Rating the Greatest on the LPGA Tour? Look at Jutanugarn Long-Term
Gone are the good old days when we could sit down on a Thursday and follow our chosen star through the weekend with confidence. If we chose that star based on his or her dominance of the actual game, and not some based on some aspect of personality or hype, the results were bound to be good a fair share of the time. On the PGA Tour, it’s an unreliable theory that if we attach our attentions to one player through whom we can live our golf lives vicariously, we’ll usually win. However, on the LPGA, it’s even worse. We can’t even be sure that our hero will be around on Sunday. On the available banquet of LPGA tournaments scattered around the globe, the number of winners, along with their backgrounds and professional experience, has spread out. No one is cutting a swath through the tour these days – not Lydia, Lexi, or anyone else. How then, should we judge quality within a pool of quality? There’s always the money list, but that is somewhat urbane and boring. For the hands on game, I see a player’s “body of work” as the only reasonable alternative. And, if such a thing is to be of ultimate importance to us, we’ve found our champion in Ariye Jutanugarn.
In the LPGA, a superstar, like everyone else, must learn how to win. Once that is accomplished on a fairly regular basis, she must then learn how to internalize and integrate success into her daily psyche. Third, she begins the fight to remain at the top. Lexi’s victory at the CME, not to mention her check, was impressive, but Jutanugarn’s statement (not to mention her check as well) spoke of an entire year of excellence. She is only 22, and has won ten LPGA titles, including two majors. Also telling of her long-term body of work is that she is either winning or is on the verge of winning every award in the book available to a female golfer. Learning to win didn’t take Jutanugarn too long or much trouble, but like champions before her, she’s not a “tap dance in the spotlight” sort of person, and is only now handling the second phase.
The last time Jutanugarn held the number one Rolex spot, phase three was far from mastered. Immediately following her ascension, she promptly missed five cuts, four of them in majors. However, steps are being taken as she practices a mental view of the big picture as fervently as she practices chipping and putting. One or two items of the new attitude, after a U.S. Open in which he fought back to win, is what she calls “fighting to the end,” and simultaneously placing less concentration on the outcome. The outcome is utterly irrelevant until one has swung the club over 250 times, so why start with that as a goal?
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So many different chemical equations come into play in pursuit of public performance. One’s chemistry with one’s mental an emotion self is the central one along with the swing itself. Beyond that, peripheral relationships spring up between the player and the field, the industry, the publicity, and even convincing the self that one has the right to stand on the top pedestal, even if she’s already there with the check in the bank. I have heard it suggested by mentors who deal with these things every day and with every student, that concentration and belief should go from the microscopic to the epic. In terms of viewing one’s chances over the next four days, go from the individual shot, to hole, round, and week, instead of the other way around. Staying with just the shot and immediate strategy for the next one, saves a lot of scattered thinking on goals ten steps down the process. Emotionally over-reacting to immediate success or failure can produce more of the same, and the human in all of us needs to be tamed. We might as well, since all of life is filled with such ups and downss, and we must all decide how large our emotional roller coaster is to be. It seems to me that such an arena is becoming Jutanugarn’s final triumph in the various phases of success. If she keeps going like this, maybe going back to the spectator’s life of having a “chosen star” will work like it used to.