Wait 'til Next Year
Ji-Yai Shin, already a double LPGA winner in 2008, takes the ADT Championship. And she isn't even a rookie yet
As swan songs go, the final ADT Championship resembled a Gilbert and Sullivan operatic farce more than an elegant ballet. It was laced with the dramatic, the absurd, the comical and the confused. The choreography at times was hopelessly out of synch. But when all was sorted out, a superb Trump International GC teamed with the delightful multiple-cut format and its eight-player shootout for a $1 million first prize -- $900,000 more than second place -- in identifying Ji-Yai Shin as a deserving winner.
With 26 career victories at the age of 20, Shin stands as a serious contender to fill the spikes of Annika Sorenstam, who made her last LPGA appearance at the ADT. Shin, now No. 6 in the Rolex Rankings, will join the LPGA Tour in 2009, and maybe they should just start engraving the Rookie of the Year trophy now (despite her impressive accomplishments so far, Shin has made just 10 career LPGA starts and won't become an official member of the tour until the start of next season). In fact, she could join Nancy Lopez in 1978 as the only players to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors simultaneously.
Shin's two-under-par 70 Sunday to take home the biggest check in women's golf was well planned, calmly executed and good enough to hold off Hall of Famer Karrie Webb in a head-to-head twosome by a single stroke. The Aussie vet forced Shin to two-putt from 20 feet on the final hole after making a 30-foot birdie putt she said "was rolling at about a 14." Shin now has won 11 times this year, including the Ricoh Women's British Open, an LPGA major, and the Mizuno Classic, an LPGA minor, seven times on the Korean LPGA and once on the Japan LPGA.
"Before this year I had won only in Korea," Shin said, speaking confidently without an interpreter. She also is fluent in Japanese. "Now I have won in Japan and on the LPGA. Last year, I was only watching the LPGA on TV. I start next year on the LPGA Tour. I'm ready for LPGA tournaments."
No one who saw her tame Sunningdale in the Women's British or Trump International with $1 million on the line would dispute that evaluation. Shin says she was visited by Sorenstam in a dream the night before the final round and told the Swede, "I want to play you." Instead, she played like her. "I just tried to make no mistakes," Shin said about handling the pressure. "I'm thinking 'just save par.' " That's a game plan of which Sorenstam would approve.
Which brings us back to Act One of this musical. Friday, Sorenstam missed the cut in her last LPGA round -- which was bad enough -- but while sharing a bittersweet moment with family and friends, she was told she had to go for drug testing. "I would have been fine if they had done it yesterday, not tell me when I was walking off the 18th green of my last tournament and trying to enjoy the moment with my family," Sorenstam told Golf World. What would they have done if she failed? Suspend her from retirement? Sometimes common sense needs to reign.
Also exiting last week was the ADT Championship itself. The format will return in 2010, but on a different course, at the beginning of the season and without ADT as a sponsor, a relationship sources familiar with the situation say could have been saved if financial demands hadn't been increased by the LPGA and if its season-ending spot on the schedule hadn't been taken away.
As tournament host Donald Trump so eloquently put it Tuesday night at the pro-am party in his elegant Mar-a-Lago mansion/hotel, where many players bunk during the tournament: "Just think, next year at this time you'll be staying in a freaking Holiday Inn outside Orlando."