LPGA season in review
The ADT Championship in West Palm Beach capped the LPGA season on Nov. 23. Ji-Yai Shin of South Korea won by one shot over Karrie Webb. It was Annika Sorenstam's last tournament on the LPGA Tour, for now. But that was just one of many newsworthy events. Here is a look at some of the top stories from the season:
1. Three fewer tournaments in 2009: Tough economic times forced the elimination of the Fields Open in Hawaii, Ginn Tribute in South Carolina, SemGroup Championship in Oklahoma and ADT Championship. But the Honda LPGA Thailand returns to the schedule. Purses will be around $55-million, down $5.25-million.
2. English as the official language: In August, commissioner Carolyn Bivens said all players would be required to speak conversational English or risk losing their tour card. Players, media and sponsors turned up the heat, and the tour backed off. But Bivens still wants to institute a plan for tutoring non-English-speaking players.
3. Ochoa on top again: For the third straight season, Lorena Ochoa, below right, topped the money list, with $2,763,193, nearly $1-million more than No. 2 Paula Creamer ($1,823,992). Ochoa won seven times, including five of the first six tournaments she played and four straight. With her win at the Corona Championship on April 13, Ochoa, 27, became eligible for the Hall of Fame as long as she stays on tour through 2012.
4. Annika bows out: Sorenstam, 38, right, has won 72 LPGA events and 10 majors. She has earned over $20-million in her career, which began in 1994. In May the Swede announced she was going to take a break (she never used the word "retire") to get married, start a family and pursue business interests.
5. Korean impact: The LPGA had 120 players from outside the United States; 45 were from South Korea. Of the 34 tournament winners, six were South Korean: Seon Hwa Lee, Eun-Hee Ji, Inbee Park, Ji Young Oh, Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim. Shin won three times and plans to play full time in 2009.
6. Wie's mistake: Michelle Wie was one shot off the lead at the State Farm Classic in July, and it appeared she would make enough money to earn an LPGA card for 2009. She had rounds of 67-65-67 and was playing her best golf of the season. But LPGA rules officials informed her after the third round that she had failed to sign her scorecard after the second round. She was disqualified and is in Q-school this week.
7. Creamer's case: It's easy for Paula Creamer, 22, to get lost in the shuffle, but she won four times, equaling her career total. She had 15 top-10 finishes and was second on the money list ($1,823,992). Since joining the tour in 2005, Creamer has won at least once each season except 2006.
8. Drug testing begins: The LPGA beat the PGA to the punch when it started testing in February. Players were chosen at random and tested after their rounds. No one tested positive for any banned substances.
9. Remember her name: Several Asian players burst onto the scene, but Taiwan's Yani Tseng bears watching. The rookie won the LPGA Championship, a major, finished in the top 10 10 times and was third on the money list with $1,752,086.
Q-School began Wednesday at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, with five rounds through Sunday on the Champions and Legends courses and a cut after 72 holes to the top 70. The top 20 earn cards for 2009. Clearwater's Jennifer Gleason, Brooksville's Kelly Lagedrost and Tampa's Elizabeth Stuart, 2008 Futures Tour members, are in the field.
U.S. legends take on legends from the rest of the world in the third annual Handa Cup this weekend in St. Augustine. The U.S. team captain is Kathy Whitworth, who has 88 career wins. Her team is Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel, Sandra Haynie, Patty Sheehan, Cindy Figg-Currier, Christa Johnson, Rosie Jones, Marilyn Lovander, Cindy Rarick and Sherri Turner. Notable players on the world team include Jan Stephenson and Dawn Coe-Jones.