Sei Young Kim Playing NASA-style golf at Thornberry Creek
So what’s going on with the professional end of the golf industry these days? People my age have watched these tournaments for most of their lives. Generally, there is at least a modicum of suspense for the final day, and most often something even better than that, such as with the Women’s LPGA last week. Still, more often than I can ever remember it, someone shows up on the last day who hasn’t read the script, and doesn’t know how the thing is supposed to go. As I eagerly anticipate heralding the arrival of a new face among the elite players, suddenly there is either someone I didn’t expect or an established star getting their scorecard struck by lightning. So, I suppose the real question should be, “What’s going on with Sei Young Kim? I had to check the leaderboard at Thornberry Creek for a typo. She is 25 under par through three days and a couple of holes. That is an average of around 8 under per day, a daily score of 64, or thereabouts. That’s not what I thought was going to happen. I was ready to begin writing an article on Brittany Marchand as the second face of the Canadian power team along with Brooke Henderson. I was charmed, as I usually am, by reflections of a good home life spent around nature, and a peaceful relationship with the game of golf. Orangeville, Ontario seemed the perfect location for such a profile – but then along came Kim and ruined my Canadian portrait.
It all started with the men last week, when Francesco Molinari did the same thing. Someone from the leading bunch was to supposed to win that event, but Molinari blew away the field and the scorecard. Like Kim, he played a sort of golf that appeared to be designed and operated by NASA. It didn’t look fully human. It won’t always be Kim who does this sort of thing, although she has won five times on the Korean LPGA, and six times on the LPGA Tour. Lightning never lets us know where it will strike next. It might be Brooke, Brittany, or Lydia next time. It might be a star, or it might be a newcomer. I still have to ask why it is happening at all. Even in the playoff from last week’s duel between Park and Ryu, they got there by shooting the lights out, pulling off impossible chips from crocodile country, and putting like the hole had been enlarged.
After the outcry at Shinnecock a week or so ago, a national tournament in which hardly anyone beat par, I’m starting to think that a little scorecard sobriety may not be a bad thing. If Thornberry Creek can’t defend itself against the likes of a 64 average, maybe it has to beef up – play a little longer, institute a pin placement that’s a little nastier, or…or something! They might have to stock the course with grizzly bears. In beating this beautiful course to a pulp, Kim has matched Annika Sorenstam’s scoring record, leading by 8 strokes into the final front nine. If she duplicates the first three days, she will go to minus 32. That’s well on its way to birdie becoming the new par. I don’t know if I can handle that. I’m still having enough trouble with the old par.
It isn’t as if large stroke leads and wins are a new thing. I was present for Tiger’s early years, and we saw our share of routs in those days. Jack had a run of that, too, but it’s been a while, and in those days, one person was doing most of the damage to a discouraged field. Now, multiple people are doing it, and playing for second isn’t a lot of fun when you come in at 13 or 14 under, and feeling like you should be a winner with that score.
Maybe we should forget the drug testing for a while, and check players like Francesco and Kim for wires, circuitry and surgically implanted super computers. NASA may be tired of hitting planets far away with perfect accuracy, and has turned to golf.