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.]