Sports Outside the Beltway

Oh so close- Lorena Ochoa edges Jiyai Shin for LPGA Player of the Year

After two days of rain that caused Friday’s 2nd round to finish on Monday morning, the rain shortened LPGA Tour Championship was completed today. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist won by two shots over Lorena Ochoa. Kristy McPherson finished in a tie for 3rd with Na Yeon Choi.

The LPGA Tour Championship was the second win of the year for Nordqvist. Nordqvist, who was a rookie at the beginning of the year, won the LPGA Championship in June. Both of Nordqvist’s wins were impressive against stellar fields. She looks to have a very bright future on the tour.Ochoa and Shin

The biggest news today, more than who won the tournament, was the determination of who would be LPGA Player of the Year for 2009. For most of the summer, Jiyai had the lead and looked posed to win POY and Rookie of the Year honors. Something only Nancy Lopez has done previously. However 2006-08 POY Lorena Ochoa after slumping through much of the summer, got hot once more starting about late to Mid-September. Coming into this week’s tournament, Shin had a 8 point lead over Ochoa.

That meant the only sure way Ochoa could be player of the year was with a win this weekend. She could also get the honor with a 2nd or 3rd place finish but she would need help from Shin.

Going into today’s final round, Shin looked to be in perfect position to be POY. She was in solo second place, one shot behind leader Kristy McPherson. Ochoa was tied for 3rd. Shin hasn’t been real sharp for the last two months, but still a top 5 looked inevitable for her.

Ochoa finished 2nd today. She did so in spite of a poor tee shot on 17(a par 3) that left her with a horrendous lie in the sand trap. A lie that caused her to not even get her 2nd shot on the green. Ochoa’s 3rd ran over ten feet past the hole but she drained the putt for bogey. Ochoa then birdied 18 which all but guaranteed her a 2nd place finish.

Shin never got it rolling today. She played the front nine in one over par and didn’t make a birdie till the 11th hole. Then Shin made five more straight pars. As she prepared to tee off on the 17th hole, Shin was in a 4-way tie for 5th. All 3 of the players Shin was tied with, were through for the day. That meant Shin needed to par the last two holes. Should she take even one bogey, Shin would fall to a tie for 8th. That would leave her with one less point than Ochoa in the POY race.

Shin, like Ochoa, hit her tee shot at 17 into a sand trap. The good news, Shin didn’t have a bad lie like Ochoa. The bad news- She had a very awkward stance. Like Ochoa, Shin didn’t get her sand shot on the green. Her 3rd shot didn’t go in the hole, but Shin didn’t have to make a lengthy bogey putt like Ochoa. Still she had bogied the hole and had fallen to a tie for 8th. A birdie at 18 would now be needed if Shin was to be POY.

It wasn’t to be. After a solid drive, Shin’s 2nd shot came up short. Shin did make par, but the tournament and POY race were over. A disappointing finish for certain, but at this point in time, I’d have to pick Shin as my favorite for 2010 POY. Ochoa is getting married next month, and she has stated in the past, that she would not have a lengthy golf career. The signs are already apparent that Ochoa is making LPGA Golf a secondary part of her life.

It was a great 2009 LPGA campaign even if it was a roller coaster at times. Now the Tour’s fans have to wait 3 months for the 2010 season opener in Thailand. Boy am I going to be suffering from withdrawal by then.

Update- Also blogging on the LPGA Tour Championship and the POY race are Ryan at Waggle Room, Sal at Golf Observer, The Constructivist, Hound Dog, and Jamie.

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