The Pepper Mill

July 13, 2008

STACY LEWIS (below) was undercut by Michelle Wie. Lewis qualified for the U.S. Women's Open, then tied for third and earned $162,487, but none of that money goes toward securing her playing privileges for next year. That's because in 2003 the LPGA increased the number of allowable sponsors' exemptions per season from four to six—largely in deference to the surge of interest in Wie—but added a twist: Earnings would count toward fully exempt status only if they were won in official domestic events with at least 75 players. Known among players as the Michelle Wie Rule, this allowed the tour to cash in on the Hawaiian teen's popularity while also guarding the rank and file from the perceived inequities of an exemption into an event with a short field, like the Samsung World Championship, or one with a huge purse, like the Women's Open or the Evian Masters. It worked, as no one has earned her card through this avenue, but it's protectionist and unfair. After all, earnings of tour members in the Women's Open (not an official tour event) count toward their official money, so why shouldn't they count for a nonmember like Lewis, especially since she qualified for the event? The rule gives existing LPGA members an unjustifiable edge in keeping their cards over outsiders trying to earn one. If the LPGA is dedicated to "showcasing the very best in women's professional golf," as it claimed in a memo last week, it ought to recognize all cash earned when competing against the world's best. Period.

WHERE IN the world is Lorena Ochoa (right)? After dominating the first four months of the LPGA season, she has disappeared. Why? Statistically speaking, it's all in the putting. In 2007 she averaged 28.20 putts a round, ranking 25th on tour. So far this year she has averaged 30.09 putts, ranking 95th. More important, Lorena had a very good chance to hold all four major titles at once, but she came up a shot short of a playoff at the LPGA Championship and then, in a month's time, lost two very close members of her tightly knit family. She had poured her heart into the quest for the Lorena Slam and had her heart broken by her losses on and off the course. She'll be back.

WITH TIGER WOODS out of the Ryder Cup, many U.S. fans have been pressing the panic button. Not so fast. It may be a good thing for the Yanks. No one person can earn more than five points. Tiger is only 10-13-2 in Ryder Cup play, and the Euros get such a charge when he does go down in defeat that his absence, while not a good thing for TV ratings, may be a plus for the Americans.

Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA vet and analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes your letters at dottie@siletters.com.

PHOTODAVID WALBERG (PEPPER) PHOTOFRED VUICH (LEWIS) PHOTOROBERT BECK (OCHOA)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)