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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lee Westwood & Jiyai Shin Make a Lovely Couple

Alright, just hear me out here...

I was just checking out the Mizuno Classic leaderboard, where Jiyai Shin is currently leading by one (as I'm writing this, that is) and it got me to thinking how similar her game is to Lee Westwood's, who is just one off the lead on the WGC-HSBC Champions leaderboard.

Crazy, you say? Well, here's a quick comparison of their stats -- Jiyai's is from the LPGA site and Lee's from the EuroTour site:

Photo of Jiyai Shin from LPGA.comJiyai Shin:
  • World Ranking: #1 for 1 week
  • Scoring Average: 70.16
  • Wins in 2010: 1
  • Driving Distance: 238.3 yards
  • Driving Accuracy: 78%
  • Greens in Regulation: 70.3%
  • Sand Saves: 62.5%
  • Putts per GIR: 1.75

Photo of Lee Westwood from 2009 SkySports articleLee Westwood:
  • World Ranking: #1 for 1 week
  • Scoring Average: 70.58
  • Wins in 2010: 1
  • Driving Distance: 295 yards
  • Driving Accuracy: 68.69%
  • Greens in Regulation: 68.94%
  • Sand Saves: 33.33%
  • Putts per GIR: 1.74

That's just amazing to me! Yes, there are some differences:
  • Lee is much longer relative to the other men than Jiyai is relative to the other women;
  • Jiyai is much more accurate than Lee (that's a trade-off I think you'd expect, given the distance difference), and
  • Jiyai is about twice as good out of the sand as Lee (that was a bit of a shocker, but Lee has always said that his short game is the weakest part of his game).
However, I think the likenesses of our two most recent World #1 players are quite striking.
  • Similar scoring average
  • Same number of wins this year
  • Good drivers
  • Similar GIR percentages
  • Similar Putts per GIR (I couldn't find a total Putts per Round for Jiyai, but I suspect those figures would be pretty close as well)
Is this more than a coincidence? The #1 male and female players in the world are both extremely consistent players. Neither has a particularly flashy game, yet each is capable of going low at any given time -- for example, both shot a first round in the mid-60s this week. Both drive the ball pretty accurately (although each has days when they can't hit a fairway... and usually at the worst possible time), both are pretty deadly with approach shots, and both are good putters. In fact, more times than not it's a balky putter than derails them.

Perhaps fans prefer the flash and dash of swashbuckling players, but it appears that the meek (or at least the consistent player who just plods along and wears his or her opponents out) are inheriting the top honors. I wonder what this bodes for the future of golf? What a pair to top the World Rankings!

But as well-matched as they appear to be, Lee's wife and kids would probably have other thoughts about it. So let's not start rumors, ok?


  1. And you forgot to add that both have lost time to injuries this year.

    To that I would add that Ji Yai Shin at 22 years old is 15 years younger, has won 7 LPGA events (1 major) in her career to 2 PGA victories (0 majors) for Lee Westwood. She has 26 international victories. In addition, she has 13 top 10 finishes on the LPGA this year (Westwood has had 13 PGA top 10's since 2006) and 11 of those were in the top 5 at LPGA events. And unlike Lee Westwood, she has moved her primary tour to the LPGA while Lee Westwood has mainly keeps a European Tour schedule. And she has learned to give her interviews in English, her secondary language.

    Lorena Ochoa retired less than 24 hours before Ji Yai Shin overtook her in the Rolex Rankings. The PGA is probably thankful Tiger didn't follow suit.

    While Lee Westwood and Ji Yai Shin may both be consistant, Ji Yai Shin has been consistant at a higher level.

  2. Oh - way to go Mike - Westie's a married man and now you're connecting him with Shin ? This is what got Tiger in trouble !! :-D

  3. SM -- I won't disagree that Shin has been more consistent and for a longer time, but give Westwood credit. Not many players lose their game the way he did and make it back to the top.

    As for you, Court -- SHHHH! I told you not to start rumors! Can't you read? ;-)

  4. Not just more consistant for a longer time (which is impressive for a 22 year old) but her play this year has been better than Westwood. Eleven LPGA top 5's (plus two 6th place finishes) this year plus a win on 3 different tours. Hard to call that a plodder.

  5. A plodder by comparison. You have to admit, that's one of the "quietest" great years you're likely to see.

    And her mom was killed in 2004, you know. I don't care what her birth certificate says, she's much older than 22.

    BTW, did you include her win in Japan this week? Added to Evian, the J Golf Series MetLife, and the Cyber Agent Ladies, that's 4 wins. And since 2 of those were co-sanctioned, she's won on 4 tours -- LPGA, KLPGA, JLPGA, and LET.

    She's still got time to nab one in Australia if she hurries. ;-)

  6. I will agree that that is one of the "quietest" great years you are likely to see. Don't know how quiet a result that would be if it was from "Ye who must always be named."

    No I didn't include her win in Japan in that post. Didn't see the need to pad her stats with unofficial results. When I made the post she was two up with two to play but Yani Tseng is capable of a birdie-birdie finish.

    As for her age, I know the death of a parent at an early age can make one more mature, but I don't think it changes her age. She was still in high school in 2005 so 22 is not out of the question. Soul Sisters lists her birthday in April 2008. A January 2008 article in Australia gives her age as 19 and refers to her a a teenager. I can't imagine it would be off by that much. It would make more sense to represent herself as older than she is to help her turn pro sooner to support her family. Her mother's insurance money was invested in her golf career so I'm sure there was more incentive to turn pro as soon as possible. This isn't the Chinese gymnastics team and golf has a much larger window of opportunity than gymnastics. I believe that Ji Yai Shin is mature beyond her years.

    Ji Yai Shin also has 2 wins on the Ladies Asian Tour. She's been close in Australia with a 2nd. She lost the 2008 Women's Australian Open in a playoff with Karrie Webb.

    I appreciate the time and effort to do a blog. Sure beats the single AP story that runs most everywhere else.

  7. Her maturity is what I'm talking about. She's got more perspective than many players in their 30s; I think that may be her greatest weapon out there.

    The Japan event is official; Evian and the Mizuno Classic give her two LPGA wins this year, as well as LET and JLPGA wins. The LPGA works co-sanctioned events differently from the PGA. For example, Molinari can't claim PGA membership because he won the WGC-China this week, but it would have been an official win had PGA member Ernie Els won it. The LPGA simply says the Mizuno Classic is official... period.

    And thanks for the kind words. I hope you're keeping check with Mostly Harmless and Hound Dog LPGA (I have links in my sidebar). They not only give summaries of the ladies tournaments (often daily) but sometimes do live blogging of the events.

  8. By being "official", I meant completed. The event wasn't over with when I posted. I know that it was an official LPGA event. The event counts towards her standings on both tours as opposed to her other JLPGA results this year.

    I do check with Mostly Harmless and Hound Dog. Otherwise, how would I know that CG is secretly leveraging his 401K in an effort to purchase the Michelle Wie tournament worn shirt and capri pants that was on auction for charity over at