Enough in Budget or Not, Get Ochoa and Her Tournament on TV
This is usually one of my favorite weeks of the year. This is the week when Lorena Ochoa holds her annual tournament. It’s got all of the warm feelings you could ever ask for, as Ochoa and her event symbolize golf’s contribution to ‘giving something back.’ It’s the least egocentric event on tour, and it always makes me feel better. I’m willing to bet that others feel that way as well.
This year, however, the whole thing passed me by, and I barely noticed it until it was almost too late. Of all things to leave off the TV schedule, how did they allow this tournament to slip away? I was alerted to it by Beth Ann Nichol’s article decrying the absence of one of the most high-asset events of the golf year. In recent years, golf is sweating about losing devotees, for a variety of reasons. The game always takes a dip for a while when a big name disppears. The Big Three were hard to replace, but Tiger did it. Then, his health and game fell to pieces, and no one has superheroes to root for anymore. That’s where we blew it with Ochoa, a woman described by Nichols as “a pro’s pro.” She is a ready-made heroine who never double-crosses or abuses fans. Giving is her game. She should be one of the highest inspirations for girls and young women to take up golf. She could be the individual parents point to when searching for a chararcter model for their golfing children – but she needs to be televised to do that.
What else did we miss? An important event played in Mexico City. How often does major league golf go there? A student should get class credit for watching four days of golf in a city like that. The third way in which we blew it was in bypassing one of the rare match play events we get to see during the year.. Match play has a completely different feel to it, and if you like westerns, you ought to love this week’s tournament. To watch for favorite players to emerge from a pack of 60 or 70 is one type of joy, but watching them turn into gunslingers for four days of duels in the sun is quite another. In stroke play, a player is a no-name until he or she reaches a decent level on the leaderboard. From that point on through Sunday, their opponent is a diffused mass of other players. In match play, its mano a mano from the first day. Every match is sudden death, and your foe is distinct. They can look each other in the eye before someone says “draw!”
Part of the fun of Ochoa’s match play event is that it tends to point out how certain players are about going one on one. Even though they didn’t win the tournament, Ko, Henderson, Wie, and Kerr seem to be pretty good at it. In the end, though, this week’s great gunslingers are Ariya Jutanugarn and Sei Young Kim. All of this, we have missed. And there’s more where that came from. Between weekend matches, there is an exhibition with Annika Sorenstam, Julie Inkster, and Se Ri Pack.
All in all, that’s about as much inspiration and fascination for a perspective golf audience as you’d ever want to have – but nobody saw it. Michael Whan says that there wasn’t enough in the budget to get it done. If that’s the case, Whan and a few others had better make more phone calls to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. The reason for not putting this on TV is the tour’s problem, but whatever the excuse, they missed a big deal when they missed Ochoa and her week of match play.