Originally created 11/22/06

Transitional year

The LPGA Tour season might best be defined by leaps and bounds, although that's more literal than figurative.

Karrie Webb hit the best shot in women's golf this year - maybe the best shot in all of golf - when her pitching wedge from 116 yards on the final hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship landed a yard in front of the pin and crept into the cup, sending her into a playoff that she won.

Even more memorable was the raw emotion of Webb sprinting to caddie Mike Paterson and leaping into his arms.

"I think my heart just about jumped out of my chest, because it was aching for five minutes," she said.

Ten weeks later, Se Ri Pak matched her in more ways than one.

She won the LPGA Championship in a sudden-death playoff (over Webb), hitting a hybrid 4-iron from 201 yards that stopped 3 inches from the cup. After an uppercut, she also leapt into her caddie's arms.

"First time I jumped on the golf course," Pak said.

How much of a leap forward the LPGA Tour made as an organization remains to be seen.

The start could not have been much worse. LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens picked an unnecessary fight with the media that led to a one-day boycott in Hawaii and strained her relationship with the people who publicize a tour in dire need of publicity.

It could not have ended much better, with a novel format at the ADT Championship that paid $1 million to a rookie from Paraguay who closed the deal at Trump International.

Along the way, there was a mixed bag of successes and failures:

The first three majors were decided in a playoff, which alone is compelling stuff. What added to the sizzle was the number of players who had a chance to win those majors in the final holes, including 16-year-old Michelle Wie at the KraftNabisco, LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.

Annika Sorenstam's standards are so celestial that winning three times, including the U.S. Open, and finishing third on the LPGA Tour money list with nearly $2 million constitutes a bad year.

It's healthy for any sport to have a revolving door of stars, and Lorena Ochoa finally shoved aside Sorenstam. The question now is how long the 24-year-old Mexican stays there. Ochoa swept all the major awards with six victories, a 69.24 scoring average and more than $2.5 million to win the money title. The only thing missing was a major, and that could be around the corner.

Webb, meanwhile, won four times and went over $2 million for the first time in her career.

How's this for star power? Three major champions are Hall of Famers (Pak won't be inducted until next year).

The good news is that six rookies finished among the top 24 on the LPGA Tour money list, and Julieta Granada (No. 4) set a record for rookie earnings at more than $1.6 million ($1 million of that came in the ADT Championship).


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