I submit that the LPGA Tour is more interesting to watch than the PGA or the European Tour. Simply said, its players play more like us mortals, while still playing at a professional level. What I mean by that is their driving distances are more like ours, and their driving accuracy is more like we want ours to be. Their approach shots are more than the usual wedges of the men’s tours, and have less backspin than the men’s tour. When was the last time you backed up an approach shot? Right. Just about never. When was last time you hit the ball 300? Uh huh. On the LPGA, the average is between 230 and 250, still longer than most of us but closer. And their accuracy is impeccable. From 150 yards the women average about 35 feet in proximity to the pin. I don’t know about you, but that’s doable for me. And what really stands out is their chipping, pitching, and putting skills. These ladies are good around the green, where rounds for us get derailed. Their putts often have significant breaks just like the ones we often play on; whereas the shorter ones often seem pretty straight and perfect on the men’s. I often see the men missing breaking putts by a mile while the women have and had some of the best green readers on the planet, such as Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, Sei Re Park, Annika, Christie Kerr, etc. etc.
I can watch the women’s tour all day long and not get bored. With the men I begin to lose track as to who’s who. All these young guys coming out of the Korn Ferry Tour and the college ranks have that homogenized look to them, and they play about the same way: Drive the ball as far as you possibly can–Bryson style– in whatever direction, past the last trees and fairway bunkers, then gouge a wedge to as close to the pin as possible, then pop in the relatively straight putt for birdie. Too cynical? Perhaps. But look for yourself. Then close your eyes for a moment, open them, and see if you can tell one player from the next. Right. You might as well put robots out there. It’s all the bloody same. Sure, there are those with some personality like Harold Varner, Harry Higgs, Johnnie Vegas, along with many of the guys on the Champions Tour, but diversity is hard to come by on the men’s and college tours (an issue that irks me tremendously, but I’ll leave that for another post).
The other thing that impresses me with the LPGA are the pre and post round interviews. They’re honest and forthcoming. Even those with halting English manage to express themselves like real human beings, and not the canned speeches of many of the men, like, “Well, I’m just out here to have fun;” or “I just take it one shot at a time;” or “I missed a few putts, otherwise, I had a good round.” Crap like that.
Instead, let’s listen to Danielle Kang, one of my favorites, during a post round interview explaining how she gained 20-30 yards off the tee after one phone call. This from a Golf.com report:
“’Well, one, I finally reached a par-5 in two,” she said. “I haven’t done that in a long time, so I was excited.’
All it took was a call. She picked up distance by picking up the phone.
While Kang isn’t the longest player on the LPGA Tour, she also isn’t the shortest — an average of 252 yards per drive will have you putting for at least a few eagles. Only, she said ahead of the event, she was driving it, at best, 230 for the past couple of months and was resigned to being ‘pretty far back now.’
‘I’ve lost weight, muscle weight,” she said Wednesday. ‘I’ve been trying to put on muscle mass, but I haven’t been able to. I’ve been on the road for nine weeks, and in between, gone to my best friend’s wedding. Hasn’t been bad, just haven’t had time, yet do have time, and yet it’s just not doing it.
‘But my 3-wood is only going five yards farther than my driver, so we even thought of, let’s just hit a 3-wood off the tee just to make myself feel better. But just has to figure out spin rate and the way I’m contacting, even if it’s — whether it’s the equipment — Titleist has been so helpful in trying to figure out why I’m hitting it the way I do.
‘I don’t really think it’s the equipment. It’s me mostly for me, so I think that’s going to take time to pan out and why.’
It took two days. While it may not have been the gear, an equipment change was also the answer.
After Friday’s second round, Kang said she had been on the phone with Titleist tour rep JJ Van Wezenbeeck, he sent over a lower-lofted driver head, and she put it in play.
And Kang was hitting it like Kang again.
‘He just sent me a driver head that is a loft lower that we think would help it run,” she said. “So today I hit it probably 20, 30 yards further than I have been for the last two months, so I — it was easier. I wasn’t hitting hybrids into greens.'”
I’ve never heard a PGA player be so explicit. I can hear one now: “Well, I changed drivers. Guess that was it.”
With LPGA players, you get more details about how to play this daunting game. Nelly Korda is another one who let’s you know what’s really happening with her game, physically and mentally. I really appreciate that.
So at least give the LPGA equal time. Believe me, it’s at least as entertaining, often more exciting, and will help you with your own game like the bombers and gougers of the men’s tours cannot and will not do.
Now I understand there are unnamed jerks out there who have a prejudice against the LPGA because of the prevalence and skill of its Asian and even Asian American golfers. Well, a golfer is a golfer is a golfer no matter what color, gender, or national origin. If you are such a person, I say, give it up, let it go, and just let golf be golf and people be people. I’m a believer in the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
RIP Lee Elder, a four time winner on the PGA Tour. This pioneer who inspired Tiger Woods, was the First African American to play in the Masters in 1975. He was 87 years old.
And in a continuing act of shameless self-promotion, please consider my new book, Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Considering the Game, for yourself as a gift to others you think might appreciate or benefit from it. Thank you.