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April 21, 2010

Truth and Rumors: Ochoa loss blow for LPGA, Obama golf madness and the Shark's new flame

Posted at 1:09 PM by Steve Beslow | Categories: Barack Obama, Greg Norman, Lorena Ochoa, LPGA Tour

LPGA puts all its eggs in a fragile basket (or something like that)
While a relatively apathetic sports media might not take much notice of Lorena Ochoa's departure, you can be sure that the LPGA is taking the situation much more seriously. Kevin Baxter of The Sydney Morning Herald looks at what effect Ochoa's decision to hang up her spikes will have on the women's tour

Lorena Ochoa has always insisted she'll be just fine without golf. "I prefer to be remembered for other things," she has said. "It's not about golf. It's not about the game." But will golf be fine without Lorena Ochoa?

We may soon find out, given Ochoa's surprise announcement on Tuesday that she is retiring from the LPGA Tour, the latest in a series of recent blows that has left women's golf reeling...

"Obviously when you lose your No.1 player it certainly is not good news," said Charlie Rymer, an analyst for LPGA broadcasts on the Golf Channel. "It's a tough pill to swallow. You provide a stage for your larger-than-life stars and that's what pushes the needle in golf. There's some negatives to that. When you put your eggs in one basket, sometimes the basket gets a little fragile and the eggs roll out."

Ochoa's decision to step down now, at 28, makes her the second LPGA star, after Annika Sorenstam, to walk away from the game in less than two years. Couple that with a steep decline in sponsorship, plunging TV ratings and a surviving tour roster with few well-known personalities and commissioner Michael Whan finds himself battling to keep the LPGA relevant six months after taking the job.

I guess Tim Finchem has finally found an executive he wouldn't trade places with. I don't envy Whan with the lean times that the LPGA is likely facing (as Baxter mentions, the economy of the LPGA is already in tatters). Right now the commissioner's only real hope is a shocking return by Annika Sorrenstam (not going to happen this year), or a similarly surprising charge by Michelle Wie. If Wie takes advantage of the sudden power vacuum in women's golf, Ochoa's retirement might be a footnote in the LPGA's turnaround, rather than the last line on its tombstone.

Golf is the new arugula
I have no interest in talking politics on a golf blog, but the stories about President Barack Obama's golf habits are spinning out of control to the point that they themselves are actual news. While it was an article from The Washington Times that kicked off the latest Obama golf firestorm (as mentioned by my colleague Mike Walker on Monday), it was yesterday's post from The Telegraph's Toby Harnden that has stoked the fire on this ridiculous non-story:

President Barack Obama has played golf 32 times since he took office, eight more than his predecessor George W. Bush -- who was mocked by the Left for his fondness for the game -- did in his entire presidency.

Mr Obama's latest outing on the links came on Sunday, when an opportunity opened up on his schedule after flying bans over most of northern and central Europe forced him to cancel his trip to Krakow to attend the funeral of Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president.

Mr Bush was shown in the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11 condemning "terrorist killers" in the Middle East when asked a question on the golf course in 2002. Barely pausing for breath, he added: "Thank you. Now watch this drive."...

Mr Obama's Sunday golf game prompted anger in Poland, where the Warsaw Business Post carried a headline reading: "Obama goes golfing instead of attending Kaczynskis' funeral".

Again, I'm not looking to dip my feet in the political swamp, but are you kidding me? The President of the United States decides not to fly through a dangerous ash cloud to attend the memorial service of a president who died in a plane crash on his way to attend a memorial service? And you're against that? The real story (as it pertains to this website), is how golf seems to be used (by both sides of the political spectrum...or at least which ever side is out of power) as a sort of symbol for elitism and how out of touch the president is with the American public. The National Golf Foundation estimates that there are about 26.2 million Americans who like to unwind with a round of golf, and I think it's safe to assume that very few of those people have as much on their minds as the POTUS.

Twice bitten, not shy
Greg Norman is either a true romantic or a glutton for punishment. Ryan Ballengee of Waggleroom gives us the scoop, via The Palm Beach Post and The Daily Mail.

Divorce is a tough thing. Greg Norman has gone through it twice in the last five years. After ending things with his first wife, Laura, he found himself in the arms of tennis great Chris Evert. Just before the end of 2009, Evert and Norman quietly parted ways.

I don't know about Chrissy Evert, but Greg Norman is a man that can move on quickly. The Palm Beach Post reports that Norman is dating a new, younger woman. Her name is Kirsten Kutner, and she is a 41-year-old Sydney-based interior designer. Norman and Kutner have known each other for years, according to the Aussie tabloids, but are just now getting together after both got back on the market following each's divorce from their prior spouse.

Hopefully things will work out better for Norman this time around. It's been reported that his first divorce cost him upwards of $100 million, and his split with Evert was sad and confusing for everyone who saw not only the genuine connection they seemed to share, but the uptick in Norman's game that accompanied it. Here's hoping it's all blue skies and open water for the Shark in his newest romantic endeavor.

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