Sakura Yokomine LPGA Rookie
Comparisons to John Daly Good?
Itâ€™s fun to see new faces on the LPGA Tour, but when I learn about one who has been there a while, I feel as if I havenâ€™t done my homework â€“ it wouldnâ€™t be the first time. When I saw Sakura Yokomine, however, it was in a rather unusual context. Her swing was being compared to John Daly, man-mountain of the PGA, and former major winner. Wait a minute. I canâ€™t think of very many men I would compare to John Daly and his â€œshoot for the moonâ€ swing. How does this LPGA pro from Japan have anything to do with John Daly?
They were right, at least in the shape and spirit of the golf swing on the tee, but little else matched up. Yokomine, who turned pro in 2004, stands around five feet and seven inches, and weighs in at around 112 pounds. John Daly is a little taller and about three times the weight. Still, the side-by-side videos made it almost look as if Yokomine had done an in-depth analysis of the slammer from the Memphis Country Club.
Then I looked at it in very slow motion, so slow that it drove me crazy trying to stay with it. Every part of the swing reveals itself at that speed, but most eye-catching is when the club passes the spot where most of us stop, and keeps descending over the shoulder until it almost touches the ground. It reminded me of wind-up rubber band airplane models we had as kids. If you kept winding and winding the rubber band, it would either break, or youâ€™d get one heck of a good flight out of it. Watching Yokomino wind herself up like one of those rubber bands both hurt and impressed. I figured the only reason she could do it is because sheâ€™s tall and weighs only 112 â€“ but then thereâ€™s Daly doing the same thing, so that theory is toast.
The rationale behind the exaggerated swing is obvious â€“ distance, but where is the tipping point between distance and accuracy? If Daly keeps it straight, he can have wedges while some opponents are hitting 5-irons. He can also find trouble no one else has ever found. In Yokomineâ€™s case, she doesnâ€™t appear to be chasing the long drive championship of the LPGA. She wants those few extra few yards, some version of the same ideal Daly has chased â€“ maybe wedges versus 8-irons.
Iâ€™ve been out there, and watched the 5â€™2â€ players hit a faithful 240 on every single hole, one looking just like the others. Likewise, Iâ€™ve been in the gallery where Michelle Wie made natural use of her height and weight to get distance and a reasonable rate of accuracy. I wonder if Yokomine shouldnâ€™t do an in-depth analysis of Wieâ€™s swing instead. She is physically suited for it, and as far as I can tell, no one in the history of any tours has led the accuracy rating by taking the club back to yesterday. Often, they end up amazing their fans, or not seeing them for a lengthy interval as they plunge into the jungle. The out-of bounds penalty cuts the distance in half anyway, in effect. Couldnâ€™t Yokomine get the best of both worlds by using her natural condition in an aggressive but rationale way?
Yokomine has won an awful lot of tournaments in Japan, and some elsewhere, but on the major tours, sheâ€™s missed a ton of cuts, and until recently, hasn’t won much money on the LPGA circuit. This year, sheâ€™s doing better at 96,000, but thatâ€™s not a lot for such a big swing. Maybe it works regionally, but she might want to rethink her strategy.
I remember the first time I went to the East coast for professional purposes, and scribbled in my journal upon arrival â€“ â€œI came East to set the world on fire, and learned that it already was.â€ Sakura Yokomine might have to fess up to the same reality, and work on keeping it in the fairway instead of wedges versus 5-irons.