By Vince Robitaille
Let’s get it out of the way up front — Yani Tseng went wire to wire at the Kia Classic to go three straight on the LPGA Tour. Now, the fourth round being a mere formality – a painstakingly uneventful walk in the park – we shall revert back to the third round in order to explore the interest feats of the past week in women’s golf.
Saturday resonated as the crossroads between old and new, between the past and the future, between the trailblazer and her heiress. Granted, it wasn’t quite the 1960 U.S. Open which found itself to be the junction of, arguably, three of the five greatest careers of the previous century’s first 80 years — Ben Hogan’s last stand, the first push of Jack Nicklaus as a 20-year-old amateur and the coronation of the one commonly referred to as The King, all coinciding on the grounds of the Cherry Hills Country Club. But to have the golfer who rung the charge of the Asian golfing invasion in the 1990s, in a final pairing with the current World No.1. did have us reminiscing. To say that Se Ri Pak stood the mildest of chance would be overblowing what was, in fact, a flash of the consistent golf a semi-retired player used to, several years ago, help herself become the youngest Hall of Fame inductee. That being said, stating that the LPGA would be completely different, at this point and time, without the 25-time winner, wouldn’t seem like much of an hyperbole.
Before Pak, an Asian, let alone a Korean golfer was somewhat of a rarity on the American Tour and most of what would soon become the World’s elite simply stayed home to be a part of the J & K Tours. Of course, politico-administrative policies played a big role in the previous fact, and still do – see the three years of service on the K Tour requirement for golfers wanting to pack up their buckets and head out West. However, with that in mind, Pak still assumed her role as pioneer of golf’s globalization and proved to all that the game was changing, never to be the same again. One could point out that her elective counterpart on the men’s side, namely Ryo Ishikawa, as yet to do the same. Perhaps, is this the reason why Tim Finchem still thinks that the PGA Tour is The Only Tour out there and refuses to take the worldwide expansion of our sport in consideration in his decision-making process, see my foreseeable rant on the modification of Q-School in a future installment, but that’s another question.
The other notable facts of the Kia Classic’s moving day were the continuing putter struggles of Yani Tseng and, especially, Jiyai Shin, as well as the stupendous displays of ball striking and short game craftsmanship by Caroline Hedwall. The highlight of the latter undoubtedly was her upside-down, left-handed chip from an awkward lie on the lip of a greenside bunker on the par-3 12th; an imaginative shot that efficiently summarizes why we’ve already when out on a limb, in last week’s Kia Classic preview, and made her our early pick to win the Ricoh British Open. As for the former, while the chances of anyone but Tseng getting wet in, the now rock-free, Poppie’s Pond next Sunday, are slim to none, that slightest chance should be directly attributed to her recent putter woes. That being said, at this particular moment, all we can hope for is the feeblest of tensions come Sunday; the streak seeming on ne peut plus alive and well.