Backspin 13 Years in the Making


Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
O ... YES: Lorena Ochoa overcame a quadruple bogey in the first round and a near meltdown in the final round to win the LPGA Tour season finale at the ADT Championship. With cuts being made and score being wiped clean after the second and third rounds, Ochoa shot 66-68 over the weekend to win by two and claim the $1 million first-place prize. Her 'best shot ever,' an approach from the rough on 18 to 3 feet -- on the heels of a double bogey at 17 -- sealed the deal.
Backspin Just as Tiger Woods did on the PGA TOUR, the women's No. 1 capped off a stellar season with a playoff victory; though, Lorena did manage to make it a little more exciting by nearly blowing a four-shot lead with two holes to play. For the record, Ochoa notched 8 wins, including one major, and nearly $4.365 million. Her money total smashed the old single-season record by $1.5 million.
O ... NO: Annika Sorenstams season came to a conclusion Friday afternoon when she lost in a three-way playoff to advance to weekend play at the ADT Championship. With two spots available to round out the top 16 for round three, Sorenstam bogeyed the second extra hole to give way to Natalie Gulbis and Ai Miyazato.
Backspin Fourteen starts, no wins. Its been nearly 14 years since shes been blanked in the victory department, dating back to her rookie season of 1994. Annika appeared almost defiant in her post-round assertion that she would be back in 2008. Its going to take that kind of attitude ' and a bit of good fortune in the health department ' to reclaim her throne atop the LPGA Tour.
PLAYOFFS?!?: The LPGA playoff format worked to perfection this past week. After the second round, Sorenstam, Gulbis and Miyazato highlighted a playoff to reach round three. After round three, four more players, including Christina Kim, Nicole Castrale, Sophie Gustafson and Mi Hyun Kim, played off for two spots. The final included a Hall of Famer (Karrie Webb), the reigning U.S. Open champion (Cristie Kerr), two of the most popular players (Gulbis and Paula Creamer), and the world's No. 1 (Ochoa), among the group of eight. And No. 1 won.
Backspin If the PGA TOUR could be guaranteed this kind of excitement, they'd probably abandon the FedExCup format immediately and shift to the LPGA version for 2008. This couldn't have worked out much better for ladies -- particularly Ochoa.
WINNING UGLY: Miguel Angel Jimenez won his second career UBS Hong Kong Open title despite making bogey on his final hole. Tied for the lead alongside Robert Karlsson, the Swede made double-bogey to hand the championship over to the grateful Spaniard.
Backspin Through two events on the 2008 European Tour schedule, we have two notable winners. First, Phil Mickelson won the HSBC Champions in China. And now, Jimenez has won in Hong Kong. We have also had two achingly awful finishes. Both involved the winner making bogey at the last, while his closest competitor made double-bogey. Mickelson had to win in a playoff over the unfortunate Ross Fisher. Jimenez got to smoke that victory cigar a little sooner.
WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY: The PGA and LPGA tours finally announced their drug policies for 2008. The LPGAs system will be implemented at the beginning of next season, while the PGA TOUR will have an education period until enforcing the policy in July.
Backspin There were some similarities between the two policies, like a player being suspended for one year for his/her first offense and a possible lifetime ban for three offenses. But the LPGA will not distinguish between performance-enhancing and recreational drugs (the PGA TOUR is still debating the issue). LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens is taking a hard stance with multiple offenders as well, saying that two violations will equal a two-year ban and players will be allowed to return, but with no status. Two violations will also prevent a player from Hall of Fame consideration.
SCHEDULED AFFAIRS: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem also announced this past week that the TOUR Championship would be moved back on the 2008 schedule to allow players a chance to rest before the Ryder Cup.
Backspin Initially, the Ryder Cup was to be played the week after the PGA TOUR Playoff finale. Now, there will be a week off between the third (of four) Playoff event and the Ryder Cup, and the TOUR Championship will take place the week thereafter. The move was lauded by U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, who, in his usual manner, managed to praise the decision and mock it at the same time. Somehow, we still think players will find something to complain about, like having to travel all the way from Louisville, Ky., to Atlanta, Ga., without a week off for rest ' and all for a lousy $10 million.
MORE SCHEDULING NEWS: The PGA and LPGA tours released their 2008 schedules. The men will start their season immediately after the turn of the calendar with the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The LPGA will open with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Feb. 14-16
Backspin Not much is different on the mens side, except the inclusion of a new event in Puerto Rico, the week after Bay Hill. And thats whats upsetting to some pundits. The Playoffs will pretty much stay the same; though, the winner will receive $9 million in cash and $1 million deferred, instead of the entire bonus deferred. On the LPGA side, there are still a few holes to fill, but with at least $55 million in total prize money, the ladies will be playing for their most money ever.
POULTER RISES AT PHOENIX: Ian Poulter won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan by holding off Spain's Gonzalo Castano. Luke Donald shared third place, while defending champion Padraig Harrington finished six back of Poulter.
Backspin Poulter has a knack for winning late in the year. Four of his seven career European Tour victories have come from the month of September on. This win was on the Japanese Tour, but no doubt will give him plenty of confidence for 2008. But will he be able to get off to a good start or once again stall until the end?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Former MLB pitcher Rick Rhoden was a co-medalist at the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament; Butch Harmon will be lending an extra set of eyes to John Daly next year; Tommy Armour III won the Pebble Beach Invitational.
Backspin What a gyp -- the 31 players who qualified didn't even get tour cards, but only a chance to qualify Monday for nine spots in full-field Champions Tour events next season; Will Dr. Phil be Daly's life coach?; Armour beat Rocco Mediate and Ronnie Black. This is the kind of field you get when players have to earn their post-season money instead of getting paid up front.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - HSBC Champions
  • Full Coverage - LPGA Tournament of Champions
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