Martin Vousden on Ladies

Thought for the Day
People are more what they hide than what they show

The wimmin are doing good
At least a decade or so ago writers like me would often advise: If you really want to learn from Tour pros how to improve your game, don’t go to a men’s event but watch the women instead. The logic was twofold. First, the best men in the world play at a stratified level that we handicap hackers could never hope to replicate. It would be like visiting an exhibition by Manet or Degas and then trying to paint a masterpiece of our own. The most important thing to study at a men’s event, we argued, was the rhythm and timing of a smooth swinger like Ernie Els or Colin Montgomerie. As for the rest – forget it Buster, only in your dreams.

The women, in contrast, demonstrated pretty much the same clubhead speed as a reasonable male handicap golfer. They concentrated far more on hitting the ball straight because, unlike their counterparts on the US or European Tours, they didn’t have the strength to slash the ball out of a thick buried lie and still get it on or near the green. And then came putting. I once pondered as to why the best women in the world still could not match their male counterparts on the greens because there was no physiological reason why they should not; it was always a bit of a mystery.

usa solheim team

Watching the Solheim Cup, however, was further proof of just how much the women’s pro game has improved over the last decade or so. Golfers from both sides of the pond were hitting it both straight and long, recovering from any manner of hopeless positions and getting it close from just about anywhere on the course. And when it came to putting, the Americans at least, were as good as anyone – seemingly able to hole it from any part of the green almost at will. And that’s where this Solheim Cup was won and lost; the Americans putted better than we did.

Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, when Team USA so routinely trashed us in the Ryder Cup that the result was almost always a foregone conclusion, it was inevitably put down to their superiority on the greens, especially when they played at home. We reasoned that because the United States is such a vast country, it is possible for American players to tee it up somewhere with a good climate and a perfectly presented course, no matter the time of year. I think we’re now seeing the same phenomenon in the women’s game.

The LPGA Tour stages 34 events this year, starting in the Bahamas in January, visiting equable climate States such as California, Texas and Florida before climaxing in the Far East with tournaments in places like South Korea, China and Japan, with one final stop in Florida in November.

The Ladies European Tour, in contrast, has 15 events in the season, six of which are staged on European soil. Between the conclusion of the Solheim Cup and the end of the year, players on the LPGA Tour will compete in 12 tournaments for a total prize fund of $22,700,000. The LET golfers will share the spoils from eight events, the prize money for which, converted at today’s rate of exchange from Euro to dollars, amounts to $7,230,000, less than a third of the American Tour total. It is little wonder that the best players in the world gravitate to the States when they can, that the world rankings gulf between Team USA and Team Europe during the Solheim Cup was so vast, and that the Yanks putted us off the golf course.

The surprise is not that America won with conspicuous ease but that the margin of victory wasn’t greater than the final 16.5 – 11.5 total of points. Women’s golf has developed hugely in the last 10 years but in order for our women to compete on equal terms with the Americans they must have the same competitive opportunities, or at least, not face such an enormous disparity.

All change?
Just before the Open, Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said that the BBC’s golf coverage had become ‘tired and outdated.’ This was in response to the news that the Beeb has acquired unique rights to next year’s US PGA Championship, so Slumbers was asked if he regretted allowing Sky to become host broadcaster for The Open. Now we learn that BT is making a strong bid for next year’s Masters, with suggestions that negotiations between Sky and Augusta National have stalled. Sky recently revamped its sports coverage, offering dedicated channels to football, cricket and golf, so it will be desperate to hang on to as many majors as possible but its hegemony has now gone, and its position as lead broadcaster of golf, at least of the majors, could also be threatened.

Confucius is supposed the have said: ‘May you never live in interesting times’ (although a Chinese origin has never been identified) and Sky must be cursing the interesting times in which we now live – where broadcasting rights for sports now seem to be up for grabs again.

Quote of the Week
My ball retriever is not long enough to get my putter out of the tree
Brian Weis

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