive that she has done so well after such a tragic loss. Pancake turned professional in June 2012 and plays on the Symentra tour.

Golf Channel Big Break Atlantis Players at Q-School

If you are a Big Break fan, you will be happy to know that a number of Golf Channel cast members from Big Break Atlantis are playing in Stage I.  The six players to watch in Stage I are: Shannon Fish, Natalia Ghilzon, Meghan Hardin, Allison Micheletti, Christina Stockton, and Kelly Villarreal.

The winner of Big Break Atlantis, Marcela Leon; and the 2nd place finisher (and fan favorite), Selanee Henderson are already listed in the preliminary field for the Stage II tournament. Gloriana Soto and Anya Alvarez are also listed in the Stage II Preliminary field.