On Monday I surveyed my goals in my golf writing at Mostly Harmless and promised I'd address "what I value from the best golf bloggers I've come across." The obvious place to begin fulfilling that promise is Hound Dog LPGA, Ken Hartis's golf blog.
Ken may be nothin' but a Hound Dog, but I'll take his incessant barking over anything the AP dishes out. Not only does he manage to survey who played well on any given Thursday, Friday, or Saturday every week the LPGA is playing in an elegant, inclusive, and unbiased fashion, his Sunday recaps, with their focus on what the players in contention actually did, are works of art. For someone like me, who's only paying for a high-speed internet connection and not for cable, his Sunday stories are just what I need to flesh out the drama I'm often tracking on LPGA.com's live leaderboard or catch me up if I've been doing family stuff rather than not-quite-live-blogging the LPGA. I really like the balance he has struck between identifying who's played the best in a given week, in a given stretch, over the course of a season, and over several seasons. Unlike too many golf writers who are paid to cover the LPGA, he doesn't focus exclusively on how the most dominant players in the field did (Sorenstam, Ochoa) or go on and on about media favorites who haven't been playing well (Wie for most of the past 2 seasons, but also Lincicome [who wilted in the spotlight soon after getting her 2nd career win], Gulbis, Rawson, and, to a lesser extent, Pressel and Castrale [who haven't actually played all that badly, just not as well as, say, Angela Stanford, Katherine Hull, Brittany Lang, or Jee Young Lee, to pick some names from the end of the '08 season]) or ignore anyone with an Asian-sounding last name (as Golf Channel highlights are wont to do). What he does focus on, as his end-of-season profiles each year make clear, is the players who have performed the best over the course of a season. But he also pays attention to those struggling with their games and trying to kick-start (or restart) their careers. He started looking at the race to keep your card back in September and October 2006 and has done it every season since.
Still, Hound Dog's game stories, player profiles, and features are only a small part of why his blog is the 1st--and best--source for all things LPGA. As I said before, he's the top dog when it comes to golf stats. It's not just that he has a nose for combining the most relevant existing stats to develop a better ranking system than Rolex or Sagarin, testing it out on the KLPGA, JLPGA (twice), Futures Tour, pushing it back over time to help him develop a list of the top 50 LPGA greats ever, and using it to help him make his preseason top 30 picks the last 2 seasons. And it's not just his deftness at explaining his statistical reasoning in standalone posts and responses to commenters. It's the fact that he has developed great new stats, like total driving, total putting, and strength of field, that allow him and us to put the accomplishments of the LPGA's best in context and to better appreciate them. Plus, he throws a statistical curveball here or there, such as in his round of the day, most average player, fluke victory lists.
Is it any surprise, then, that he was the 1st in the world of golf writing to project how soon Lorena Ochoa would qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame?
I've learned a lot from Hound Dog's non-statistical research, as well. His focus on the fluctuations of the LPGA schedule from season to season is the most informative and balanced treatment I've seen on the web--and that's including pros like Jon Show who actually do a great job. His analysis of the LPGA's new eligibility and priority standards and the controversies they have generated at Q-School can't be beat. Speaking of controversies, he's one of the most level-headed and fair-minded bloggers in the middle of one that you're likely to come across.
It's no surprise, then, that in 2008 Hound Dog moved from blogger to join Rayn Ballengee of Waggle Room at SBNation, which has features that allow his readers to add supplemental posts and links to his main page, or that he's started co-hosting Inside the LPGA, one of the podcasts at Prime Sports Network. It's no wonder that other golf bloggers like Bill Jempty at The Florida Masochist and Jamie R. Saengsawang at Crosscourt Birdies are regulars at Hound Dog LPGA or that he has the best-informed commentariat of all the LPGA bloggers. One thing you can count on is that Ken's blog will remain LPGA Central in 2009.
[Update 1 (11:40 am): Looks like it's Hound Dog Day on teh internets.]
[Update 2 (1/16/09, 2:12 am): The good Dr. Frankenstat has struck again.]