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Move Over Annika

Nov. 14, 2006     By     Comments (5)

Annika Sorenstam wasn't necessarily ready to pass the torch, but Lorena Ochoa took it anyway.

Thrash TalkAnnika Sorenstam decided to play golf with the men this past weekend. The world's number one female golfer teamed with Fred Couples at the Merril Lynch Shootout and finished in last place. While Sorenstam was playing a silly season event, Lorena Ochoa was winning her sixth LPGA Tour event of the season in dominant fashion (by ten shots to be exact).

The win was Ochoa's third in a row, and she clinched the LPGA Tour Player of the Year title in the process. Annika and Karrie Webb have combined to win every player of the year award since 1996 which definitely blew my mind. I figured at least one golfer would have snuck in there and stolen the award in that ten-year time period. That makes Ochoa's 2006 season even more impressive.

The win was Ochoa's third in a row, and she clinched the LPGA Tour Player of the Year title in the process. Annika and Karrie Webb have combined to win every player of the year award since 1996 which definitely blew my mind. I figured at least one golfer would have snuck in there and stolen the award in that ten-year time period. That makes Ochoa's 2006 season even more impressive.

I fully expected Annika to pass the torch in the next couple seasons, but I didn't think Lorena Ochoa was going to be the first female to step up and take it from her. After Paula Creamer's 2005 season, I fully expected her to continue her breakout in 2006 and win multiple tournaments including a major championship or two. As of today, Creamer is winless on the LPGA Tour this season, and it's already the middle of November!

Give full credit to Ochoa though. She has elivated her golf game to a new level, and she has a very bright future ahead of her. Whether or not she is ready to fully take and retain the torch remains to be seen. The following things must happen for Ochoa to move to the top of the world rankings and stay there.

Stay Motivated
Ochoa has put together an awesome 2006 season, but she needs to stay consistent in order to maintain her ranking. It's not easy to play as well as she has this season, but it's happened for golfers in the past. The key for Ochoa will be continuing to put her name at the top of leaderboards for years to come. She won't be a one-season wonder, but that chance always exists.

The interviews with Ochoa I've seen lead me to believe she fully expects to move to the top spot in the world rankings and stay there. That's definitely a good sign because she has a long way to go to catch Annika Sorenstam in the career numbers. It's great to have one superb season, but it's even better to have multiple great seasons. Maintaining motivation and improving shouldn't be a problem for Ochoa. However, it always seems to be a problem for certain professional athletes.

Win a Major Championship
Lorena OchoaLorena Ochoa has had six LPGA Tour wins in 2006, but none were major championships. It's a no-brainer that she is the best female golfer without one, including Michelle Wie. Ochoa came very close at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, but close wasn't good enough. Karrie Webb defeated Ochoa on the first playoff hole to complete her own personal comeback story.

As most golf fans know, almost doesn't count in our sport, and major championships are very important for a player's legacy. Annika didn't have her best LPGA Tour season in 2006, but she still won a major championship. The same can be said for Karrie Webb who won four times including a major championship. Ochoa won some big tournaments, but the majors are bigger than big.

As I mentioned earlier, Ochoa has certainly elivated her golf game to a new level this season. For her to become the best female golfer in the world on a consistent basis, however, she needs to take her game to yet another level. The six-win season is great for Ochoa, and the talent is evident. But to be the best, she will have to beat the best on the biggest stage. It wouldn't surprise me if she wins one or two majors in 2007 to shut the media up real quick.

Fight off Young Guns
There are a lot of young guns currently playing the LPGA Tour, and many more are on the way. Ochoa's biggest hurdle in maintaining her spot as one of the best might be fighting off all the incoming talent in the near future. Paula Creamer had a down year in 2006, but she is more than capable of bouncing back and having a huge 2007 season. Creamer battled injuries this season, and it will be interesting to see how well she plays next year.

Michelle Wie had to play a limited LPGA Tour schedule because of the rules, but she will be 18 years old and well on her way by the 2008 season. Wie has already shown the media she can compete in major championships by consistently finishing in the top five. She hasn't won an LPGA Tour event to this point, but that won't last for long. There are a whole lot of wins in her future.

The Korean contingent continues on the LPGA Tour as well. Every year, we see a handful of new up-and-comers with loads of talent. They aren't going anywhere and will be forces for years to come. Some of them have already won major championships, so they can perform on the big stage.

Lorena Ochoa has to keep her eye on Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb as well, but the young guns are about to completely take over the LPGA Tour. Ochoa is still a youngster in her own right, so she should have no problem remaining successful in that regard. Staying at the top, however, is a much larger challenge than just tasting a little success here and there. There is a large group of young players that want to have the same success Ochoa has had in 2006.

The Final Say
As far as the near future goes, Lorena Ochoa should win some major championships and stay within the top five in the world rankings. As for the long haul, there is no way she stays ahead of Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie. Those two will lead the LPGA Tour into the next generation of female golf after Annika slows it down a little. Ochoa has all the talent in the world, but she won't be as good as Creamer or Wie. And there is no telling how many more young phenoms will burst onto the scene over the next couple years.

That's not to take away from how good Ochoa is though. She has had an awesome season, and it's nice to see someone else besides Annika win the player of the year award. The fresh faces will take the LPGA Tour to the next level, and the future is everything right? Congratulations are in order for Ochoa's award-winning season, and I hope she wins a major championship or two next season to solidify her status as one of the world's best female golfers.

It's time for you to give me some input on this week's article. Has Ochoa's success been a surprise to you? Also, can she be considered the world's best female golfer without a major championship? Finally, how long can she stay near the top of the rankings with all the young talent coming in? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!

Photo Credits: © Chip English/AP.

Discussion

  1. patricia says:

    I'm probably not the best judge of such things, but I feel like Lorena could stay ahead of Paula into the future. In addition to her talent (less than Paula?) she seems to have this extraordinary determination. To me she seems completely single-minded, and less likely to become distracted with non-golf things than Paula. That's just a feeling though. :o)

  2. patricia says:

    I'm probably not the best judge of such things, but I feel like Lorena could stay ahead of Paula into the future. In addition to her talent (less than Paula?) she seems to have this extraordinary determination. To me she seems completely single-minded, and less likely to become distracted with non-golf things than Paula. That's just a feeling though. :o)

  3. Paul says:

    Lorena seems to have more passion for the game than anyone else playing golf today, on any tour. She gets such joy from playing well that it is hard to imagine she will lose interest any time soon. She will work harder than any of her competitors and get more from her work because of her great attitude.

    Given her personal qualities, including her strength of character, it is hard to imagine anyone currently on the LPGA achieving a better record than Lorena. She is a champion.

  4. jackie says:

    i love this it really shows her side :)

  1. [... Annika Sorenstam decided to play golf with the men this past weekend. The world's number one female golfer teamed with Fred Couples at the Merril Lynch Shootout and finished in ...]

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