Shots left over from the Safeway International, where 45-yearold Hall of Famer Juli Inkster proved she’s not done yet: Sunday’s final round had a bizarre conclusion, somewhere between the “Battle at Bighorn’’ and “The Legend of Bagger Vance.’’
Let’s call it the “Battle of Superstition Mountain,’’ where lights on the 17th and 18th holes lit the tees, fairways and greens.
Unfortunately, the portable lights were more novelty than practical. And, if anything, they benefited Inkster more than runner-up Sarah Lee, who played in the last twosome, 10 minutes behind the champ, which is key when an event ends at 6:30 p.m.
It could have been avoided. With rain almost a certainty for the final round, officials still stretched out the tee times from 7:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., instead of sending players off at Nos. 1 and 10. And after a two-hour weather delay, the leaders finally went off at 2:15 p.m.
Even though Lee never complained about her situation, she had the right to stop the tournament at both the 17th and 18th holes. Judging from the poor tee shot she hit at 17 — it flew 30 yards over the green — maybe she should have stopped it.
“I didn’t feel the shot, I just hit it,’’ said Lee, a vibrant soul who speaks pretty good English. “That’s why the result came up really bad; I couldn’t see line or distance (because of darkness).
“(At 18) I wanted to go for it (the green in two shots), but I couldn’t see the lie (how the ball was sitting on the grass) or anything. So, yeah, tough situation back there.’’
Lee knew she could have brought everybody back on Monday, but added: “I know every player (was) in (the) same situation so I just kept playing.’’ And now we know why nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee.
If the LPGA wants to keep improving its product, as new LPGA commissioner Carolyn F. Bivens keeps insisting, then it has to spend the money and get realtime scoring for its leader boards on the golf course. For the past two years, there has been confusion at the last hole regarding the leaders, and that’s not right when you’re playing for a first prize of $210,000.
Annika Sorenstam wasn’t sure where she stood in 2005, what with the leader at the time, Lorena Ochoa, stumbling behind her. Inkster also was unaware of her position in her duel with Lee.
“I thought, maybe, I was one shot up,’’ guessed Inkster, who actually led by two. “That’s why it kind of surprised me when everybody was hugging me. I’m thinking, she can still birdie, and then there’s a playoff, and it was weird.’’
Obviously, real-time scoring on the golf course is very expensive, but it’s been a staple of the PGA Tour for more than 10 years. It’s time for the LPGA to join the computer age. So far, it hasn’t cost anyone the title here or at other tournaments, but why chance it?
Count this columnist among those who are unimpressed with Bivens. As I wrote two weeks ago, she has created a firestorm over her media credential policy; made the new women’s world rankings a joke by basing it on 15 tournaments (the Michelle Wie rule); been involved with numerous missteps and oversights with the players; and has yet to contribute anything positive to the tour unless her “Oscar Night outing’’ with some of the young stars could be so construed.
What’s too bad about all this is Bivens is the polar opposite of former LPGA czar Ty Votaw, who was a people person who always put the tour first. Each year, Votaw visited the Safeway International for several days, and made it a point to interact with tournament officials, sponsors and the media, who he sometimes disagreed with in private conversation.
Bivens flew in briefly on Wednesday, attended a private dinner with tournament officials and a few media types, and left. Asked his opinion on the LPGA’s new leader, one high-ranking tournament official said: “Well, at least she got out of her car,’’ a reference to Bivens’ brief appearance.
STAR IS BORN
Little Esther Choe of Scottsdale turned out to be a media darling at the Safeway, finishing in a tie for 32nd place at 4-under. Had she been a pro, Choe would have earned $9,374.
Asked if she would have a hard time “playing down’’ when she returns to junior golf April 14-16 at the Heather Farr Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Choe said absolutely not.
“Junior golf is really, really good right now,’’ said the enthusiastic 16-year-old, who is a junior at Cactus Shadows High School. “We’ve got some great players, and I don’t look at it like playing down at all.’’
Choe, an honors student, is right on. Joining her in the Heather Farr will be such outstanding junior girls as Mesa’s Kristen Schelling, Scottsdale’s Taylore Karle and Ashley McKenney, and Phoenix’s Cheyenne Woods, a niece of you know who. The boys division will feature Scottsdale’s Tim McKenney, Philip Francis and Drew Kittleson, the defending champ.