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Thrash Talk: LPGA Ups and Downs


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By Cody Thrasher via TheSandTrap.com
The LPGA season is in full swing, and it has definitely seen its ups and downs so far.

tt_title.gifThe ladies of the LPGA Tour are three months into their 2006 season, and there have been a lot of things to talk about so far. The season's first major championship, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, may have produced the best finish of any golf tournament in the world this year. There were a lot of big-name contenders fighting for the victory, including past stalwart Karrie Webb and young guns Natalie Gulbis and Michelle Wie.



The Kraft Nabisco Championship was one of many bright spots for the LPGA this season. However, there have been some disappointments along the way as well. I'm going to break down the early season into the good, bad, and ugly.

The Good
As I mentioned in the opening, the Kraft Nabisco was awesome! Lorena Ochoa had the first major championship in her sights, but a shaky final round nearly took her completely out of the tournament. That was before she eagled the 72nd hole to put herself into a playoff. The eventual winner, Karrie Webb, holed an improbable iron shot from the fairway at the 72nd hole an hour earlier to put the pressure on the final group.



Webb outlasted Ochoa in a playoff, and she looked like the Karrie Webb of the late-1990s. The Kraft Nabisco also saw Natalie Gulbis and Michelle Wie battling it out for the win. Both Gulbis and Wie had their chances to make the playoff, and both came up just short at the 72nd hole. I was cheering for Gulbis to get her first LPGA win, but I'll have to wait even longer.



karrie_webb_kraft-nabisco.jpgThe Kraft Nabisco was the first of two wins for Karrie Webb so far this season. Webb won a little over a week ago at another big event, the Michelob Ultra Open. The win moved her into first on the money list and made her the early front-runner for player of the year. It's nice to see this Aussie getting the job done once again because the talent has always been in place.



Lorena Ochoa may have lost in heartbreaking fashion at the Kraft Nabisco, but it didn't take her long to bounce back in a big way. Ochoa won the Takefuji Classic two weeks later, followed by another victory at the Sybase Classic this past weekend. Ochoa is right behind Webb on the money list and is also right behind her in the player of the year race. It's just a matter of time before she wins her first major championship.



Last on the "good" list is the play of the South Koreans on the LPGA Tour. Out of the 11 tournaments so far, four have been won by South Koreans. This list of winners includes Joo Mi Kim, Meena Lee, Sung Ah Kim, and Mi Hyun Kim. These ladies are giving the rest of the young guns a run for their money, and they should be in contention in some of the majors as the season progresses.



The Bad
Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer were both left off the "good" list for a reason. I am not going to say they have struggled in 2006 because they are both ranked in the top 10 on the money list. That being said, they definitely haven't been as dominant as they were last year. Sorenstam picked up a victory in March, but she had four wins by this time last season. One win is definitely not up to Annika's standards by any means.



Paula Creamer didn't win her first tournament last season until late May, so maybe she is getting ready to break out this year. Going into this season, I fully expected the Pink Panther to be atop the money list from day one. That hasn't been the case, however. Creamer has yet to pick up her first win in 2006, but that probably won't last long due to her determination and talent. In the end, however, a winless Pink Panther doesn't belong on the good list, hence her place here.



Fellow young guns Christina Kim and Morgan Pressel have gotten off to very slow starts as well. Kim has a couple LPGA victories on her resumé, but she hasn't gotten over the hump so far this season. In fact, Kim only has one top-10 finish in ten starts this year. She currently sits in 27th on the money list, so things could be much worse. I expected a great year out of this young gun, not a so-so year.



The bad list concludes with Morgan Pressel. Pressel has become everyone's favorite crybaby in golf. I am a fan of Pressel, but she does seem to go a little overboard at times. The youngster hasn't gotten off to a very fast start in her professional career. Pressel is currently ranked 32nd on the money list, and that number is far below my expectations for her. One top-10 finish in seven starts isn't going to move her up very fast. She needs to get going.



The Ugly
The ugly list isn't a good place to be for any golfer, but unfortunately, it's a reality for a select few in this week's Thrash Talk. The first on the list is Carin Koch. Koch is also one of my favorites on the LPGA Tour, and she also picked up a win last season. This season, however, hasn't been as successful for the Swede. Koch sits in 55th on the money list and hasn't picked up a top-10 finish in nine starts this year.



jennifer_rosales_sbs_open.jpgGrace Park and Jennifer Rosales have also struggled so far in 2006. Park, who finished 34th on the money list a season ago, continues to struggle in 2006 (currently 60th on the money list). The talent has always been there for Park, but the great results haven't been flowing in like I expected. She is ranked outside the top 100 in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. That won't get the job done. Park has zero top-10 finishes in nine starts this year.



J-Ro had a victory already at this time last season, as she won the first LPGA Tour event of 2005. This year has been the complete opposite, and Rosales has struggled mightily out of the gate. J-Ro finished 26th on the money list last year, but she is 60 spots worse than that so far this season (currently 86th). In fact, Rosales hasn't even carded a top-25 finish so far in 2006. The only positive here is that things probably can't get much worse.



Jennifer Rosales would be the season's biggest disappointment if it weren't for Laura Davies' poor performance thus far. Davies has been one of the most consistent performers on the LPGA Tour over the last decade or so, but things have gone terribly so far in 2006. Davies has missed six cuts out of the eight tournaments she has entered, withdrawn from another, and finished in a tie for 66th at the most recent one. Those statistics aren't what we expect to see beside Laura Davies' name, but unfortunately for her, it's the honest truth. Davies is definitely the biggest disappointment on the LPGA Tour so far this season.



The Final Say
The future of the LPGA Tour still looks very bright, but the young golfers like Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, and Morgan Pressel are going to have to start winning tournaments. Creamer won her fair share last season, but she hasn't gotten one yet in 2006. Gulbis has been solid so far, but she still hasn't picked up her first win. Pressel has started slow, and she needs to pick up the pace in a hurry.



Michelle Wie's name wasn't mentioned many times in this article, mostly because she hasn't been a huge part of the LPGA Tour this season. She will be playing in some big tournaments this summer, however, and her name will continue to make waves whenever she tees it up. For the most part, the LPGA Tour has picked up even more steam this season, but it will only improve if the big names continue winning. No disrespect to the Koreans, but they don't drive the ratings by any means. The majority of the fans want to see Sorenstam, Creamer, Wie, Pressel, Kerr, and Gulbis on the top of the leaderboards each week.



That's all I have to say this week, and now it's your turn to let me know what you think. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the LPGA Tour so far in 2006? Was the Kraft Nabisco the best tournament in all of golf so far this year? Finally, how many wins will Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer end up with this season? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in our forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!



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Um, Lorena Ochoa is about $180,000 ahead of Karrie Webb on the money list.

 

I agree with Carin Koch's play being ugly as of late. Today she pulled a 9 iron 30 yards left of the green on a par 3. Even pros hit bad shots, but that was just horrendous. At +4, she will probably miss the cut by a mile.

 

Annika may be burning out. The pressure to win more majors and set the record for most wins must be taking it's toll.

 

I think Grace Park is recovering from severe back problems so her poor play is somewhat understandable.

 

Laura Davies is 43, her play was bound to trail off sooner or later.

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