Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Happens in Thailand Stays in Thailand?

If the most dominant golfer in the world, bar none, barely pulls out a victory in Thailand over 2 former world #1s, but nobody makes a big deal of it, has it really happened?  Well, of course.  But what does it say about the U.S. golfy media that Ya Ni Tseng's dramatic win over Ai Miyazato and Ji-Yai Shin barely flickered across its collective consciousness?

Seriously, with the exception of 5 things from Julie Williams at Golfweek, 30 seconds from the SI guys (plus Stephanie Wei), and a straight-from-LPGA.com background 3-paragrapher from Randall Mell at Golf Channel, every other major golf web site simply relied on the AP.  The only site (besides this one) to put Tseng's win in some kind of context is Golf Observer, but because they're now subscription-based, once their story goes off their main page it's not easily accessible.  So let me quote the key part here:
With the win is all of the talk that Tseng could be the all-time best player in LPGA history. We saw this happen to Tiger Woods a decade ago when he won the Masters and then went wild winning eight events in 1999 and nine times in 2000. For Tseng she has won 13 times and is 75 wins away from Kathy Whitworth, 69 wins away from Mickey Wright and 59 wins away from Annika Sorenstam. But at 23 years, 27 days old she is light years ahead of these three. For Whitworth she was 23 years, 17 days old when she won the 1962 Phoenix Thunderbird Open, her second career victory. For Mickey Wright she was 23 years, 128 days old when she won the 1958 LPGA Championship, her sixth LPGA Tour victory. For Annika Sorenstam, she was 24 years, 281 days old when she won for the first time at the 1995 U.S. Women's Open. So you can she that Yani is light years ahead of the top-three but still has a lot to prove. To show you how really insane her game has been, she now has 33 wins around the world.

Tseng also is just six points away from qualifying for the World Golf Hall of Fame, she now is at 21 of the 28 points needed to get into the Hall. So there is a good chance that she could qualify this year, only problem because of the antedated rules of the LPGA she couldn't enter the hall until 2017. With the win she increases her LPGA career earnings to $7,776,083 - passing Betsy King to move into 14th on the LPGA Career Money List and is just $14 and a half million to catching Sorenstam's $22 and a half million dollar total. Now to show that Tseng is winning at a record pace, this was her 4th win in last 9 starts dating back to Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in September 2011. For Tseng's career she has 103 starts so that means she has a 12.6% of her starts or one every 12 and a half starts. This isn't even close to Tiger Woods who we all thought was the best, in 275 starts Tiger has won 71 times for a 26.1% or winning once in every 26 starts.
Yeah, the prose isn't deathless (seeing all the run-ons and wrong or left-out words, I assume it's by Sal Johnson), but the points made through it are valid. 

What's even more impressive is that Tseng beat a pair of golfers who are just about as accomplished as she is, and by some measures, more so.  Ai Miyazato has 7 LPGA wins to go with 15 wins on other major tours, mostly on the JLPGA (because 2 of them came at the LPGA-LET co-sponsored Evian Masters, I believe she has 20 big-time worldwide wins).  Ji-Yai Shin has 8 LPGA wins, including a major, to go with 28 wins on other major tours, mostly on the KLPGA (when you don't double-count co-sponsored wins, I believe she has 24 big-time worldwide wins).  By my count, Tseng has 13 LPGA wins, including 5 majors, but only 8 wins on other major tours, mostly on the LET, and hence only 18 big-time worldwide wins when you don't double-count her 3 co-sponsored victories.  (I'm assuming that oft-cited 33 total adds in wins from such developmental tours as the ALPG, LAGT, CN Canadian Women's Tour, and so on--and probably major amateur events, for that matter.)

I'm sure the showdown at Riviera between Phil and young guns Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, and Bill Haas, coupled with Sergio's amazing run at the top of the leaderboard, made for some gripping golf.  But remind me again how many career wins Haas, Bradley, and Johnson have...?  Or the highest they've ever been ranked...?  Or how they've proved themselves by dominating on another major tour...?

Look, I'm not saying Tseng is better than them, I recognize that live golf is a lot more compelling than tape-delayed coverage from half a world away, I understand that Phil is a much-more-established American star, and I'll even acknowledge that the men's game can be more fun to watch on tv than the LPGA.  Heck, I even found myself watching the Knicks on Sunday afternoon for awhile to see what all the fuss about Jeremy Lin was about (this from someone who never enjoyed watching the NBA and lost touch with the NCAA not long after graduating from college a couple of decades ago).  The only point I'm trying to make is that golf journalists have a job to inform and educate their audience, and part of that job involves assessing the historical significance of a tournament.  With all due respect to the guys involved last week, nothing they've done merits such an overwhelming lack of attention on the Tseng-Miyazato-Shin throwdown.  Maybe something like a Tiger-Donald-[Phil/Rory/Westwood/take your pick] shootout would be comparable....

Well, what's done is done.  I just hope the Showdown in Singapore gets a little more attention from the U.S. golfy media....

[Update 1 (2/24/12, 2:54 pm):  Should have realized that Brent Kelley would put Tseng's win in perspective, too!]

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Stephanie said...
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