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Golf Tidbits: Dominance to parity

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The month of June was the turning point in the 2008 season on both the PGA and LPGA Tours.

Prior to Father's Day, the No. 1 players on both tours were off to dominant starts. Tiger Woods had won four of his five starts on the PGA Tour, while Lorena Ochoa was victorious in six of her 10 starts.

Things started to change for Ochoa as the month of May wound to a close. She withdrew from the Ginn Tribute, which started on May 29, as her sick uncle took a turn for the worse. Before she was able to make it back to Guadalajara, her uncle passed away.

Not long afterward, Ochoa also lost her maternal grandfather. Following those losses off the course, Ochoa won just one more event in 13 starts.

Meanwhile, we all know what happened to Woods on Father's Day weekend. He gutted out a one-over 73 in the final round of the U.S. Open to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate.

Woods needed 19 more holes the next day to fend off Mediate for his 14th major title. He played that week with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and stress fractures in his leg.

After Woods underwent knee surgery, he announced he would not return to the tour until 2009.

With the best player on both circuits out or struggling, parity set in. The remainder of the PGA Tour season saw 16 different players win the final 21 tour events.

On the LPGA Tour, 11 different players collected titles in the season's final 20 events, with four players winning more than once. Ji-Yai Shin won three titles, including the season's final major - the Women's British Open.

There were the stalwarts - Kenny Perry won twice, Vijay Singh thrice, Angela Stanford two times and Paula Creamer twice. But there were several other winners that either made a name for themselves (see Park, InBee) or finally broke through to meet lofty expectations (see Villegas, Camilo).

The big names still won the big events on the PGA, with Perry, Anthony Kim, Villegas, Singh and Padraig Harrington -- who won the British Open and PGA Championship -- claiming the key events in the second half of the season. Tough to say how many of those titles Woods could or would have won, but he has titled in eight of those tournaments in the past.

With Ochoa struggling and Annika Sorenstam on her retirement tour, Shin and Yani Tseng became household names on the LPGA Tour. Tseng, the McDonald's LPGA champion, posted six of her eight top-five finishes between June and November.

What does this all mean? Despite the economic issues facing both tours, the action inside the ropes is flourishing. Not only does each tour have a player who could win any time they tee it up in Woods and Ochoa, there is also plenty of balance behind them.

Along with the established talent on hand, who will be the next standout that graduated from Q School?

AN ECLECTIC GROUP OF Q SCHOOL GRADUATES

What do an NCAA champion, a teenage phenom, a multiple winner on the Ladies European Tour, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, a blossoming bomber and a former Ryder Cup performer all have in common?

They just graduated from Q School to earn their LPGA or PGA Tour cards for 2009.

The aforementioned group includes Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Amy Yang, John Huston, Derek Fathauer and Chris Riley.

Lewis had a remarkable 2007 in which she won the NCAA Individual Championship and won the NW Arkansas LPGA Championship, which was an unofficial win because the event was shortened to 18 holes by rain. In 2008, she led the U.S. Women's Open after three rounds before finishing in a tie for third place.

Wie has been trying to win her first LPGA Tour event for eight years now. She first played an LPGA event at the age of 12, but has struggled much of the last two seasons. Wie's struggles came after a remarkable 2006 season in which she finished in the top five at three of the season's four majors and in six of her nine starts against women.

Yang, who like Wie is just 19 years old, won her first LET event in 2006, then won twice on that tour in '08.

Huston's 2008 season included four straight missed cuts and him earning money in 11 of 18 starts.

Fathauer's year was highlighted by a quarterfinal appearance at the U.S. Amateur, making the cut at the U.S. Open and posting a 3-1 record at the Palmer Cup, an eight-man team golf competition between American and European college golfers.

Riley split time between the PGA Tour, where he collected his lone win in 2002, and the Nationwide Tour, where he won once in 2007.

MINI-TIDBITS

- John Daly's troubles continued Thursday in Australia, as he took a camera from a fan and smashed it against a tree. The fan had taken a close-up picture of Daly, who knocked his tee shot into the trees on the ninth hole at the Australian Open. Tournament officials said Daly did no wrong, since the fan had brought the camera into the event illegally.

- Adam Scott, who broke a finger on a car door earlier this year, can't seem to stay healthy. He recently dislocated his kneecap in a surfing accident. His return date is uncertain at this time.

- Have a great holiday season. We'll see you in 2009.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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