Sports Outside the Beltway

The ADT Championship begins in two days

Beginning today I will in attendance at the LPGA Tour’s year ending ADT Championship. It is being played at Trump International in West Palm Beach Florida. Play begins Thursday with a field of 32 top women golfers. After two rounds, the field is cut to the low sixteen and scores are reset. After Saturday’s play, the field is cut to the final eight and scores reset again. Playoffs will occur at the end of play Friday and Saturday if needed. On Sunday the final round is played, with the winner getting a cool 1 million dollars. The biggest first prize in women’s golf.

Last year’s winner was Julieta Granada from Paraguay. Julieta edging Lorena Ochoa by two shots.

Julieta isn’t in this year’s tournament. Player of the year Lorena Ochoa heads a field that includes Christie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Morgan Pressel, Annika Sorenstam, and Karrie Webb among others.

I’ve been in attendance at every ADT since 2003. The tournament has always had close finishes and 2007 shouldn’t be any different.


Momoko Ueda wins Mizuno Classic

She was the first Japanese born golfer to win on the LPGA tour this decade.

Momoko Ueda became the first Japanese player to win the Mizuno Classic in nine years, claiming a two-stroke victory over American Reilley Rankin and Sweden’s Maria Hjorth on Sunday.

Momoko Ueda salutes her home crowd after winning the Mizuno Classic tournament in Japan.

The 21-year-old Ueda carded a closing five-under-par 66 in the third round to finish on 13-under 203 at the Kinetsu Kashikojima Country Club course and earn $210,000 for her first LPGA Tour victory.


Co-overnight leader Ueda, who won the right to play on the LPGA Tour next year, was caught by Hjorth after the first hole — which the Swede eagled.

But Ueda made an albatross two at the par-five seventh hole and extended her lead with a fourth birdie at the 16th.


Rankin and Hjorth, the 1999 champion, closed with 67s — as did fourth-placed Shinobu Moromizato, who finished on eight under.

English veteran Laura Davies, who was tied with Ueda for the second-round lead after a costly penalty, shot a 72 to tie for fifth at seven under along with Korea’s Mi Hyun Kim (71) and Japan’s Chie Arimura (70) and Mie Nakata (71).

The 44-year-old Davies was penalized two strokes on Saturday for putting from the wrong spot on the 14th hole.

It will be interesting to see if Ueda comes to play in the US. The much heralded Ai Miyazato has yet to win on the LPGA Tour.(Though I expect her to eventually) Japan hasn’t had a top LPGA player Ayako Okomoto who won 17 LPGA events between 1982 and 1992 and is now in the golf Hall of Fame.

*- Who was the last LPGA golfer to win a tournament when making a double eagle in the final round? Maybe I can ask an LPGA media official that question at the upcoming ADT Championship.

*- Davies lapse was certainly an accident.

*- Talking about the ADT Championship, the Contstructivist has Reilly Rankin moving into the top 13 for ADT points based on her 2nd place finish at the Mizuno. I still think Annika will make the field. A win or very strong finishes by Joo Mi Kim, Catorina Matthew and Morgan Francella each could knock her out. The chances are pretty long for this to happen.


1- Karen Stupples double eagled the first hole at the 2004 British women’s open. She is probably the last golfer to win a tournament while making an albatros during the final round.

2- Francella and Matthew moving ahead of Annika on the ADT points list wouldn’t knock the Swede out of the tournament. Because Francella and Matthew are the only golfers keeping Annika from making it via the money list.

That would leave the longshot scenario of a Julieta Granada and Joo Mi Kim win or top three finish with Annika finishing far back. Again not likely to happen.


Martina Hingis denies cocaine charges, retires

She was the number #1 women’s tennis player in the world when only age 16. From AP-

ZURICH, Switzerland – Martina Hingis said Thursday she has been accused of testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon, and then announced her retirement from professional tennis. Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former Wimbledon winner, denied using cocaine.

“I find this accusation so horrendous, so monstrous that I’ve decided to confront it head on by talking to the press,” she said. “I am frustrated and angry. I believe that I am absolutely 100 percent innocent.”

Her voice broke as she fought back tears in reading the statement. At the end, she took no questions and left the news conference.

The 27-year-old Swiss player lost in the third round at Wimbledon to Laura Granville, 6-4, 6-2.

Hingis said the positive test, which could lead to a doping suspension of up to two years, led to her retirement because she doesn’t want to spend years fighting the case.

Mario Widmer, Hingis’ manager, said he did not know why she waited until now to make the announcement.

Hingis returned to the sport two years ago after a four-year absence because of injuries.

She won three straight Australian Open titles from 1997-99, and Wimbledon and the U.S. Open championships in 1997. She came within one match of winning the Grand Slam in 1997, losing only in the French Open final.

On March 31, 1997, Hingis became the youngest female player ever to lead the world rankings. She was 16 years, 6 months and 1 day at the time. She is currently ranked No. 19.

It is said Hingis career has to end the way it did. If she thinks retiring will make the cocaine use charge go away, it won’t. Sports fans have heard so many athletes deny drug use and then either confess later on or have the use definitively proved, that we automatically believe the allegations. I don’t follow tennis well enough to render a verdict but I do wish Martina well in retirement.


The race to qualify for the ADT Championship

Will the four-time champion Annika Sorenstam be at next month’s year ending LPGA tournament? Craig Dolch at the Palm Beach Post writes-

Staging the ADT Championship at Trump International without Annika Sorenstam wouldn’t seem right.

The former world No. 1 has won the event four times and also finished second once. She also met her fiancé, Mike McGee, at the event. But because her schedule this year has been limited due to back and neck injuries, Sorenstam still hasn’t clinched a spot in the 32-player field.

She’s 12th in the second-half standings, with the top 13 in points getting in, based on top-10 finishes.


That’s why Sorenstam went to Thailand this week (she’s tied for seventh entering today’s final round) and she also decided to add the Nov. 8-11 Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions in Mobile, Ala., an event she has played in only once since 1999.

This week’s high finishes by Laura Davies and Rachel Hetherington are definitely going to muddy the waters as to if Annika will play at the ADT. Both finished 2nd and 4th respectively to Annika’s 6th at the tournament in Thailand. Laura was 15th in ADT points and Rachel 16th. The points list hasn’t been updated yet, but when it does I wouldn’t be surprised if Annika becomes the golfer on the bubble(13th).

My take- I think Annika will make the ADT. Next weekend is the Mizuno Classic, a tournament Annika won five years in a row before the streak was ended last year. If the Swede doesn’t win again in Japan, I’m betting Sorenstam finishes high enough to get a boost in the points standings.

As for 2006 ADT Champion Julieta Granada.

Alas, it’s looking more doubtful Julieta Granada will get a chance to defend her title. She’s 22nd in the second-half standings.

She will need a miracle to qualify and sadly I don’t think it will happen. Maybe the ADT’s qualifying rules should be changed in the future. A spot being reserved for the defending champion. I would support such a change.


OTB Sports to live blog LPGA Tour’s year ending ADT Championship

Yesterday I was approved for media credentials in order to cover the final US women’s golf event of 2007. This will be the first time a sporting event was blogged live in person by OTB Sports.

I will be in attendance 4 or 5 days that week. Every day I will walk the course with one of the players and then be in the press room at the end of the day for interviews.

The LPGA to my knowledge has never approved a blogger before. I have to thank two people for helping persuade the LPGA to change their policy. First, James Joyner, the proprietor of OTB Media. James was very kind to sponsor my application. Second, is Palm Beach Post golf writer and blogger, Craig Dolch. Craig put a word in for me with the PR agency handling the event. Thank you James and Craig.

The ADT is a four-day tournament, the winner getting one million dollars. The field starts with 32 players, after Friday’s round it is cut to the low 16. After Saturday’s play, a cut is again made to the low 8. On Sunday all scores are reset. Meaning whoever has the low score on Sunday wins.

Last year’s winner was Julieta Granada. Hope some of you check my coverage next month.


Move over Michelle Wie Part Three

An eleven-year-old teed it up today at t he LPGA Tour’s Honda event in Thailand.

PATTAYA, Thailand (Reuters) – While other golfers land lucrative contacts for playing in big tournaments, 11-year-old Ariya Jutanukarn’s reward for reaching her first LPGA Tour event was an ice cream covered in chocolate sauce.

When the diminutive Thai teed off at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Thursday, she became the youngest golfer to compete in a major international tour event — men’s or women’s — beating American cover-girl Michelle Wie’s record by five months.

The perky schoolgirl, who took up golf when she was five, is unfazed by the big event and is thrilled to be going toe-to-toe with the likes of Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer after advancing through a qualifying round earlier in the week.

“A lot of people are watching, there’s a lot of pressure on me but it’s a chance for me to get experience, play with the top players and show people what I can do,” Ariya told Reuters.

“I feel very excited, just having the chance to play is amazing — it’s great to make history,” added Ariya, who wears an oversized cap and a pink top emblazoned with the logo of her first sponsor, a local dried fish snacks company.

As if the appearance of an 11-year-old on the greens of the Siam Country Club in Pattaya was not odd enough, the presence of big sister Moriya in matching clothes has also raised a few smiles.

The 13-year-old narrowly missed out on qualifying, so Ariya is employing her big sister as a caddy.

They keep on coming, don’t they? Remember Michelle Wie was 13 when she teed it up at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco. Morgan Pressel, winner of the 2007 Kraft Nabisco, was 12 years old at the time of her qualification for the 2001 US Open(but 13 by the time she actually teed it up.) Pressel was only 18 when she won earlier this year.

I don’t know if having your kids play pro golf amounts to a normal or good childhood. Guess it all depends. Ariya shot a respectable first round 75, or three over par. Note that was the same score Morgan Pressel shot today also.

Good luck Ariya.


Lorena Ochoa clinches 2007 LPGA Player of the Year

This comes as no surprise to golf fans.

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Lorena Ochoa enjoys life at the top, and she intends to stay there for a while.


Asked how she plans to remain No. 1, she said, “I always try to be one step ahead; not let any distractions get in the way, get in my practice and my rest.

“And there are a lot of things to improve. I’m going to work hard.”

Congratulations to Lorena. No question she deserves player of the year.

Boy were golf prognosticators off concerning Karrie Webb this year. I admit to being wrong too, but I didn’t say Karrie deserved being comeback player of the year either. That should have gone to Se Ri Pak in 2006, but the nitwits in the golf MSM were too thick to see it.

Will Karrie be named comeback player of the year again if she should win a major in 2008 even if she fell only from #2 on the money list to 21st? I’d bet ten bucks at least three golf writers would name Karrie. Anyone want to take me up on the offer?

The 2007 LPGA Rookie of the Year award has been sown up also.

Aided by six top-10 finishes in 23 starts, 20-year-old Angela Park’s rookie season has earned her the 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. One event remains in the race for the award but Park’s points total nearly doubles that of runner up In-Kyung Kim, making it impossible for anyone to catch her.

“Right after I made it through Q-school last year, winning rookie of the year was one of my goals,” said Park, who has been top of the class since the end of the Fields Open in Hawaii. “You only get one chance to win the award. The list of people who have won the award are successful golfers and I thought it would be great to have my name next to those players. It gave me motivation to play well this year.”

In one of the Tour’s largest and most talent-ladened rookie classes, Park emerged as the pace-setting newcomer, tying for third place at the Fields Open in Hawaii, which was just her second event of the season. From that point on, Park posted a string of 12 consecutive top-35 finishes from the Corona Championship through the RICOH Women’s British Open, where she missed her only cut to date.

Angela deserved ROY as much as Lorena deserved POY. Neither race was close. One note- The press keeps referring to Angela Park as Brazilian. While true Angela was born in that country, she is of Korean heritage and lived in the United States for over 10 years. Color Angela stateless, unless you want to say Jung Yeon ‘Sarah’ Lee is English too.(and I’m the Queen of England.)


Happy 18th Birthday Michelle Wie

She is playing at this weekend’s Samsung World Championship.

PALM DESERT, Calif. – Michelle Wie is playing her final LPGA Tour event of the year.

She wishes it were her first. After a disastrous season filled with wrist injuries, a feud with Annika Sorenstam and only one round under par, Wie said Tuesday her biggest mistake was not taking the year off to get healthy.

“The only thing that I would do differently (is) I wouldn’t have played this year. It’s as simple as that,” she said at the Samsung World Championship. “The only thing that I did wrong this year is that I did not take my injuries as seriously as I should have.”

1- I’ve always felt Michelle needed a long rest after injuring her wrists. Her playing in tournaments while hurt was certain to exacerbate the injuries.

If Michelle didn’t want to play, why did she play? I’m sure her parents and IMG had something to do with it. The athlete has to make the final decision as to if they are physically able to play, rather than having the decision made by others for them.

As of today, Michelle is an adult and can legally make her own decisions. Will she begin making her own schedule?

2- The AP article makes no mention of Michelle’s birthday. Here is an article acknowledging the significance of today.

Wie is no longer the wunderkind who was – and many people forget this – recording never-before-seen accomplishments on the golf course on a regular basis, from age 12 through 16. She’s not even a kid anymore; as of today, she’s an adult.

Compare Wie at age 12, at age 13, 14, 15 or 16, to Paula Creamer or Morgan Pressel at the same age, and Wie was far ahead of each. But compare them at age 17, and Wie – through injuries, incomplete swing changes, and terrible decisions – is no longer in the same ballpark.

Now, Wie is just another 18-year-old golfer – and as it stands today, not even a particularly good one – in an LPGA Tour environment where other 18-year-olds are winning majors (Pressel) or running away with rookie of the year (Angela Park) .

While Michelle is no longer a kid, she is a still a draw on tour. Thousands of people come to see her play. While 2007 has been a disaster, I expect Michelle to have an excellent LPGA career. One better than Pressel, Creamer, or Angela Park.

3- Is this really Michelle’s last LPGA event of 2007? There is one scenario, far fetched as it may sound that would allow Michelle to play on tour one more time in 2007. Michelle would have to win the Samsung this weekend, and that would earn her a spot in next month’s Tournament of Champions.

In 2003, 2005, and 2006 non-LPGA tour players, won the late October early November tour stop in South Korea. Their names were Shi Hyun Ahn, Jee Young Lee, and Jin Joo Hong. Each of these three South Korean ladies were then given spots in the Tournament of Champions. The tournaments being played only two weeks apart.

So Michelle isn’t out of the running to play again this year, though the chances appear slim. Stranger things have happened in Ladies Professional Golf.

In the meantime, she appears to love life as a college student.

Wie said she thought about going to LPGA Tour qualifying school now that she is old enough to become a member, but it was the same time as orientation at Stanford.

I’m glad she is enjoying college. Michelle needs to take an extended break from golf after this weekend. This in order for Wie to return to form in 2008.


Annika Sorenstam turns down Samsung World Championship Invitation

From AP-

Annika Sorenstam has turned down an invitation to the Samsung World Championship, not wanting to cause hardship with any players who felt she might be taking their spot in the 20-player elite field.

Sorenstam did not want to cause upset by accepting an invitation to the Samsung tournament.

In an effort to upgrade the event, tournament organizers last week eliminated a criteria that had not been used in nine years — the option to exempt the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion — and replaced it with an exemption for an active Hall of Fame member.

That spot went to Sorenstam, inducted in 2003 and a five-time winner of the Samsung World Championship.

Mark Steinberg, head of the golf division at IMG and the Swede’s agent, said the Swede became concerned last week upon hearing that some players were told the top 18 on the LPGA Tour money list would get in to the event at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.

The rest of the field is comprised of the defending champion, four major champions, leader on the Ladies European Tour money list, one special exemption (Michelle Wie), and the rest coming from the money list.

“She didn’t want the perception that she was taking a spot,” Steinberg said. “She decided to do what’s best for the LPGA.”

Sarah Lee will now get the last spot in the field. Yes, there is a Korean LPGA player by that name. Sarah, who’s Korean name is Jung Yeon, was born in London England.

Annika made the right move. The special treatment she was getting wasn’t fair to other LPGA players and not just Sarah Lee. There were two LPGA Hall of Famers, Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb in front of her on the money list who weren’t eligible for the Samsung but were being passed over for an invite. All of this was liable to cause resentment but now all is right on tour.

I do wonder how many more LPGA events Annika will play in 2007. She is a five-time winner of the Mizuno Championship in Japan, but Annika normally skips the Tournament of Champions and is at present borderline for making the ADT Championship.(11th in the standings for 13 spots) Based on Annika’s record at Mizuno, I think she will make the ADT unless some other players make a late surge.


Beth Daniel named 2009 US Solheim Cup Team Captain

Her selection comes as no surprise.

DANVILLE, Calif. — Hall of Famer Beth Daniel will captain the U.S. Solheim Cup team for the 2009 matches at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois.

Daniel, a three-time LPGA player of the year and 33-time winner on the tour, assisted Nancy Lopez and Betsy King in the last two matches against Europe.

“This is pretty exciting,” Daniel said Thursday at the Longs Drugs Challenge. “I’m a lot more nervous than I thought I was going to be. I’m sitting back there, I’m like, ’33 wins, who is that?’

“I’m really excited about this opportunity. I have either participated as a player, a spectator or as an assistant captain in every Solheim Cup, so I’ve seen every angle of it. It means a lot to me”

The United States will be seeking its third straight victory in 2009. In 2005, Lopez captained the winning side at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis. Last month, King directed the U.S. team at Halmstad in Sweden.

The Americans lead the series 7-3 and have never lost on home soil.

Daniel was assistant Captain of the 2007 team. With Beth as Captain, I’m betting the past routine of overlooking Asian golfers will continue so far as Captain’s selections go. The justifications for past selections haven’t made sense one bit, except on the basis of skin color.

So Christina Kim, Michelle Wie, Dorothy Delasin etc, all better plan on making it the old fashioned way. If any of them finishes 11th on the points list, I make a bet they’re passed over again. Anyone want to make a wager with me?


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