Ji Young Oh’s first career victory was a little surprising but she’s been in contention before. She led going into the final round at this year’s MasterCard Classic but struggled to a 79 and finished T8, allowing Louise Friberg to come from ten shots back to win. Last year as a rookie, she finished sixth at the Safeway Classic. Oh had two Top 10s and was 45th on the money list in 2008 prior to winning.
The average score at Panther Creek was 70.83, more than one full stroke below par and easily the lowest average of 2008 (Arkansas 71.37). Since the beginning of the 2004 season, only two other events have averaged better than one shot under par – the 2005 Wendy’s (70.998, par-72) and the 2005 Mizuno (70.338, par-72). As the commentators said, the course’s main obstacle is wind. Sunday’s round featured the windiest conditions of the week and it didn’t ever appear to exceed 15mph. Judging from previous State Farm averages, that wind doesn’t pop up very often so the course super might want to toughen things up a little next year.
Three rookies finished in the Top 5 – Yani Tseng, Na Yeon Choi and Shanshan Feng. Feng has set a new personal scoring record each of the last two weeks and has registered back-to-back Top 5s after showing virtually nothing over the first four months.
For the first time, I’m going to split my Big Surprise Award three ways. Kyeong Bae, Wendy Ward and Katie Futcher all collected their first Top 10s of the year. As I said Friday, Shi Hyun Ahn gets the Big Disappointment.
Of course this week’s real disappointment was the latest Michelle Wie fiasco. I don’t know what irritated me more – Michelle’s failure to follow routine procedure or the online rantings that followed. For some reason, the fact that Wie wasn’t DQ’d until late in the day Saturday gave some people fuel for the notion that the LPGA is “out to get her". Then in response, some others suggested that because Michelle is “the future” or “the face” of the Tour she should have gotten better (read “preferential”) treatment by the officials. The LPGA had a great future before Michelle Wie teed off last Thursday and it has other “faces” who have been much more supportive of it.
I’m the first to admit that the LPGA should do everything in its power to prevent any players from violating this rule. Maybe some better checks-and-balances need to be put in place or more training is needed for the tent volunteers or maybe the scoring area itself just needs to be a larger, better defined structure. These officials complete this process four days a week, 30-plus weeks a year – they know a hell of a lot more about scorecard validation than I or most of you do. I agree that the 24-hour delay makes this look rather sloppy on the Tour’s part – obviously a third-party or word-of-mouth report didn’t reach the proper authorities until Sunday morning. What we must keep in mind - the statute of limitations on golf rules has long been defined as “infinity” and virtually every person standing on the course or even watching the tournament on TV is a potential rules official whether they represent the LPGA or not. I think most fans have a problem wrapping their heads around both of those concepts.
Michelle Wie violated a rule. It was reported to the tournament officials. They asked Michelle for her version of the events at the soonest feasible time and she confirmed the violation, which required a disqualification. One last thing I want to point out – Wie didn’t call the rule infraction on herself. Take from that whatever you like.