Monday, May 19, 2008

Sybase Classic – Epilogue

Lorena Ochoa passed Juli Inkster to move into third place on the all-time LPGA money list. It took Lorena just over five years to reach $12 million earned. She mentioned in the post-round interviews that the more she wins, the more she can give back to her community. She’ll be helping several other players give back to another community today, as she plays in Val Skinner’s charity tournament to benefit breast cancer research.

Did you know that Ochoa’s head moves a lot while she putts? So did I. So Judy and Andy can stop talking about that now, we all know it.

Na Yeon Choi extended her lead in the Rookie of the Year race with her tie for second. A pretty good week in NYC for NYC. Keep in mind, she’s built this lead without having fully exempt status – she’s Conditional Player #4 – and was forced to make one event through Monday qualifying and a couple of others by finishing in the Top 10 the week before.

Morgan Pressel’s 66 on Sunday was only her third round in the 60s out of 29 played this season. Last year she posted 26 such rounds in 87 played.

Annika Sorenstam played the par-5s this week in -1 (11 and 18 were particularly problematic). Ochoa played them in -7. Considering that Sorenstam finished five shots behind, I’d say the par-5s were the difference.

The average score at Sybase was 73.07, just barely under the seasonal average but nearly three-quarters of a shot better than at last year’s event. Thursday’s great conditions and Sunday’s great holding greens combined to produce the better numbers.

The Big Surprise this week goes to H.J. Choi, who finished eighth for her first Top 10 of the year. The Big Disappointment belongs to Karrie Webb – she didn’t miss the cut but her T67 finish should be really disappointing to her fans.

You knew this bit was coming eventually – Rachel Hetherington was one big loser in the wipeout of Friday’s scores. Rachel played seven holes Friday in -1. On those same seven holes Saturday she played +4, losing five shots in the balance. By finishing even par instead of -5, Hetherington earned about $24,000 less than she should have this week. There were several others adversely affected but one topped them all. Catriona Matthew lost three shots on the exchange and finished tied for second, one shot behind Ochoa. You can do the math on that one yourself.

And that is why as an organization which aspires to be world-class, the LPGA cannot have its players competing in live action with the scores posted for the world to see, and then retroactively declare those holes null and void. Because some wise guy sitting behind a desk can easily figure out how that decision (which was made in an attempt to rectify an earlier mistake) altered the outcome of the event. This kind of irregularity is what erodes player and fan confidence in the competence and motives of a sports entity. Hindsight is a wonderful asset, but the folks running this organization have the experience that should have made declaring lift-clean-place on Friday a no-brainer. I’m just sorry it cost Matthew her first victory since 2004.


The Constructivist said...

It's hard to say how Hetherington and Matthew (and Song-Hee Kim, for that matter) would have played in their remaining Friday holes if they had picked up where they left off the next day, but you can pretty much guarantee they wouldn't have done exactly the same as they actually did Saturday. Or how anyone in the afternoon groups that hadn't even gone off Friday would have done. There are too many unknowns and what ifs here to say the decision cost Matthew the tournament.

The only thing we do know for sure is that some people who definitely would have missed the cut by far got another chance to make it. Your Big Surprise was one of them!

I wouldn't have had a problem with the wiping of the Friday scores if they had stuck with playing 72 holes and finished today. That to me is the bigger problem.

Hound Dog said...

You are right that some people got a second chance to make the cut. It is equally correct to say that some people got a second chance to miss the cut and some people got a second chance to weaken their high position in the standings.

I know we can't really assume that Matthew would have won the tournament (it's more complicated than swapping out numbers for the replayed holes) but I wanted to accentuate the gravity of the mistake that was made Friday morning. Nobody seems to give a damn about this and I'm very surprised by that. If this was the PGA Tour we were talking about, I wouldn't have been the first person to mention that Catriona could have been the winner.

Dozens of tournaments have been rain-shortened in LPGA history but wiping out scores is rare (and should be all but non-existent) and is by far the biggest problem with the Sybase in my opinion.