October 15, 2007

View From The Bunker: Woods Vs. Ochoa

Who had a better year? Ron Sirak says the numbers and intangibles are so close, it's tough to call

Two spectacular golfers having an incredible year on the course.

Two spectacular golfers having an incredible year on the course.

The player-of-the-year awards for both the PGA Tour and the LPGA were wrapped up early. Tiger Woods clinched his with a victory at the PGA Championship, and Lorena Ochoa all but locked up hers at the Ricoh Women's British Open. So, who had the better year, Woods or Ochoa? Which No. 1 is the true player of the year?

With the anticipated rivalries on their own tours never materializing -- Phil Mickelson failing to step up and Annika Sorenstam having to back down because of an injury -- the only real competition for Woods and Ochoa is across gender lines.

First, let's dust off the rivals. Mickelson won three times in '07, including the Players Championship, but his best finish in a major was T-24 (Masters), and he missed the cut in the U.S. and British Opens while battling a wrist injury. Woods won seven times, including the PGA Championship, two World Golf Championship events and the Tour Championship, along with first place in the inaugural FedEx Cup.

Sorenstam, diagnosed with a ruptured disk in her neck in April, played only 10 events and, after a playoff loss to Meaghan Francella in her first start of the year at the MasterCard Classic, never had a top-five finish. That's quite a letdown for a player who has won multiple times on the LPGA Tour every year since 1995.

So how do Tiger and Lorena do head-to-head? Woods played 16 events -- besides his seven victories, he had a trio of second-place finishes and 12 top-10s. Ochoa has played in 22 events so far, winning seven, adding five seconds and two thirds, and finishing in the top-10 18 times. In top-threes Woods is slightly better, 62.5 percent to 59.1 percent, but in top-10s Ochoa gets the nod, 86.4 to 75 percent.

Both won one major championship in 2007, but Woods' average finish in the majors was 4.25 (T-2 in both the Masters and the U.S. Open and T-12 in the British Open) while Ochoa's was 4.75 (T-2 in the U.S. Women's Open, T-6 in the McDonald's LPGA Championship and T-10 in the Kraft Nabisco Championship). So Woods has the advantage there.

Woods and Ochoa both let two majors slip away. Tiger was second to Zach Johnson at the Masters and to Angel Cabrera at the U.S. Open, despite playing in the final pairing Sunday in both championships. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship, It appeared Ochoa would have the upper hand going into the fourth round until she made a quadruple-bogey 7 at the 17th hole in the third round. She finished four strokes back of eventual champion Morgan Pressel. At the U.S. Women's Open, Ochoa missed the final five fairways and lost to Cristie Kerr by two.

Through last week's Samsung World Championship, Ochoa's earnings are $3,318,421 -- 143 percent more than second-place Suzann Pettersen. Woods won $10,867,052 -- 86.7 percent more than Mickelson, who was second. The conclusion? So totally did each dominate their tour, I declare the player-of-the-year race a dead heat.