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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who's Number Two?

There's no question that Yani Tseng is Numero Uno in the women's game. (And no, I have no idea how to say "Number One" in Taiwanese. I just call her the Empress.) But nobody seems to agree on who the second-best women's player is.

Well, it looks like a battle is shaping up. Just as Yani has separated herself from the rest of the pack, two of the other ladies are also separating themselves from the rest. Here's the Top 5 according to the Rolex Rankings for September 12th, along with their current points average:
  1. Yani Tseng, 16.63
  2. Suzann Pettersen, 11.97
  3. Cristie Kerr, 11.87
  4. Na Yeon Choi, 9.16
  5. Jiyai Shinn, 8.89
Na Yeon actually dropped .02 points this week and Jiyai will probably drop some more due to injury time. So it looks to be a battle between Suzann and Cristie.

Suzann's picCristie's picIn a text-in poll Morning Drive conducted Monday morning, Suzann was the popular choice. I have to admit that I don't understand that at all. It's not that I think Suzann isn't capable -- far from it. But for whatever reason, nobody seems to believe in Cristie.

Has no one noticed that Kerr has been in the Top 10 of the Rolex Rankings for 387 consecutive weeks? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that over 7 years? Sounds to me like Cristie's got a bit more staying power than Suzann has had.

I'll grant you that Suzann has two LPGA wins this year while Cristie has none. (Suzann also has an LET win this year.) But Suzann was in that boat last year when Cristie had 2 LPGA wins -- 1 a major -- and Suzann had none. That does happen, after all. But last year we kept talking about how Suzann was right there, what with 11 Top5s, which proved she hadn't lost her game. How has Cristie done this year without a win?

So far, Cristie has 9 Top5s while Suzann only has 2. (I'm not counting Suzann's wins in that total, of course.) Like Suzann last year, Cristie is fighting her putter.

On this year's money list, Cristie's about $200,000 ahead of Suzann. As I said, Cristie missed one cut; beyond that, she has played one more tournament than Suzann. That $200k is nearly a winner's check, however.

In the majors, Suzann has 1 Top5 and Cristie has 2. Suzann and Cristie tied for 3rd at the LPGA Championship, then Cristie had a solo 3rd at the U.S. Women's Open. Suzann did make the cut in all 4 majors while Cristie missed one, but Cristie still finished ahead of Suzann at the British.

Granted, none of this proves Cristie will come out on top. The two are nearly the same age -- Cristie's about 3 1/2 years older -- but both are at that age normally considered to be a player's prime. Suzann does have a few more injuries to contend with, and that could pose a problem in the future.

But the general consensus is that Yani needs an American rival to really rev up the ratings... and whether people like it or not, it's not likely to be Paula Creamer, currently at #8 and over 9 points back, or Michelle Wie, who's at #12 and a point behind Paula.

You can say what you like, but I expect Cristie to get her putting sorted out soon enough. And when she does, I suspect she'll be the one to give Yani a run.

And then she might not be Number Two at all.

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