April 4, 2009

The LPGA Was Wrong Not To Suspend Play In Yesterday's Kraft-Nabisco

A strong desert wind tore through the Kraft-Nabisco Championship yesterday, changing the balance of the competition and moving a new set of leaders to the top of the board in the competition. Kristy McPherson and Christina Kim teed off well before the wind started howling in the Coachella Valley, and both moved into the lead at 6-under 138 at the halfway point of the first LPGA major of 2009. Both played earlier on Friday when winds were relatively calmer, giving the two good scoring opportunities that were not to be found later the same day.

In the afternoon games, winds picked up to a steady 25-30 miles per hour with strong gusts that made Lorena Ochoa lose their balance, sent a palm frond into Angela Stanford's ankle and infuriated Ji Young Oh by blowing her ball some 30 feet off the 18th green and into a lake, leading to a one-stroke penalty.

After the incident, a frustrated Oh complained to an official that the course was unfair and unplayable, and was told to play on.

I believe that Ji Young was correct and that play went on far longer than it should.

You could say, on the other hand, that everyone plays the same golf course, but that's not necessarily so. Winds pick up or die down through the course of a given day and it really had gotten to the point where it was an unplayable condition. That's how today's leaders came to the top of the leaderboard, and when a golfer has a ball land well on the green only to watch it blown into a hazard, that's beyond the rub of the green, that's simply an unplayable condition.

Later, in a press conference, Doug Brecht, the LPGA's VP of Rules and Competition, said "we were looking for was an exorbitant amount of movement of balls on the green due to wind situations. We did have some. At last count, it was somewhere between five and 10 balls that actually had some movement that was definitely attributable to the wind."

"[F]rom what I saw, the 18th green, which again was giving us the most difficulty, remained in a playable condition throughout the day," he added.

Ji Young Oh would no doubt disagree. Perhaps Brecht missed her misfortune. Or perhaps he simply overlooked it. "In our opinion, the golf course played very, very difficult, very tough, but it was still playable. That's why we made the decision never to suspend play today," Brecht said.

When asked about the wind creating danger to spectators, fans and ostensibly players, Brecht said "We had an occasional limb blow out of a tree. We didn't see a large amount of palm fronds or anything like that. We had no reports of that. And we were stationed, three officials on the front (nine) and three officials on the back (nine), spread out over the entire golf course. If that would have happened, that definitely would have weighed in our decision and would have actually changed our decision."

Apparently, Brecht and his team missed the palm frond that flew from a tree and into Angela Stanford's ankle.

In my opinion, the LPGA blew it here. The tournament is being covered by ESPN, giving the struggling Tour much-needed exposure, but this is not the sort of coverage that they need. These are the best women players in the world, and they are masterful golfers. Unfortunately, by choosing to continue playing yesterday, the LPGA let them look worse than Sunday hackers, because no one -- not even the best -- can golf in conditions like that.

1 comment:

  1. Charles, are you telling me you have never had the wind blow your ball at rest off the putting surface and into a hazard?

    Also, six total LPGA officials available for a major championship? I think the U.S.G.A. empties the entire state of New Jersey, puts armbands on them and have 263 per hole! Somewhere between 6 and 5,000 sounds reasonable...



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