Thursday, April 12, 2007

Terrible LPGA News

I know, I know, Vonnegut died, Imus got fired, Kos stupided stupidly--there's lots of news going on in the real world worth blogging about. I'll leave that to others. Here's mine:

Annika Sorenstam withdrew from this week's Ginn Open because of her first major injury in her career--one ruptured disc and one bulging disc in her back. She revealed that she's been playing in pain for weeks.

This is terrible news for Annika and terrible news for the LPGA. Michelle Wie's wrist injuries are one thing, but she has her entire career ahead of her. Annika has always been in great shape, so she's in a better position to recover from this than anyone, but still, we're talking most of the season gone at best (I don't buy the "around one month" spin from the tour). The LPGA loses its best golfer ever--and the golfing world loses someone who's a close second to Tiger in terms of impact on the sport--right at a time when the season was beginning to really heat up and get more media attention, especially with Morgan Pressel's first major victory two weeks ago. Now I understand why Annika never sounded enthusiastic in interviews this spring about the new wave of challengers to her #1 spot in the world--she must have been worried she wouldn't be able to play in enough tournaments this year to really put up a fight.

All I can say is that it's a good thing the talent pool in the LPGA is so deep and the competition so intense from week to week. Take the leaderboard this week as an example. The scores are low this year compared to last year--the course is playing a little longer because of the rains early in the week, but that also means the greens are holding more than last year. You needed to break 70 today to get in the top 10, and even then you'd still be chasing Lorena Ochoa and Laura Davies (66) and Brittany Lincicome (67). Lest you think the course only favors big hitters (all three leaders were averaging around 280 yards off the tee today), defending champion Mi Hyun Kim was five-under her last 12 holes to card a 68, despite only averaging 235-yard drives, and rookie In-Kyung Kim (238 yards!) used an eagle on the par-5 9th to help her to a 69 (4 shots ahead of Angela Park, the only person ahead of her in the Rookie-of-the-Year race). In other good news, Na Ri Kim's 68 makes it look like she wants to be counted among the Super Sophs I've been following this year, Natalie Gulbis's 69 might just mean her slump is over, and Se Ri Pak's 69 and Suzann Pettersen's 70 show they have shaken off the effects of their unexpected collapses in the final round of the LPGA's first major two weeks ago. In bad news, Paula Creamer (74), Jeong Jang (74), and Morgan Pressel (75) will be struggling to make the cut.

Among my faves, Moira Dunn is two-under through 16, with three birdies since the 9th hole and one more good birdie chance on 17 to come. Meaghan Francella is already in at -1. Ai Miyazato joins Stacy Prammanasudh, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, and Meena Lee, among others, at E (T35 right now [T36 at the end of the day])--not out of the tournament by any means, but in need of three strong rounds to have a chance to catch Ochoa. Grace Park is stuck in the middle of the pack at +1 and will be in danger of missing the cut with a mediocre second round. With 36 people under par so far, the cut culd easily be at +1 tomorrow.

Technical note: the Rolex Rankings are being recalculated for the beginning of next week, so expect a little bit of a shake-up outside the top 50 and then look for more gradual changes in people's rankings who haven't been playing really well or really badly in the past thirteen weeks (when results still count more than the next 91 weeks).

[Update: Here is the first round summary, with loads of interviews, courtesy of the LPGA site. Moira did birdie 17 but bogeyed 18--an improvement on her typical pattern this year thus far, in which she's been close to contending several times but plagued by the inopportune double bogey, but still quite frustrating, nevertheless. Natalie Gulbis took over for Moira on that front, doubling 18 to fall 3 behind Ochoa and Davies. Ai-chan only averaged 222 yards off the tee, but she hit 15 greens and had six birdies--and six bogeys--on the day! Must have been a weird day. Tell Grace Park--she doubled her first hole, the 10th, and was 5-over with eight holes to go, so what does she do but reel off four birdies during that stretch? It'll be interesting to see which Miyazato and which Park show up on Friday!

Here are the pairings for round 2. I would have had a great time following the Ochoa-Lincicome-Miyazato group, especially watching short hitter Ai-chan making as many birdies as the big hitters, but for Friday the Kim-Kerr-Pressel group looks to me like the one to follow, as Kim is playing for the lead, Kerr to get into contention, and Pressel to make the cut. The Na Ri Kim-In-Kyung Kim-Sarah Lee group also looks like it would be good to follow, as it'll be interesting to see how less-experienced players adjust to the course firming up on a hot and dry day. Better take advantage of the good weather the next two days--Sunday may be stormy.]


Anonymous said...

Sad to say this, but maybe it is time for Annika to think about taking serious healing time off. These sorts of injuries are not something one (even at her relatively young age) recovers from without lots of interventionary physical therapy and change of so many details. Her swing will change (and has it seems) as will her putting. Yes, i have several friends who have made the comeback from being down with serious disc issues, but they all took more than two years of intensive rehab to get there.

The Constructivist said...

If it's as serious as all that, this may be a time for a maternity leave. Inkster showed you can come back and be great again after giving birth. To tell you the truth, while reading her pre-tournament interview this week, I was half-wondering if she was pregnant. Could be she is, still.

Anonymous said...

non lo so. If her back is really that thrashed, pregnancy is only going to make it all that much worse. She needs to get the back fully rehabilitated, then do the maternity thing, maintain the health of her back and body through that, and like Inskter could come back in three seasons to kick major butt on the tour again. She definitely has seemed distracted over the last 15 months or so; probably from the pain. I can't imagine swinging a club when my lower back is inflamed and irritated.

The Constructivist said...

i agree that it would be a bad thing if she were already pregnant or got pregnant immediately. but if she decided to take a medical leave this season anyway, she could consider getting pregnant some time this summer. really, the first 6-7 months do not have to mean a big weight gain and her back could fully recover in that time. (i'm in a department where most of my female colleagues have successfully planned their delivery dates for the end of the spring semester, so if Annika were so inclined, I wouldn't be surprised if she was pretty efficient about shooting for a due date that would allow her to get back for the start of the 2009 season.)

in any case, I'd better hold off any more irresponsible speculations and wait for news on what the neurosurgeon (?!) says....