SHORT AND SWEDE: Anna Nordqvist shot 7-under 65 Monday for a two-stroke triumph at the LPGA Tour Championship. The tournament was plagued with rain delays, but eventually finished a day late and 18 holes short. Nordqvist, who also won the McDonald's LPGA, had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch Monday to lead her to victory
All things considered, it wasn't a half-bad ending for the LPGA. Despite the weather woes and tournament reduction, they still had a decent final round, which included a nail-biter for Player of the Year [more on that later]. Nordqvist actually should have won more than just this tournament; she should have won Rookie of the Year honors. But thanks to a quirky system, that trophy went to Jiyai Shin.
GOOD TILL THE LAST SHOT: The LPGA Player of the Year award nearly came down to the final stroke of the season. After Lorena Ochoa birdied the par-4 18th at The Houstonian, Jiyai Shin needed to chip in moments later to claim the title. Shin narrowly missed and Ochoa was handed her fourth consecutive POY trophy by a single point.
It was fun to watch the final few holes Monday at the LPGA Tour Championship, but a points system should never determine who is the best player each season. Ochoa won three times, had 13 top-10s, won the scoring title and was fourth on the money list. Shin won the money title, was second in scoring, had three victories and 12 top-10s. Statistically, they are deadlocked. It should take human judgement – people who bore witness to the season – to determine who was the best.
THERE WILL BE GOLF: The LPGA announced its 2010 schedule Wednesday with its fewest events in 40 years. A total of 24 tournaments will be contested next year, down from 27 this year and 34 two years ago. The season kicks off in Thailand Feb. 18, and concludes at a site to be determined for the Tour Championship Nov. 21. In all, there are 13 events scheduled for the U.S., 10 outside the States and one TBD.
New commissioner Michael Whan has a schedule for next year, so that's good. Unfortunately it has the consistency of a Kirstie Alley diet. There are numerous two- and three-week gaps between events. There is a month between the second and third tournaments of the season. And there are four weeks in between the first major and the the next start. The longest the tour goes during a single stretch is five weeks during the summer. Actually, if the PGA Tour had this kind of schedule, Tiger Woods might play every tournament.
WON AND DONE: One week after winning her first LPGA event, Michelle Wie withdrew after the first round of the LPGA Tour Championship. Wie cited an injured left ankle as the culprit. An MRI showed no serious damage.
This past week – with Wie and the weather – was a microcosm of what the tour will face in 2010: no momentum. The tour is in dire need of a dominant force [no one more desirable than Wie], but it's going to be difficult for anyone to maintain a hot streak next year and break from the pack with all of the stops and starts. It will be like taking a road trip with my mom.
RACE KING: Lee Westwood closed in 66-64 to capture the Dubai World Championship and the season-long Race to Dubai. Westwood started the week trailing Rory McIlroy on the money list, and was playing catch-up on the leaderboard through two rounds. But a brilliant weekend performance gave the Englishman his second career money title by nearly $900,000 over McIlroy, who finished third in Dubai.
Nick Faldo may have been knighted recently, but does he own a scepter? Westwood does. He also owns $2.75 million, with $1.25 million coming from his tournament victory and the rest coming as a bonus for winning the season-long title. Westwood deserve a ton a credit. He said prior to the start of play that winning would take care of everything. Every athlete says that. Westwood, however, actually delivered.
JUST SAY NO: A U.S. magistrate denied Doug Barron’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the 40-year-old journeyman to play in the second stage of Q-School. Barron became the first player suspended by the tour – for one year – for violating their anti-doping policy.
This was plenty interesting, and I do feel badly for Barron, but the one thing that sticks out most in my mind is: Were there really 10 cases of players being busted for recreational drug use, as alleged by Barron's lawyer, and not punished by commissioner Tim Finchem? If so, that's a huge shame. The Tour is so protective of their perceived image of perfection that they are willing to sweep any bit of ugliness under the rug. And then put a couch on top of the rug.
THE WATSON RULE: The Royal & Ancient announced Monday a new exemption status that will allow Tom Watson a chance to compete in the Open Championship until at least 2014. Under the new rule, any past Open champion who finished inside the top 10 at any time over the previous five years will receive a five-year exemption.
Good move by the R&A. Watson's near win at Turnberry was easily the highlight of the 2009 season. The Open, above all other majors, allows past champions – guys who know how to work the rota venues – a chance to contend. The Masters used to be that way, until Augusta National grew into a monster that eats the aged. Even if this rule is never applied again, it's worth it just to have Watson back for one – or five – more years.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tiger Woods was an honorary captain at the Stanford-California football game Saturday. ... Mark Brooks defeated Rickie Fowler to win the Pebble Beach Invitational. ... Michael Maggi, an energy trader from Houston, bid $22,000 to play in Wednesday' pro-am with Michelle Wie.
Woods was also inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame. California, however, won The Big Game, 34-28. He was also booed ... Brooks has won this tournament three times. We're guessing he still won't be favored over Woods come next year's Open at Pebble. ... How the hell do you trade energy? Who is he, Ra?