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Jul 15

U.S. Open-Not Many Americans

Asians Dominating Top of Leaderboard Going into Sunday at the U.S. Open

Three rounds are in for the Women’s U.S. Open. It’s been a watery affair on the Trump Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, but they’ve got every one in at last, all with scores to get dry before tomorrow. As an observer, I am taken back to the same host of questions I often get when one part of the world plays so well that the major tournament is dominated by one large region. At the end of three rounds,the seven top spots on the leaderboard are taken by golfers from China, Korea, and Japan. It could be worse for the western hemisphere. The great Thai golfers had an off week, and won’t be contenders (or playing at all) on Sunday. At the top, as part of a multipe tie, are Shanshan Feng of China, and Korean Amy Yang. These and most of the other names atop the board are familiar to us, but a few are not. In a slightly magnified picture, Asians have taken 13 of the top 16 spots, occassionally running into a Spaniard, Canadian, or American down on the lower end. The U.S. Open is truly open, and truly an international event.

So, a thousand questions remain about why the great Asian players are so consistently present in or near the winner’s circle. We hear it all the time – the culture is geared for excellence. They have more discipline, etc. We see that in other disciplines as well. And yet, I have seen so many golfers from the western hemisphere and Europe who devote everything in their being to that same excellence. And, they very often have their day in the sun. They practice diligently, study from great teachers and coaches, go through arduous weeding out events to attain professional status. There must be some other reason. Our film culture has sensationalized the demanding training techniques from Russia and everything east or south of it. The Rocky movies show an American hero fighting a literal human machine. From the Soviet days, we remember stories of athletes brutalized into excellence, and I personally remember an amusing cartoon of a Soviet athlete successfully pole vaulting over the athletes’ prison wall. A lot of discipline, maybe, but I have my doubts about that picture of preparation for the Asian golfers. They are well adjusted and friendly and have no more bruises than anyone else. I can’t remember seeing any of them tremble in public at the thought of swinging a golf club.
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Yes, but they play under the pressure of the family. That’s another one we hear. If it’s true that western golfers play more for personal pressure and less for parental expectation, where’s the relief in that? Pride is pride, obligation is obligation, however we choose to undertake it. Still, in the tournaments I’ve watched, many Asian women go out and put it in precisely the same place time after time from the tee. I imagine swing development involving years of being strapped into gizmos with pullies, weights, and tracks preventing the swing from going anywhere but where you want it.  Another line of baloney I hear is that we in the west are distracted by our environment, with electronic gastronomic, and night life temptations. Anyone who’s been there can tell us exactly how much fun it is possible to have in Tokyo before heading to the driving range. No one who plays for the LPGA came out of a cave.

There is no conclusion to make, and I have little or no interest in finding one. The major countries of Asia are generally enthusiastic about producing great golfers, and even if China has an occasional crisis about what they see as golf’s elitist origins, they still came out with Shanshan Feng. Somebody over there is doing extremely good work. What does it all men for the U.S. Open? Nothing. The field was honestly assembled, everyone showed up to play their best, and a bunch of them are doing just that, especially Amy and Shanshan. As a golfing globalist, I couldn’t be happier about it. World competition is as good as it gets, and great golf does great things for all the great Opens, the U.S. Open being no exception.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.