Sports Outside the Beltway

Ai Miyazato wins the Tres Marias Championship

She has won three of the five LPGA tournaments played in 2010. From AP-

Ai Miyazato of Japan won her third tournament of the LPGA season, shooting a 6-under 67 on Sunday to win the Tres Marias Championship.Ai Miyazato2

The Japanese totaled 19-under 273 to finish a shot ahead of Stacy Lewis (66) of United States and two in front of Michelle Wie (68).

Miyazato shared the spotlight with No. 1-ranked Lorena Ochoa, who played the final round of her career before stepping into retirement to raise a family and focus on her charity foundation. Ochoa shot 71 to finish on 280. She has won this event three of the past four years.

Ochoa has held the No. 1 ranking since April 2007 but she will lose it when the rankings come out Monday, with Jiyai Shin of Taiwan taking over. Shin won a tour event in Japan on Sunday.

Check out The Constructivist’s post on Shin’s victory.

The tournament belonged to the Japanese from Okinawa, who won earlier this season in Thailand and Singapore.

Miyazato deserved to win but I wouldn’t say the tournament belonged to her. She had to beat back serious challenges from Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis on Sunday.

Note- Miyazato has four LPGA wins but has yet to win in the United States. Her one win prior to this year was in France.

In accepting the winning trophy on the 18th green, Miyazato broke down crying as she thanked Ochoa. Ochoa, a few feet away, also rubbed tears from her eyes in bright sunlight on the mountainside course. Ochoa choose Miyazato as her playing partner for the first two rounds.

“I want to say thanks to Lorena,” Miyazato said. “I really appreciate what she did for the LPGA and what she did for her country here in Mexico.”

“She is one of my best friends,” Miyazato said, beginning to cry. “I’m going to miss her.”

As she spoke, thousands surrounding the green—standing high a hillside— broke into applause.

Michelle Ellis, president of the LPGA players association, stood in a long line of players who saluted Ochoa on the 18th green.

“She is going to be dearly missed by the players and all member of the LPGA family,” Ellis said, with Mexican mariachis playing as Ochoa left the green.

“I think her heart and her spirit out does her golf game by 1,000 yards.”

Ochoa won 27 tournaments—including two majors, has held the No. 1 ranking for three years and won the Player of the Year title four straight years.

Ochoa did not play the ten years required for automatic qualifying for the Hall of Fame. She will be voted in, and I’m betting it will take place the first year she is eligible.

Much has been written about the LPGA losing its star(Ochoa) but right now the tour has a tug of war for #1 in the world. Shin will be ranked 1st by Rolex tomorrow but Miyazato will be close behind her and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng a close 3rd and 4th*. If Miyazato wins the Salonpas Cup, the first JLPGA major of 2010, she will take #1 from Shin. Four or more players battling for the top spot in women[s professional golf. Why do golf writers insist on saying the LPGA is hurt by its lack of a dominant player when so many are contending for #1?

Maybe they hate not being able to articles and columns that take adulation to extremes fear change and the unknown. I think Brent Kelley gets it right.

So we say goodbye to Lorena Ochoa today, we wish her well, we thank her for great golf, her humanity, her humility.

And we say hello to the future of golf.

I think there is plenty of excitement ahead for Women’s professional golf.

Also blogging on Miyazato’s win- Hound Dog, Sal Johnson, Stephanie Wei, and The Constructivist.

*- That is if Ochoa is taken down since she is retired. She may linger in the top 5 for a while otherwise.


#1 Female Golfer Lorena Ochoa announces her retirement

This news is just stunning.

Lorena Ochoa, the world’s top-ranked women’s golfer, announced her retirement Tuesday.

Ochoa, 28, confirmed the news in a statement released by her management company, Ochoa Group. A news conference is scheduled for Friday in Mexico City.Lorena Ochoa

“Lorena Ochoa confirms her retirement from the LPGA, as news reports in some media have said today,” her statement said. “The reasons and more details on the matter will be given by Lorena personally in a press conference on Friday in Mexico City. Lorena will share this news of a new stage in her life with her sponsors, family members and friends.”


She has 27 career titles, including two majors (2007 Women’s British Open, 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship) and has $14.2 million in career earnings.

Ochoa married Andres Conesa, the director general of Aeromexico airline, one of her sponsors, last year.

A Mexican newspaper, citing an unidentified source, says Ochoa could come back later. That isn’t consistent with the word ‘retirement’ used in her statement. I guess we have to wait till Friday’s press conference to know what Lorena means.

Ochoa’s retirement is a stunner because of its timing. She needs to play the LPGA till 2012 to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Her points total already qualifies her, but a player must play the tour for 10 years also and Ochoa was a rookie in 2003.

Some other random comments

Ochoa has always come off as a class act. Former #1 Annika Sorenstam frequently came off as arrogant to me, and Ochoa never did. I did have the pleasure of blogging Ochoa’s win at the 2007 ADT Championship and was in press conferences with her.

While Ochoa won player of the year in 2009, it was by only one point. Her play was not anywhere near the level it was in 2007 and early 2008.

The current Rolex Rankings

1 Ochoa 9.25

2 Jiyai Shin 8.76

3 Yani Tseng 8.67

4 Suzann Pettersen 8.38

5 Ai Miyazato 8.12

1st to 5th place is only separated by 1.12 points. In a few weeks an Asian born golfer is going to rise to #1 player in the world.

Also commenting- Hound Dog, Stephanie Wei,


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.


Lorena Ochoa Wins Navistar LPGA Classic

It is her 3rd win in 2009. From AP-

Lorena Ochoa successfully defended her Navistar LPGA Classic title, overcoming early troubles to shoot a 2-under 70 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory over Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang.LPGA Tour Golf

Ochoa finished at 18-under 270 on The Senator course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill complex to snap an 11-start winless streak dating to the Corona Championship in late April. The top-ranked Mexican star has three victories this year and 27 overall on the LPGA Tour.

Ochoa wiped out her three-stroke lead coming into the day with a bogey and double bogey in the first five holes. She erased any drama with a birdie on No. 17.

Wie overcame a gimpy left ankle to close with a 66, while Lang had a 70.

After winning 8 times in 2008, most members of the golf media have labeled Ochoa as being in a slump this year. True she didn’t win for 11 tournaments this year, but has anyone looked how competitive the LPGA is right now? There hasn’t been this wide open a money and player of the year race in a decade at least. Ochoa is unlikely to win the former but still has a shot at the later. Why is it bad for ladies professional golf when you have exciting races rather than one player dominating?

Michelle Wie finished in a tie for 2nd. She probably won’t get a victory in 2009 but I’ll be surprised if she don’t get her first professional triumph in 2010.


Lorena Ochoa wins Honda LPGA Thailand

The number one woman player in the world didn’t take long to win a LPGA tournament in 2009. From AP-

A few minutes after finishing off her 25th LPGA Tour victory, Lorena Ochoa was asked if she thinks she’s mentally tougher than her rivals.

“Yes,” Ochoa said.

She’s simply better than everybody else, too.

That was obvious again Sunday when she rallied to win the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Three strokes behind playing partner Paula Creamer at the start of the round, Ochoa shot a 6-under 66 for a three-stroke victory.


Ochoa finished at 14-under 274 — shooting 71-69-68 the first three days — on the Siam Country Club’s Plantation Course, and earned $217,500 for her second straight season-opening victory. Last year, she opened with a victory in Singapore in the HSBC Women’s Champions and went on to win five of her first six events.


South Korea’s Hee Young Park shot a 65 to finish a career-high second. The third-ranked Creamer had a 73, leaving her four strokes back at 10 under.

I was surprised by Creamer’s poor Sunday finish. She opened the final round with a three-shot lead.

Two LPGA events this year, and both have seen a golfer of Korean heritage finish second.(Michelle Wie was second in Hawaii) If they start winning, will the Asians are ruining the tour talk return?

Thai-American Stacy Prammanasudh’s strong finish will help her efforts to qualify for the 2009 US Solheim team.

Lorena Ochoa won her first LPGA event of 2009. How many tournaments will she end up winning this year?

Hound Dog and The Constructivist are also blogging on Ochoa’s win.


The 2009 LPGA season begins today

The US Women’s professional golf circuit tees it up for the first time at the SBS Open in Hawaii. The 2008 event was won by Annika Sorenstam who has since stepped away from the game. Also not in the field is World #1 ranked player Lorena Ochoa. The SBS field is strong however with Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, and Ji-Yai Shin. Shin who won the final LPGA event of 2008, the ADT Championship, looks to begin where she left off.

So another LPGA season is about to underway. A slimmer one than the 2008 schedule, with the loss of quite a few tournaments. The 2010 schedule is looking rough already, with the SBS Open already down as history.

Some off the course news, the LPGA signed a 10-year deal with the Golf Channel. This is great news for the tour.

As much that news sounds interesting, I prefer talking about what goes on during tournaments than all off the course distractions. Here are my predictions for 2009

Player of the Year- Ji Yai Shin. Shin is ranked #5 in the world and has 26 professional wins at age 20. Last year she won 3 LPGA titles, including a major championship. She has a unflappable personality on course, and I personally think she’ll top Ochoa this year. Golf blogger Mulligan Stu is on board the Shin Express also.

Ochoa won’t lose the money title by much and will retain #1 ranking in the world.

Rookie of the Year- Shin. The 2009 LPGA rookie class is incredible with Shin, Vicki Hurst, Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, and a few more could have immediate impact. Shin however is going to win the ROY title in a runaway.

Comeback of the Year- Brittany Lincicome. If she is healthy, I see her returning to her 2007 form.

The come out of nowhere award- Amy Yang. She shouldn’t really be a contender for this, but even my LPGA golf buddies Hound Dog, The Contstructivist, and Ryan are not paying any attention to this golfer’s chances in 2009, so why would the golf media. Yang won twice on the LET last year and I’ll go out on a limb by putting her in the top 5 players for 2009. More on that later.

1st time winners for 2009- Wie, V Hurst, Yang, Angela Park

How many times will naturalized US citizen Angela Park be mislabeled as South Korean by the golf media in 2009- At least two times

The 2009 Solheim Cup matches- US wins 16-12

The 2009 US Solheim Cup qualifiers- Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Wie, Hurst, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel, Nicole Castrale, Brittany Lang, and Stacy Prammanasudh

Beth Daniel’s Captain’s selections- Two potted plants Juli Inkster and Natalie Gulbis. Any Asian American golfer if they want to play in the matches, should only plan on making it via the points list. As I pointed out two years ago, the team’s Captains have done great gymnastic work in order to avoid selecting Asian golfers for the team, even if the criteria they used is in conflict with what they or past Captains have said or done.

So Wie, Hurst, Kim, Prammanasudh, Jane Park will have to make the team by performance. Daniel will pick potted plants for the US squad before choosing any of those talented ladies.

How many tournaments will the South Koreans win in 2009- Ten. Five by Shin. Plus at least two more from Wie, C Kim, and half Korean V Hurst.

How many members of the media will bemoan the Asian invasion- Three.

How many times will I say Carolyn Bivens should be fired before she gets fired the 2009 season ends- Three

How many LPGA writing related Knucklehead awards will I give out in 2009- Five, starting with this guy.

How many times I will be a credentialed member of the LPGA media in 2009- Zero

How many times will I apply- Zero because the LPGA has left the building so far as Florida goes.

2009 Major Champions- I hate picking way in advance, but I’ll go out on a limb. Shin(US), Ochoa(Kraft Nabisco), Creamer(LPGA), and someone else. Ok, that’s 3 out of 4. My crystal ball is not working too well at the moment. Put me down for Hee Won Han at the British Open.

Miscellaneous predictions-

Katherine Hull will take over as Australia’s #1 golfer from Karrie Webb
Se Ri Pak will win the Jamie Farr Classic for a record breaking sixth time
The Korean LPGA tour stop curse aka No winner of the tournament since 2003 has won a LPGA event afterwards, will finally be broken with Suzann Pettersen taking home a LPGA win in 2009

Now for my my top 30, I’ll put it beneath the fold


ADT Championship Day two- The Carnage

The news out of the LPGA event in West Palm Beach isn’t who made the 36 hole cut or Annika Sorenstam having to take a drug test after play ended or led at the end of the second day(IT don’t matter, all scores reset before play begins again tomorrow) but who missed the cut. Here’s a sampling-

#1 Lorena Ochoa
#2 Yani Tseng
3-time ADT Championship winner Annika Sorenstam
2007 Major Champions and South Floridians- Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr

I picked Kerr, and Ochoa to be around on Sunday. So they missing the cut comes as a complete surprise.

So who’s left- Katherine Hull, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim, Paula Creamer, In Kyung Kim, Jeong Jang, Angela Park, Seon Hwa Lee, Ji Yai Shin, Helen Alfredsson, Eun hee Ji, Jee Young Lee, Suzann Pettersen, Sun Young Yoo, Karen Stupples, Karrie Webb.

Unlike in earlier years, no playoff was needed to narrow the field down to 16.

That’s 7 South Koreans(IK Kim, Jang, Lee, Shin, Ji, Lee, and Yoo) plus two Korean-Americans(Park and C Kim). If we go by the South of the Border factor, this week’s winner will be Angela Park. The 2006 ADT champ was Julieta Granada born in Paraguay, In 2007 it was Lorena Ochoa born in Mexico. Angela Park was born in Brazil. If Natalie Gulbis was around and got paired with Angela on Sunday, her winning the one million dollar grand prize would be all but certain. Gulbis played with Granada and Ochoa on Sunday when they won.

The only thing keeping the golf media from being dismayed over those players not around on the weekend, is probably the presence of media darling Paula Creamer, and part-time Florida resident Karrie Webb. Creamer would pass Ochoa for #1 on the money list with a win on Sunday, but I’m sticking with my original pick. Ji Yai Shin.

Others blogging on today’s play- Ryan, Hound Dog, and The Constructivist


ADT Championship Day Two

Play begins today at 9:30 when Cristie Kerr tees off. Kerr will be playing by herself because Inbee Park withdrew after 14 holes yesterday. Inbee must be either sick or injured, for she was 13 over par for the round.

Katherine Hull has the first round lead after a first round 68. She leads Ji Yai Shin and In Kyung Kim by one shot. Was I ever on target with my pre-tournament predictions for Shin, Hull, and Inbee(Though I was far off with Kerr but so was Greg Stoda at the Palm Beach Post)

Here are all the first round scores-


68 Katherine Hull
69 Ji-Yai Shin, In-Kyung Kim
70 Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, Ji Young Oh
71 Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, Karen Stupples
72 Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Seon Hwa Lee, Maria Hjorth Jee Young Lee, Candie Kung, Morgan Pressel
73 Angela Stanford, Jeong Jang, Helen Alfredsson Karrie Webb, Nicole Castrale, Angela Park
74 Annika Sorenstam, Hee-Won Han, Sun Young Yoo
75 Lorena Ochoa, Song-Hee Kim, Laura Diaz
78 Cristie Kerr, Shanshan Feng, Meena Lee
WD Inbee Park

Oh no 5 of the top 6 are South Korean and only one white American in the top nine and two in the top 16. Someone must be done to fix this inequity, maybe a foreign player quota but only for non-blondes.(Rolling my eyes)

Since scores reset after both Friday’s and Saturday’s play, the goal is to survive the cut after 36 and 54 holes. The big news yesterday is how Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam, struggled. Ochoa and Sorenstam are in no way out of the picture for the weekend but they will have to play very good golf today.

The two best LPGA bloggers around, Hound Dog and The Constructivist, are also commenting on yesterday’s play.


The ADT Championship starts today

In West Palm Beach Florida. The 32 player field will start competing at Trump International when Ji-Yai Shin and Shanshan Feng go off the tee at 9:30.

That’s a interesting first pairing for a tournament, even for a limited field event. Shin is the defending British Open champion, ranked #6 in the world, and just 11 days off winning the LPGA Tour stop in Japan. Shin has to be considered one of the favorites this week. The probable reason for this early pairing is Shin not being a LPGA Tour member yet.

The ADT has a interesting playoff format. 32 players begin the tournament, but 16 are eliminated after Friday’s play ends. If there are any ties, a playoff takes place to eliminate any excess players. Then scores reset for Saturday play. At the end of Saturday, the top 8 only qualify for Sunday’s final round where the winner takes home a million dollar check. Julieta Granada won the ADT in 2006 and Lorena Ochoa won in 2007. Their good luck charm final round playing partner, Natalie Gulbis, is not in this year’s field.

How do I handicap the field. First I’ll give the Palm Beach Post’s picks for the final 8. As you can imagine, I got a bone to pick with the newspaper.

The Post in order of finish- Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Christina Kim, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb
My picks- Shin, Ochoa, Kerr, Feng, Helen Alfredsson, Sun Young Yoo, Katherine Hull, Creamer
Post picks to make it 54 holes- Jeong Jang, In Kyung Kim, Candie Kung, Song-Hee Kim, Angela Park, Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Yoo
My picks- Pressel, IK Kim, Kung, Webb, Pettersen, Tseng, C Kim, Ji Young Oh

My main gripes with the Post selections

1- Only South Korean player chosen.(Christina Kim) Two made it in 2006, two made it in 2007. The player who made it both years, Mi Hyun Kim, is not in this year’s field.

Inbee Park has played terrible since winning the US Open. Out of the 13 South Koreans in the field, she may well be my last choice this week. One surprise Korean player has made the final round both previous year. Last year it was Sarah Lee. I think we’ll have one this weekend too. Sun Young Yoo has been quietly been playing excellent golf for about two months.

Angela Park also was selected to make play on Saturday and she has been playing almost as poorly as In bee. The Post picked the wrong Korean major champion to be around Sunday, I’d bet Greg Stoda ten dollars its Shin over Inbee.

2- The selection of Karrie Webb. Webb made the final 8 both times, but she has been erratic at best in 2008 and isn’t playing the best golf of any Australian right now. That designation goes to Katherine Hull, who I picked to make the final 8.

We’ll have to wait till Sunday to see who is right.

Some other notes

*- Much has been made about Annika Sorenstam’s ‘retirement‘. While Annika won’t play the tour in 2009, I bet she comes back to compete 10-15 times in a year before 2013 comes and this won’t be her last ever Tour Championship. We’ll see who is right in 5 years.

*- Randall Mell of the Sun-Sentinel writes that ADT company didn’t want to end its sponsorship but the renewal price the LPGA was asking for was too high.

Also up with previews of the ADT Championship- Hound Dog and The Constructivist


It certainly took long enough

For a golf writer to talk about a Lorena slump. From AP-

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Lorena Ochoa takes another streak into the LPGA’s Navistar Classic. For a change, she’s trying to end this one.

Ochoa, set to begin play Thursday on Capitol Hill’s Senator Course, is making her first start since the Safeway Classic on Aug. 24 and is winless in seven events.

“It’s been challenging in the last months, that I didn’t get any wins,” Ochoa said. “So it would be nice to start that roll again.”

She spent much of the past month at home in Mexico trying to regain the form that helped her win six of her first nine starts this year, including four straight.

Lorena’s last win was Sybase in May. After her win at the Ginn Open, at least two golf writers talked of Ochoa winning all the rest of the tournaments she entered in 2008, and or completing the Grand Slam. The usual silly talk heard from lazy people covering pro golf, except this time it was Lorena Ochoa instead of Tiger Woods. Ryan made note of it at the time.

Yesterday in a comment at Hounddog’s blog, I made mention of the lack of Lorena slump talk. This article had come out the day before. Bad me for not noticing.

Then I’m not Andrea Adelson who wrote Lorena would win a Grand Slam before Tiger. Andrea, how many times has Woods completed the Grand Slam and how many times has Lorena? Time for some Final Jeopardy music…….

Tiger 3, Lorena 0. It was 2-0 before Adelson wrote her dumbass column. I wonder what she would be writing now?

By the way I’m not criticizing Lorena, just the media coverage. There are probably at least 50 LPGA golfers who would take Lorena’s results since Sybase for their own.

Talking about media coverage, is it coincidental or not that the talk about too many Asian winners died off at the same time that three blondes took LPGA events in a row. The blondes are now ruining the LPGA tour!


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