GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa is having one of the best years of her life, and it has nothing to do with being ranked No. 1 in golf.
She’s getting married next month in her hometown, which will be a boon for Mexico’s edition of Hola magazine. Her engagement was front-page news in every paper in the country. But the pending marriage hasn’t helped the struggling LPGA, which needs a dominant star.
Ochoa’s won only three times – compared to 21 times in the previous three seasons including two majors – and didn’t contend in any of the four majors. Jiyai Shin of South Korea is on the verge of taking the Player of the Year award, which Ochoa has claimed three straight times.
Ochoa finished tied for sixth on her home course last weekend at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Michelle Wie won her first LPGA event and earned much of the attention at the Guadalajara Country Club.
“For me, personally, it’s been a better year (than the last three),” Ochoa said at her tournament. “If you are talking about the results on the golf course, for sure it’s not the best year for me. But what’s important is I am happy.”
In Mexico, she’s the country’s highest profile athlete – except for football stars Rafa Marquez of Barcelona or Cuauhtemoc Blanco of the Chicago Fire – and expected to win every tournament.
But Ochoa has been candid. She is traveling more, playing less and has more off-course obligations, which include her charity foundation. She’s also planning to move from Guadalajara to Mexico City after her marriage to Andres Conesa, the CEO of Aeromexico airline – one of her sponsors.
Conesa has three children from a previous marriage, so she’ll step into a ready-made family.
“Personally, it’s more important the things that I do outside the golf course,” she said. “And that’s been my main focus right now.”
Ochoa may follow the path of former No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, who married this year just weeks after ending her career. She gave birth to a baby girl in September.
“I will think about a family, but later on,” said Ochoa, who was often described as a “great ambassador” and an “awesome person” by other players.
Brittany Lincicome says Ochoa hasn’t changed this season, except she seems “more stretched with other things.” Lincicome said Ochoa has stopped coming to meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“She said she just did not have time,” Lincicome said. “I mean, she is still religious but she told us she had other obligations.”
With all the distractions, Ochoa’s weak spot on the course was probably her putting. She complained about it last week at her tournament, yet was seldom seen practicing on the putting green. Paula Creamer, who finished second to Wie, made a point about how much time she spends on the practice greens.
“You see it with No. 1 players in the world,” Angela Stanford said. “There are a lot more demands on their time. … I can’t imagine planning a wedding and then also being the No. 1 player in the world and carrying that with you. I’m sure it’s gotta be a lot more difficult.”
Ochoa recovered from a deep, midseason slump marked by one of the worst rounds of her career – an 8-over 79 in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open. In early October, she won the Navistar Classic for her third victory. She shot 8-under 64 in the final round of the Mizuno Classic this month to finish second.
Ochoa’s been No. 1 for 2 1/2 years, and she’ll stay there heading into next season no matter what she does at this week’s season-ending LPGA Tour Championship in Houston. But she’s being pushed by Shin, who also leads the season money list.
Sorenstam was a commanding player, and Ochoa was expected to take over the mantle. Sorenstam’s departure may have increased the pressure on Ochoa, who has dominated at times but hasn’t quite pulled the crowds the way Wie does – particularly in the United States.
“With Annika stepping away, it was bigger than most people thought,” LPGA spokesman David Higdon said. “Lorena was caught in the middle a little bit. Annika had always been the iconic star. I think people probably didn’t realize how much Annika allowed Lorena to grow as a player.”
Higdon acknowledged the LPGA desperately needs a superstar. It’s blessed with a strong rookie class including Shin, but it needs one player to emerge.
“When you have a close race like we have right now, it’s interesting and exciting to watch,” he said. “But I always feel like when you have a dominant player like Lorena, it raises the level and everybody picks up their game.”
Juli Inkster has been in Ochoa’s shoes.
The 49-year-old Inkster has won seven majors and 31 tournaments, mixing her career with raising a family.
“It wasn’t easy, and my results showed the ups and downs,” said Inkster, who began traveling with her daughters six weeks after they were born. They’re now 19 and 15.
“I really think Lorena still has a passion for golf,” Inkster said. “I still think she wants to be No. 1. But I don’t think golf defines Lorena. Golf is what she does, not what she is.”
Ochoa looking to marriage family and golf - COPIED
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa is having one of the best years of her life, and it has nothing to do with being ranked No. 1 in golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.
Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins
Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.
Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.
It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.
Goodbye and good riddance.
The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.
“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.
The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.
Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.
Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.
But at what cost?
The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.
The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.
We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.
In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.
We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.
Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.
We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.
“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.
We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.
Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.
There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.
This is good governance.
And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.
This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.
We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.
Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.
Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.