Double Bang For Your Buck...Ochoa and Woods as athletes of year
For the first time in my lifetime (and probably the last), two golfers were named Associated Press athletes of the year. Lorena Ochoa is the bigger surprise, in that no other female athlete seemed to receive as much coverage for what she did. What she did was to dethrone the queen of the game, Annika Sorenstam, in a way that only Karrie Webb seemed capable of doing. Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie had taken shots, but had fallen woefully short. Ochoa, however, came on like gangbusters early in the year (wins at Takefuji and Sybase before June 1m along with five runner-up finishes during the same stretch), fell off a bit, then surged late in the year (wins at Wendy’s, Corona and World) to seal the deal. The only victory that eluded her was a major (those went to Webb, Pak, Sorenstam and Steinhauer), but another runner-up gave her five wins and six seconds in 2006. In an olympic year (aren’t they all these days), that was some feat.
As far as the golfer formerly known as Eldrick (did he have a middle name, and does he still use it?), six vics and two grandes were an amazing feat. There is not doubt that, although it was not the same demolition as 2000, the circumstances brought on by life locked up the award for ETW. Until someone else wins three majors in a year, only Tiger will win AP athlete of the year recognition as a male golfer. Someone will need to unseat Woods, if only for a season, to garner such acclaim. Even so, it might not be enough…how can you give a golfer that much acclamation? In my book, the only reason Woods gets the props from other ‘thletes is his freakin’ buffness…Ochoa, in the world of women’s athletics, doesn’t need Sorenstam-style guns in order to collect the same media accolades.
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Ochoa got an assist from Michelle Wie. I suspect that most of Ochoa's support came from media critics of Wie's efforts against the men. The message being sent to Michelle Wie is that she should focus on the LPGA, where success will bring an automatic landslide win as AP Female Athlete of the Year to anyone who is top woman on the tour, even if she fails to win a single Major title.