Monday, September 08, 2008

Move It On Over

Hound Dog’s LPGA Blog has moved!

Effective immediately I’m joining SB Nation, the longtime home of Waggle Room. The opportunity to join such fine company was too good to pass up. I would like to thank Mulligan Stu for getting the dialogue started which made this move possible. Just click on the bolded links above or below to see my new digs.

The original site isn't going away just yet. I have a lot of archives here (this is post #709 since July 2006) that I want to link to for the next few months. All new posts will appear at So come on over and update your links, favorites or whatever your browser calls them.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Longtime caddy Jeff Jones was killed in a car accident the other day as he was making his way to Mobile for the Bell Micro LPGA Classic. “Shadow” looped for Michelle McGann, Dawn Coe-Jones and many, many others over the last 20+ years. Condolences to the entire LPGA touring family as well as any next of kin.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Advanced Rating System

At long last! I believe I first mentioned working on an “advanced” system over a year ago. After going through a half-dozen different versions of it, I couldn’t get completely comfortable with any of them. I was trying to work in other stats like GIR and putting and lost sight of what I really wanted the new version to accomplish – to more accurately rate players beyond the Top 30.

One of my readers, Thomas Atkins, sent me an e-mail last week sharing his Top 100 list using a system loosely based on my own. His list prompted me to redirect my focus on merely expanding the scope of my current method (thanks Thomas!). Using the same five categories (scoring average, money list, wins, Top 10% and missed cuts), I doubled the point values available to each and adjusted the scales to include 95-115 players. The positions of the players in my Top 30 come out virtually the same but now the ones from 31 on down to at least 80 appear to also be logically ordered.

I’ll leave my
Top 30 as I presented it last week and give you now the rest of the Top 70:

31. Angela Stanford
32. Candie Kung
33. Juli Inkster
34. Lindsey Wright
35. Nicole Castrale
36. Momoko Ueda
37. Morgan Pressel
38. In-Kyung Kim
39. Teresa Lu
40. Catriona Matthew
41. Minea Blomqvist
42. Leta Lindley
43. Meena Lee
44. Kristy McPherson
45. Jimin Kang
46. Brittany Lang
47. Hee Young Park
48. Giulia Sergas
49. Michele Redman
50. Ai Miyazato
51. Se Ri Pak
52. Sandra Gal
53. Shi Hyun Ahn
54. Marisa Baena
55. Jin Joo Hong
56. Katie Futcher
57. Wendy Ward
58. Natalie Gulbis
59. Michelle Wie
60. Becky Morgan
61. Young Kim
62. Johanna Head
63. Louise Friberg
64. Carin Koch
65. Rachel Hetherington
66. H.J. Choi
67. Russy Gulyanamitta
68. Diana D’Alessio
69. Heather Young
70. Pat Hurst

Surprises include Gulbis being only one position ahead of Wie, Pak not in the Top 50 and Inkster hanging within striking distance of the Top 30.

I chose 70 in deference to the number which makes the cut each week. I’m not sure if I’ll be posting this larger list every month (beg me enough and I might oblige!) but will certainly update it at the end of the year.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The PR nightmare is (hopefully) over

The LPGA backed down today from its stance on suspending players who are unable to speak English.

Can we get back to the golf now?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Rise of Katherine Hull

During Inside The LPGA yesterday, Karen asked me if I had any explanation for why Katherine Hull had played so well at the Canadian Open and Safeway. Since I didn’t, I had to go find out.

It certainly wasn’t her putting. Over the two events, Katherine used 28.86 putts per round, considerably higher than her seasonal average of 28.11. Hull has suddenly gotten super-accurate off the tee, hitting the fairway at an .827 clip. She was averaging only .597 going into Canada! For a player who swings such a short driver (242.1 - T118), starting off in the fairway becomes critical. Her distance numbers at both events were comparable to her seasonal average so she most likely wasn’t passing up the driver any more often than she used to. The improved accuracy helped boost her GIR rate to .786 (way up from .625). I also checked Katherine’s numbers from the Jamie Farr (where she finished sixth) and although her accuracy there wasn’t nearly as good (.661), it was still quite better than her established norm. Her GIR at the Farr was .764, not quite her most recent number but worlds better than usual.

Credit the jacked-up GIR rate - most of which was set up by the vastly improved driving accuracy – for Katherine Hull’s recent success.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

English Policy – This Week’s Model

Now that we’ve had a week to batter the new LPGA English policy about the head and shoulders and that the commissioner herself has issued an official statement, I’m going to tackle this subject for a second time. Karen and I talked at length about it on Inside The LPGA today – click here if you would like to hear our discussion (it starts about 15 minutes into the show).

After sifting through the debates, diatribes, speculation and outright hysteria that some have written, I believe that the Tour’s big mistake was simply in how they introduced the policy. The meeting with Korean (and in some reports, other international) players may have been held to give those players a heads-up about the impending policy but the report about it in Golfweek gave us in the blogosphere and the mainstream media just enough fuel to start a forest fire. With very little supporting details available such as suspension criteria and testing boundaries, our posts and articles were allowed to run rampant.
I too posted less than 24 hours after the original article and proclaimed the policy as a bad move. Now that I’ve participated in my first “viral outbreak”, I hope I have the wits to avoid the next one. But I’m not letting the LPGA off the hook completely – if they had issued a press release to coincide with the meeting in Portland (and had that release contained the same information in Bivens’ memo today), the backlash would not nearly have been as severe. If you doubt me, this tactic worked pretty well last year when the new drug testing was announced. We all ran that announcement through due process without any irrational “topic-creep” setting in.

I can’t stress this point strongly enough - the policy is still being developed so any immediate discussion is armed with incomplete data, even with today’s statement by Bivens. I’m going to continue this post anyway, with a firm grip on that fact.

The players have expressed support for the new policy with no exceptions. UPDATE: I stand corrected on this point (see Comments). They agree that not only is it in the Tour’s best interests for all to speak serviceable English, it is in their own best interests. Bivens’ example of a player and sponsor establishing a business relationship at a pro-am earlier this year is a huge way that a player can benefit. It seems the only folks complaining about “civil liberties” and “racial bias” are people like me, who only know bits and pieces of the Tour’s day-to-day operations. While I admit there could be players who are fearful of retribution if they speak out against the policy, I find it odd that NO player has expressed any of their reservations. UPDATE: Same incorrect point. And leave the PGA players out of this – their tour has American TV money to supplement the sponsor’s supply and besides, who really thinks that it was a good thing that Angel Cabrera couldn’t speak English after he won the U.S. Open? Anybody talking about lawsuits will need to remember that a Tour card can legally be revoked in the name of any LPGA bylaw. Like a driver’s license, it’s a privilege not a constitutional right.

The policy didn’t just come out of the blue. The LPGA has been strongly encouraging its international players to speak English for years, all the while arranging for translators to assist those who haven’t picked up enough to be interviewed. On one blog, I saw a comment joking that Rosetta Stone should now become an LPGA sponsor. The joke’s on you, buster – they’ve been a sponsor at least since the beginning of this season. The Tour’s use of Rosetta Stone to improve a player’s English is a positive thing and any portrayal of that as a negative is just the kind of bulls—t that completely undermines your attack on the policy.

This is also not a roundabout way of cutting back on the number of Korean players. If the Tour wanted to do that, they would simply adopt international player limits like Japanese baseball teams do. They would be within their organizational rights if they chose to. But think about it - why would the best women’s golf tour in the world drive off up to 30% of its player base and arguably 50% of its top-flight talent to avoid the occasional pro-am problem?

To be fair, I don’t expect the LPGA to start booting out players because they have trouble answering Jane Crafter’s questions. Not specifically picking on Jane but most of those guys’ “questions” are actually statements to illicit a response. I doubt most of us would be able to grasp the same concept if it were presented to us in Swedish, Korean or Thai. I do think that the LPGA has the right to expect players to try and learn a small amount of English, and they need a penalty structure to support that stance. A suspension seems harsh but what if a player has shown repeatedly that she won’t even make the effort? Would a suspension then be warranted? I think under that extreme case, yes. Short of that, I wouldn’t expect any suspensions at all.

Will a lot of players decide to play in Korea, Japan or Europe because of the policy? I expect a few will do that. Those players probably would have been undecided about playing in the U.S. anyway. Think about the opposing possibility – a player who wasn’t sure about coming to the U.S. because of the language barrier is now certain that she will receive every available assistance to overcome that barrier, and decides to take advantage of that opportunity. Couldn’t that bring in more Asian players?

The Tour will absolutely have to resolve the counterpoint – sponsors of events in Asia, Mexico, France and Canada (just kidding, eh?) will have every right to expect their pro-am partners to be just as obliging. It isn’t exactly the same situation, of course – many pro-am players in those countries can speak English – but the good faith response from American players would be a wonderful bonus.

I’m probably about five days too late with this post - many of you already have your minds made up about this subject and are ready to move on to something else. I realize that the LPGA can’t undo the backwards way the English policy was brought into the public eye but I think we all ought to at least wait until the entire thing is spelled out before launching our verbal nukes.

Policy statement on

Commissioner Bivens has released an official statement (the first one regarding this topic, I might add) on the LPGA's new English policy. My take to come on Inside The LPGA and here later today.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Lucky Break?

First let me say that it appears that Hurricane Gustav has not delivered the same amount of devastation to the Gulf Coast region that Katrina did three years ago. For that I am very thankful.

Not to detract from this situation with any triviality, but it just occurred to me that the LPGA dodged a potential bullet with its schedule. Next week’s Bell Micro Classic in Mobile could just as easily have been scheduled this week and could have had its pro-am and other pre-event activities interrupted by Hurricane Gustav. In addition, hotel and other housing arrangements could have been disrupted by the displaced residents of Louisiana, many of whom traveled east along I-10. Had the hurricane been more destructive or made landfall only a hundred miles east, an event this week would likely have been cancelled.

Hanna has just now been classified as a hurricane (expected to make landfall in northern Florida, Georgia or South Carolina around Friday) and there are a couple more systems out there developing. Given the frequency that hurricanes strike the Gulf and Florida Atlantic coasts during late August and throughout September, should the LPGA think twice about continuing to schedule two September events in southern Alabama? I know the Tour has sponsorship, logistic and climate issues to consider but if the chances of disruption or cancellation are as high as they seem, the subject deserves some thought.