While Wind Blows at Christchurch, Brooke Henderson Blows by the Field
The normal news out of the LPGA this week is that the McKayson New Zealand Open came and went, and can be put into the books as a successful event. True, the whole thing almost blew away in the process, but that’s not the fault of mere mortals who play the game, but don’t set the natural conditions. Still, the LPGA has caused some displeasure with some recent snap decisions caused by Mother Nature.Some were put out that last week’s Evian, a major, was cut short to 54 holes. This week, they tried to compensate by extending the McKayson New Zealand Open to 72 holes, come what may – doom, defeat, or despair…flood, fire, or famine.
I remember a time when I thought that playing in the wind just added to the fun. If I could hit a great shot, or even better, score a great hole or round in the middle of near-hurricane conditions, the gratification needle shot to the extreme on the dial. However, I don’t recall being hit by flying signs, limbs, or small animals. Unfortunately, Belen Mozo nearly got clobbered, and as an intelligent being, began to wonder why they were all out there at the insistence of their tour officials. Those officials cited a shift in weather that surprised them with an unforeseen squall raging across the course. However, as objects large enough to hurt flew by, players might have calculated the distance to the nearest shelter. Instead, Mozo and the others were instructed to ‘hold their ground.’ Don’t move, stay where you are. That was the directive. Apparently, Brooke Henderson held her ground better than most, continuing to just roll in one par putt after another. She didn’t need to shoot a 63, just keep her feet on the ground, stay in the course and putt pretty well.
The western world has produced so many beautiful things, the game of golf for one. Unfortunately, everything that brings commercial rewards pits currency against the human condition. The women standing out in the wind and rain holding golf clubs were defending the TV coverage industry, sponsors of the tournaments, ticket-buyers, and a lot of other supportive staffs and services. Whatever happened to a golfer having the option of suspending play when lightning is sighted? Shouldn’t it work a little bit the same way when the course looks like the Wizard of Oz? Surprising weather or not, an orderly escape is better than ‘holding your ground’ when conditions get ridiculous. As the players struggled, we didn’t hear much from Brooke Henderson, who probably looked up, gauged the next gust, and putted in accordance. It’s more of a ‘win the tournament approach’ than it is ‘survive the tournament.’
A second windstorm hit the Twitter waves after everyone got in out of the torrent. Brittany Lincicome went straight to the point, referring to the day as a “freaking joke.” Paula Creamer used a slightly more soft-edged approach by asking the obvious – “Why are these girls out there in these conditions?” Danielle Kang focused more on fans being slapped around by umbrellas. Brooke Henderson, however, tightened her hat down a little harder, and rolled in another par putt. By winning the McKayson, it was to be Brooke’s first win outside of the U.S. Her secret weapon against the forces of nature was, according to the winner, her sister and caddie, Brittany. It seems as though she has a knack for finessing shots in extreme weather.
I’m fond of the LPGA Tour, not only because of the field, but because of the leadership. The well-being of its players seems to be more valued than in many corporate ventures. However, this week, that image took a little nick. Belen is right, she’s not a sheep, and neither is anyone else. If an instinctual sense of self-preservation tells you to get off that course, you’re in the right to just go. Fair warning though, Brooke Henderson might stay behind and keep rolling them in.