Friday, April 25, 2008

Paging Steve Elling...Again

I have no problem with Steve Elling touting Lorena Ochoa's chances for a Grand Slam or encouraging her to play the PGA event in Mexico someday--heck, I even agree with his main points--but I do have a big problem when he and his critics share the same flawed assumption about the "depth of competition" on the LPGA. In Elling's case, it's the hint that Ochoa is going to find the ease of winning on the LPGA so boring that she'll need to provide herself with a new challenge that I find so infuriating. In Davis's case, it's the fact that he took the time to research Woods, Sorenstam, and Ochoa's records but left his closing jab--"the fact that two players have dominated the LPGA to such a degree almost concurrently says nearly as much about the lack of depth in the women's game as it does about their individual greatness"--unsupported and apparently unresearched. So let me spell this out simply for the golf journalists of the world.

It's because the quality of competition on the LPGA has gone up that Ochoa's run is so impressive. Not only is it going to get tougher for her dominance to continue in the coming years as more and more seasoned pros from other tours and competition-tested amateurs from around the world join the LPGA and as more Young Guns gain experience and confidence. But it's also that no single player can remain so in the zone over a long period of time that she can face down every single other player who happens to get in the zone for a week or 3. Remember, in the second-weakest field of the year, Ochoa had one terrible round and couldn't chase down the winner--a rookie, and not even the strongest in her class--in the 36 holes remaining to her. Sure, Ochoa can win with her B-game, but not at the rate she has been.

After the Stanford International is over, I'll address this issue in more depth with updated Best of the LPGA and Young Guns rankings. But one test of my hypothesis is to check in on Ochoa's week off and see just how much competition Annika Sorenstam gets this week....

[Update (4/26/08): Mulligan Stu has come up with an interesting twist on the Ochoa/Woods meme, but that Elling assumption trips him up, IMHO.]


Hound Dog said...

One way to show the depth of the LPGA is to remove Ochoa's performances completely and see the altered victories record.

Annika would have won HSBC (her second win in three starts) by two shots at -9. No change at MasterCard. Jee Young Lee would have won Safeway by one at -15. Annika and Pettersen would have been in a playoff at KNC at -6. Song-Hee Kim would have won Corona by one at -14. And Tseng would have won Ginn by 5 at -16. All of these scores are impressive given the average scores at each event.

The best player would be Annika (with two or three wins) with five (maybe six) other different winners, two of whom are rookies and another who is a second-year player. Sounds like good depth to me.

Feel free to use this as ammo for any further posts you make on the subject.

The Constructivist said...

Great points, HD. I don't think the LPGA has ever seen a sub-68 scoring average for the Vare, right? That alone has to establish Ochoa's year as legendary, sublime, etc. (assuming she somehow keeps it up). So seeing how close everyone else is to Sorenstam--who's becoming more and more the clear #2 and is actually having a pretty fantastic year herself (one we could compare to her best years in everything but wins so far)--would help establish the point.

Actually, though, I think this idea is worth a post of your own someday. I won't be able to revisit this until after I get grading done in mid-May myself....