True, the absurdity of again crawling this far out on a limb precisely three days after eating crow with regard to Woods' four-runner hopes is self-evident. But at the moment, as transcendent as Woods has been on the men's tour, Ochoa's play has been positively meteoric. The comparisons have been far more frequent as a result.
Frequent? Yes. Quite. Indubitably. To be sure. Although he's expressed doubt that it can be done, even Hound Dog has a poll looking for alternatives to the phrase "Ochoa Slam." So, yeah, join the club.
Membership has its privileges and all, but it also has its responsibilities. Like getting the depth question right:
Whereas Woods' major-championship objective was made more difficult because of the comparatively superior depth in men's golf, Ochoa has likewise ascended to the top so quickly, there's seemingly nothing in her way. She moved into the No. 1 position in the women's world rankings one year ago and last week qualified for induction for the World Golf Hall of Fame, at 26 the second-youngest player ever to do so on career points.
Ochoa's speed of qualification for the Hall evidence of the "comparatively superior depth in men's golf"? Watch it--you're entering Doug Ferguson territory here. And I don't mean that in a good way. In case you weren't paying attention back in January, let's take a look at some of the numbers you ignored. They clearly show that Ochoa's competition is closer to her than Tiger's.
The World Golf Rankings for the men and the Rolex Rankings for the women are quite similar ranking systems. Tiger (22.36) is lapping #2 Phil Mickelson (9.75) and #3 Ernie Els (6.36) is even further behind. Contrast that with the smaller lead Ochoa (18.53) has on #2 Annika Sorenstam (9.47), the only player on the LPGA to have as many top 10s as her this season. It's not just that there are 3 women with higher ratings than Els (Suzann Pettersen at 8.08, Paula Creamer at 7.08, and Karrie Webb at 6.64); it's that you have to go down to the 39th position on the Rolex Rankings to find someone further behind Ochoa than that 16-point lead Tiger has on Els. While a good number of these players compete almost completely on the KLPGA and JLPGA, the fact remains that Ochoa faces more competition on the LPGA than Tiger does on the PGA.
The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index also supports my claim, although not as starkly. In the men's rankings, Tiger (66.44) has a huge lead on #2 Steve Stricker (68.70), and there are 17 guys within 3 points of him (several of whom split their time between the PGA and European Tour). In the women's rankings, Ochoa (67.87) has a large lead on #2 Creamer (69.29), and there are 16 gals within 3 points of her (2 of whom don't play regularly on the LPGA Tour). So the depth of competition is relatively similar, but Tiger's lead on his nearest competitors is much bigger. (Plus, if the GSPI included KLPGA events in its database, Ji-Yai Shin would most likely be the #2 golfer in their system, much closer to Ochoa than Creamer, and Sun Ju Ahn would likely be within 3 points of Ochoa.)
So, yes, Ochoa's margins of victory have been impressive, but some of her top competitors are rehabbing injuries (Annika Sorenstam, Mi Hyun Kim, Se Ri Pak), coming back from giving birth (Hee-Won Han, Karen Stupples, Catriona Matthew), just beginning to find their games again (Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb, Jee Young Lee, Seon Hwa Lee, Maria Hjorth, Inbee Park), slowing down after fast starts (Paula Creamer, Jeong Jang, Momoko Ueda, Angela Stanford, Laura Diaz, Jane Park, Christina Kim), or just plain struggling (Cristie Kerr, Angela Park, Morgan Pressel, Stacy Prammanasudh) while Ochoa has been in the zone. So please do your readers a favor and stop pretending it's going to be any easier for Ochoa to keep winning majors than for Tiger to start winning them again.
Finally, I think you both overestimate Ochoa's power advantage and misunderstand where her game has improved the most:
Ochoa is piling up wins and making jaws drop at a clip Sorenstam can appreciate. Ochoa tweaked her backswing in the offseason and changed to a different ball, picking up 5-7 more yards off the tee. She's No. 1 in driving distance at a hair under 280 yards, which means she can overwhelm courses like no other LPGA player. For perspective, that figure would rank around No. 100 on the PGA Tour in power.
There are 11 other players averaging over 270 yards off the tee on the LPGA including some of Ochoa's closest competitors: Pettersen (270.6), Jee Young Lee (272.8), Stupples (271.5), Hjorth (275.0), and Gustafson (277.4). Moreover, there are a lot of big hitters among the young guns who will provide her toughest competition over the next 4 seasons: in addition to Lee, rookies #10 Hee Young Park (271.2), #13 Ya Ni Tseng (268.2), #15 Na Yeon Choi (266.2), #18 Shanshan Feng (264.8), and #25 Momoko Ueda (262.9) stand out. But length off the tee is not destiny on the LPGA: the last three rookies of the year, Angela Park, Seon Hwa Lee, and Paula Creamer, can not be found in the top 80 in driving distance thus far this season. And Sorenstam's average driving distance is still far behind what it was before her neck and back injuries, but she's managed 5 consecutive top 10s. In fact, where Ochoa has been focusing the most in the early season is on her wedge game; she has made the most improvement from 100 yards and in. We'll just have to see how 2006 champion Mi Hyun Kim, who still holds the 72-hole tournament record at -12, does this week at the Ginn Open, along with all the other precision players in the field....
More in this vein at the end of the month, when I update my Best of the LPGA rankings and rank the Young Gun classes of 2006 and 2007 together for the first time. Until then, I appreciate the spotlight you're putting on the LPGA, but could do without your recycling of myths about Ochoa's competition and women's golf.
[Update 4/18/08: Beth Ann Baldry jumps on the Elling bandwagon in Golfweek, less annoyingly. But I'd love to see the golf writers focusing on the question of who has the best chance to end Ochoa's major winning streak. It's a great opportunity to educate the general public that knows little of women's golf beyond Ochoa, Sorenstam, and Wie.]
[Update 4/19/08: Jeff Rude proves he doesn't read this blog. Way to boil Elling's mistake down to its essence, Jeff. Keep up the good work! Seriously, when are golf writers going to realize that the rest of the LPGA doesn't have to be cast as chopped liver to build up Ochoa? Forget what I said yesterday about golf writers educating the golfing public--they need to start paying attention first.]