LPGA – Who Can Guess From Week to Week?
I’m not saying that any round of golf, or any established tour is predictable. It’s far too capricious a sport to predict, and it’s the last thing in the world on which I’d ever gamble. It would be too easy money for the house. That being said, however, even though one would be hard-pressed to name an eventual winner or order of the leaderboard for the PGA, there is a certain yawn factor, a likelihood that this guy, this guy, and that guy, will probably be in it somewhere. Granted, that’s still unpredictable, but compare that to the non-yawn factor over on the LPGA, which has been replaced by a totally unpredictable, “Whoa! Where did she come from?”
In all the years following the LPGA, I’ve thought I had the hierarchy nailed down in my mind, only to have it overturned instantly. I have declared specific players as the next great thing, only to see them disappear for lengthy periods of time. But hey, that’s not just good for the game, it’s great – and being somewhat unpredictable myself, I’ll just keep swinging at it until I get it right.
Last week at Manulife, Suzann Pettersen made her return to the winner’s circle. The last I heard of her, she was having severe back problems. But, here she is. It’s almost as if the greats of the Pettersen, Stacy Lewis genre play great golf, then wait a while to get recycled to the top. They’re never far away, just waiting for nature’s next biorhythm to catapult them back into the limelight. That biorhythm is as unpredictable as anything, but like earthquakes, you’ve got to figure after a while that they’re due.
Yani Tseng (slow shaking of heads, “oh, poor Yani Tseng”) is in that category. Attempts by the media to portray Tseng as going through a “Tiger” thing are blown way out of proportion. She’s even playing good golf most of the time, as she did last week at Manulife. Yani’s not broken, she’s just getting ready to be recycled like the rest of them.
Meanwhile, two exciting kids are making waves, Canada’s Brooke Henderson, and the UK’s Charley Hull, two of my absolutely favorite newcomers. You might notice that Brooke is leading the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship through 16 of the first round, at seven under. In a sense, that’s unpredictable, not that she would emerge sooner or later, but that she did it so fast, and almost every week that’s she’s played this year. With every 66 she turns in, and with every leaderboard she threatens, it’s a blow for early exemptions, denied in this case by Mr. Whan. Brooke’s making him eat crow every week. Charley was a wunderkind’s wunderkind, and her quality was not unpredictable. Beating far more veteran opponents as an amateur, sometimes by ridiculous scores and age differences, her presence could be easily predicted. When she’ll deliver a knock-out blow, though, unpredictable.
Then there’s the rest of the leaderboard, representing every age group and geographical area of the globe. China’s Sinin Feng is at minus 4. No, that’s not Shanshan – it’s Sinin. That merits a good old unpredictable “Whoa! Where did she come from?” The famous Aussie veteran, Karrie Webb, is in the thick of it, the Thai Moriya Jutanugarn (wait, isn’t there another one of those?) and a host of others. If Icher, Klatter, Nocera, Delacour, and Beljon suddenly started to score at the same time, it would herald a highly unpredictable golf empire for France and nations with French ancestry
The PGA is in a state of “Anything could happen, but this and that probably will.” The LPGA, however, is in a “Throw up your hands and say ‘how would I know?’” For me, that’s the best condition for a tour to be in.