It was appropriate that the U.S. Women's Open was held in eastern Pennsylvania, just miles from the New Jersey border – because the story of the week was LPGA commish Carolyn Bivens getting whacked, "Sopranos"-style.
All right, so a signed letter from the top players on the LPGA Tour calling for her resignation isn't exactly Christopher Moltisanti rolling up a body in a carpet and stuffing it in a trunk, but as far as women's golf goes, it counts as a cold-blooded execution. Maybe they'll go bury the letter in Pine Barrens. (Inside joke for those of us who still miss Tony and the boys.)
Do we call it ironic, then, or just amusingly coincidental that Bivens' last stand included a winner who needed a Korean translator for her NBC interview?
Remember, one of Bivens' multiple missteps was her attempt to coerce non-English speakers to learn the King's English or else face The Wrath of Carolyn. It was a brutally ill-conceived plan, bordering on xenophobic, but it wasn't Bivens' death knell, nor was her numbskull idea of having LPGA players tweet during tournaments. Being short-sighted about the global landscape in which we live is one thing; hurting the players in their wallets is entirely another.
So when the LPGA lost seven tournaments over the last two years, the ladies had seen enough. Out went Bivens in "The Massacre at Saucon Valley CC."
Maybe new U.S. Women's Open champion Eun Hee Ji can tweet her goodbye. Perhaps something like: “Hey, Commish. Don't let the door hit your golf bag on the way out.”
Count me among a dwindling minority, but I enjoy the women's game and want it to succeed. Given the choice between an LPGA event and a Champions Tour event, I'll take Brittany over Bernhard and Lorena over Loren every time. That's a gimme.
The women have charisma (the Big Wiesy is a card-holder), some rivalries (Paula v. Michelle would be a good one, if the Hawaiian Punch-less ever won something), youth (14-year-old Alexis Thompson held some attention at the Open) and fresh faces (the li'l sprite Jean Reynolds stole the show Saturday with her smile, Georgia accent and a driver that Dan Hicks noted was "taller than she is.")
Plus, did you check out Ji's winning golf swing? Johnny Miller compared her follow-through to Camilo Villegas; while Dottie Pepper compared her backswing to Sergio Garcia. My back got sore just watching her come through the golf ball. It's a helluva move.
When she made birdie on the 72nd hole with a nerveless 20-foot right-to-left slider for the one stroke win over Candie Kung, all of us couch potatoes watched with admiration, knowing we'd leave that 10 feet short and take up residence in Choke City.
Ji made three birdies in her final six holes, the stuff of U.S. Women's Open legends, and in a sociological note that had Bivens worried, is now the third Korean in the last five years to win America's national championship. Only Cristie Kerr, whom Johnny Miller spent Sunday peppering with observations about her inability to handle pressure, has kept America's title stateside in the last five years.
Is this a huge problem, one that turns Americans off of women's golf? Not for me. Admittedly, I was rooting for a Yank to bring it home, but that may be just because I'd been to a baseball game earlier in the day and was feeling particularly hot dog/apple pie/Chevrolet about the whole deal.
Then again, we've seen how Chevy's parent company, General Motors, has been faring of late, so maybe it was apropos that my red, white and blue pining came up short.
Still, there's enough room on our sports landscape to root for Brittany Lincicome or Jean Reynolds or Michelle Wie or Paula Creamer and still stand back and applaud when Eun Hee Ji wins the Women's Open. Great golf is great golf, and she provided it down the stretch – even if she was hiding her emotions behind those Duval-ian, late '90s Oakleys.
But I may be on the wrong side of history here. If the LPGA is losing seven tournaments in two years, the market is telling us something. Or, was Bivens merely unable to read the room and negotiate with sponsors to make things more sponsor-friendly? I'd prefer to think the players are making the right move. If the right commissioner negotiates smaller purses and keeps more golf on the schedule, they will be seen as visionaries who saved their sport.
As Tony Soprano might have said: "Sometimes, you gotta do, what you gotta do."
Scorecard of the week
• 69-65-66-69 – 269, 15 under, Martin Kaymer, winner, European Tour Scottish Open.
Speaking of non-American golf … holy baby Bernhard Langer, Batman!
We may be looking at golf's newest star, and his name is Martin Kaymer, rhymes with "climber," as in a player who has climbed to No. 11 in the world rankings after winning the Scottish Open, days before the golf world descends on Turnberry in Scotland for the British Open.
Kaymer won the French Open last week, the Scottish Open this week, and nobody's gone 2 for 2 prior to a British Open since Ian Woosnam back in 1990. Wee Woosie did not win at St. Andrews that week (Nick Faldo did, part of burnishing the legend that would one day earn him the title "Sir Nick"), and we shouldn't expect Kaymer to win at Turnberry, either.
Woosnam did finish tied for fourth that week, though, so we shouldn't be surprised if Kaymer keeps up his hot golf and posts a top-10. Why not? The guy shot a 59 back in his younger pro days in Germany and has won four times in 70 starts on the European Tour, where he was Rookie of the Year in 2007.
Great: Just what America needs – a new Ryder Cup assassin for Team Europe. The Stars and Stripes finally wins a Ryder Cup, and now the Kaymer Era is ready to begin in Wales in 2010.
Broadcast moment of the week
• “That was all nerves … boy, I'm telling you, people are falling apart right now.” – Johnny Miller, NBC, in his comfort zone, describing a Cristie Kerr missed putt and ensuing assessment of the field.
Ah, the traditions of summertime: burgers on the grill, vacations to the lake, and Johnny Miller eviscerating a player & or several – at our national championship.
I'm not saying he's wrong – only that without fail, there will be several moments in the final round of a U.S. Open or, as was the case Sunday, a U.S. Women's Open, where Miller crushes a player for failing to hold his or her nerves, and he will do so with the ease and insouciance of a man ordering a steak for dinner.
Kerr was the unfortunate target of Miller on Sunday. He opened the broadcast by citing her failure to hang on at Nabisco this spring – most notably a tee shot O.B. on the back nine Sunday – and wondered aloud if "Nabisco-it is" would come into play at the Open.
And when Kerr made bogey on 13 to fritter away her lead, Miller offered up a casual, "She's falling apart a little, just like Nabisco," and you had the sense he was both boldly harsh and totally correct, not necessarily in that order.
Mulligan of the week
• Paula Creamer wants a U.S. Open. She's said it so often, it's become the 15th club in her bag – pressure.
So, inevitably, that albatross swung around her neck at Saucon Valley, where she came to the 10th hole on Saturday very much in the hunt. The USGA, in a savvy move, moved up the tees and made the flagstick an enticing 253 yards away on the par-4. For Creamer, it was like putting a pork chop in front of a wolf.
Alas, her tee shot found the greenside bunker, and when she bladed it over the green, she was en route to an Open-defining triple-bogey "7." She dropped from three back to six back, and that was all she wrote for the Pink Panther.
Considering that Creamer wants the Open dearly, and considering she now has back-to-back top-10 finishes and five consecutive top-20 finishes – all without the coveted trophy – it might be fair to say Creamer is developing a Mickelson-ian relationship with our national championship.
So let's go back to that 10th tee, pull that driver out of Creamer's hand, tell her to lay up and … give that woman a mulligan!
Where do we go from here?
• An entire column goes by and we don't even mention Steve Stricker's win at the John Deere. So sue me. Stricker's a nice guy, Stricker won, Stricker will be at Turnberry, Stricker will be worth watching at Turnberry, and that's that.
Now we can officially turn our attention to Scotland and the 138th British Open Championship, but only the third at Turnberry, which doesn't sound right unless you roll your r's like Sean Connery.
Tiger will be there. Tiger should win. Then again, that's been true at the other two majors this year and neither time did it happen, so … tune in, sports fans.
- Carolyn Bivens
- Johnny Miller
- Paula Creamer
- Cristie Kerr
- Martin Kaymer