- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golf has to be the most overexposed sport on the planet.

Witness the way the media have covered the latest exploits of LPGA sensation Lorena Ochoa. The 26-year-old Mexican strings together wins in four consecutive weeks, and all of a sudden she’s drawing comparisons to Tiger Woods and fielding Grand Slam questions.

“Well, for sure I’m thinking of that,” Ochoa said of the women’s Slam (Kraft Nabisco, McDonald’s LPGA, U.S. Open, British Open) after matching the LPGA record for victories in consecutive events at last week’s Ginn Open. “[Is it possible] to win the four majors? Yes, of course. … It’s too early to start talking about it. I’m just going to do it one at a time, and I think I can do it.”

OK, before we start mocking the suddenly massive army of Lorena-ites, it’s only proper to acknowledge just how beautifully Ochoa is playing. She has won five times in six starts this season by a combined margin of 37 strokes. She leads the LPGA in driving distance (277.5 yards), greens in regulation (81.0 percent), birdies (5.39 a round) and scoring average (67.87). Dating back to last year’s British Open, she has won 10 times in 15 starts with a scoring average of 68.66.

Outstanding? Absolutely.

Groundbreaking? Absolutely not.

From the end of the 2004 season through the first two majors of 2005, Annika Sorenstam won 10 times in 14 starts with a scoring average of 68.30. Sorenstam recorded the 10th victory during that streak at the 2005 McDonald’s LPGA Championship (her ninth major title and second of that season), setting up the last legit Grand Slam bid by either gender in the sport before she slumped to a tied-for-23rd finish at the U.S. Open.

In contrast, Ochoa has completed just one leg of the Slam this season (Kraft Nabisco) and has only two career majors to her name (also 2007 British Open). A year ago, the most compelling question in the women’s game was whether Ochoa had the constitution to finally add a major to her otherwise sparkling resume; now, she’s fielding questions about winning four in the same calendar year?

And then there’s the madness of Tiger comparisons. Given Woods’ runner-up finish in the Masters, some members of the media now claim Ochoa is the sport’s most dominant player. Let’s see, the major scoreboard reads 13-2 in favor of Tiger. Woods held all four men’s major titles when he won the 2001 Masters. And during his career, Woods has compiled three streaks longer than Ochoa’s current reign, winning in seven consecutive starts from 2006 to 2007, six consecutive starts between 1999 and 2000 and five straight starts earlier this season.

Make no mistake, Ochoa is a fabulous player, and far more fun to watch than the methodical Sorenstam was in her prime. But neither is on the same once-in-history plane as Woods. In reality, the fact that two players have dominated the LPGA to such a degree almost concurrently says nearly as much about the lack of depth in the women’s game as it does about their individual greatness.

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