Covering Annika and Ochoa


Having spent the last week at the Sybase Classic in New Jersey, it is rather difficult to write about the European golf scene of late. I know Richard Finch fell in the water at the Irish Open en route to victory, and a chap called Seve captured a win in Italy. No, not Ballesteros; Im talking about a young Englishman by the name of Benson, Seve Benson. Im assuming his father was quite the golf fan during the real Seves heyday. Benson notched his first win on the European Challenge Tour this past weekend. Seems Seve Benson is a name to remember; we could hardly forget it could we? Goodness knows how much confusion will ensue should Seve begin to build a career along the lines of Seve.
To the Sybase Classic it is then and what a rollercoaster of a week. Tuesday seems like a blur. Annika made her announcement during at a 2 p.m. press conference. At 11 a.m. that morning the tournament released an alert calling for a major announcement that afternoon. Subsequently just about every media outlet in the New York metro area came scrambling to the Upper Montclair Country Club. By the time Annika came into the press room the place looked more like a Britney and Kevin custody hearing than an LPGA Tour event. GOLF CHANNEL covered the press conference live, and as you saw Annika was emotional, but composed.
I was surprised at the timing, but not the venue. Annika is a long-time client of IMG; the Sybase tournament is owned and operated by their arch rivals Octagon. But the location for such a newsworthy event was spot-on. Sorenstam had access to Letterman, the Mets game and a number of other major publicity outlets this past week. Lest we forget, Annika is now driving the brand; the earnings from her playing days will halt at the end of the season.
Her retirement is a classy move. Bowing out at the height of the game means leaving with your head held high. Its a tough task but most believe she can do it; that was certainly the sense I got from players and those associated with the LPGA. A few famous names put question marks out about a full retirement, but to be fair to Annika at no point did she fully commit to never playing again. She chose her words carefully, saying she was 'stepping away' from the game with her intention being to halt her playing days.
The tournament itself was blighted by weather. Monday saw torrential rain in the area; travel into Newark was a disaster, I could have made it home to London and had a nice dinner in the time it took to get from Orlando to Clifton, NJ.
The course took a battering, but officials didnt see the need for lift, clean and place, setting a dangerous precedent for later in the week. Thursday was glorious, but Friday saw a return to the nasty stuff. To be fair to the officials, the forecast on site called for rain in the afternoon, but nothing too heavy. This was inaccurate and with the course beginning to flood, play was halted late Friday morning with the first group through 17 holes.
The fact that officials had not instigated lift, clean and place, and the fact the rain continued to pour, meant they had no choice but to cancel round 2 and disregarding the scores already recorded. The rules state that if a round is started without lift, clean and place you cant just bring it in willy-nilly. The decision by the LPGA to cancel the round caused quite a stir and continued to be the big talking point through-out the weekend. Conspiracy theorists had their views. Players like Catriona Matthew and Rachel Hetherington were left disappointed; both were leading when play was suspended, but the show went on.
Quite a show it was by Lorena Ochoa. Her Saturday 67 was marvelous, as the wind strengthened through-out the day. It was gusty, and swirling in the lower portion of the course, but still she remained on top of her game. She teased the field on Sunday, and showed some anger which rarely comes out, but on the flip side, I dont think Ive seen her so happy to get a non-major victory. In my interview with her post-round she talked about the importance of winning in the week Annika announced her retirement. She wasnt being rude or big headed, just saying, in her unique and kind-hearted way: you can talk all you want but its the golf that counts.
This week Annika did the talking, Lorena did the playing the battle continues.
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
Related Links:
  • Video: Annika 'Stepping Away'
  • Annika Through the Years
  • Full Coverage - Sybase Classic