The Rivalry of the Future


We think of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods very much as rivals and contemporaries. Phil was born in 1970, Tiger in 1975.
Similarly, moving forward, we will think of Lorena Ochoa and Michelle Wie very much as rivals and contemporaries. Lorena was born in 1981, Michelle in 1989.
Palmer was about a decade older than Nicklaus who was about a decade older than Watson. Rivals dont have to have been born in the same year. This isnt age-group tennis.
It is not popular to trumpet the Wie cause at the moment because she played poorly in her last two mens events and erratically last week at the LPGAs Samsung World Championship. And its not as if there arent other women players in the mix. Can you say Kerr, Webb, Pressel, Creamer or Gulbis? Can you simply say Annika?
For her part, Wie is currently preparing for a different challenge. The deadline on her application for early admission to Stanford University is November 1. According to her father, B.J. Wie, she is grinding over the three essays--two short and one long--that must accompany the application.
Wie expects to hear from Stanford, one way or another, by mid-December. If accepted, she will have until May 1 to let Stanford know if she plans to enter school in the fall of 2007. Stanfords decision on Wie will certainly impact Wies schedule for next year.
Ochoa, meanwhile, took the measure of Sorenstam Sunday at the Samsung, shooting a final round 65 to Annikas 70 while paired with Sorenstam. The victory was her fifth of the year.
Subsequently it was pointed out, most notably by Golfweeks Jim Achenbach, that Ochoas current driving distance average of 270.6 yards was more than double her body weight of 130 pounds.
Ochoas current driving distance average is also almost 10 yards higher than it was last year. By way of comparison, Sorenstams driving average has dropped from 263.0 last year to 261.5 in 2006. Ochoa currently ranks fifth in driving distance. Sorenstam is tied for 16th.
Maybe the next sponsors exemption offered to a woman to play in a PGA event should go to Ochoa.
Ochoa cites increased strength through conditioning for her jump in distance. When I asked Hank Haney, Tiger Woods swing coach, about Ochoa, he said this: Distance in golf is all about speed. Lorena has fast muscles and that makes up for being smaller, simple as that.
The compelling rivalry of the moment in womens golf is Ochoa vs. Sorenstam. But ignore Wies gifts at your own peril. She is not playing well right now. But her talent is still enormous and undeniable. If she was a stock, she would be undervalued. A buy and hold.
But a lot of people seem to be more than a little worn out by all the Wie hype. Ochoa, on the other hand, has become something of a media darling. And for good reason. Her disposition is as sweet as her game. And shes the hottest player in womens golf right now.
Wies best golf might not come until after she finishes college and can devote all her time to golf. But its just a matter of time. And when that time comes, Ochoa, still young, will be waiting.
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