Monday, July 12, 2010

What does Paula Creamer's victory mean? Not as much as I would like it to.

Yesterday, Paula Creamer finally transcended her status as one of the "best players to never win a major" by winning the US Open. If the TV commentators were correct, US players have now won ten of the last 41 majors, which comes out to a "batting average" of .244. Creamer's victory is seen by many as a Godsend for the tour right now, but the tour is still struggling. Until more US players can step up, the LPGA Tour will continue to struggle.

To be blunt, the LPGA's number one problem is the "Korean invasion." This is, after all, the US tour, and it is bad for the game in this country when US players can't win at least fifty percent of the events on their own tour. Ironically enough, two of the most charismatic US players who could become among the most iconic on the tour with a few wins have Asian blood: Michelle Wie and Christina Kim. So, it's not a matter of race, but a matter of players who speak English playing under the US flag.

Fair or not, as long as the leaderboard is dominated by people from another country, who don't speak the language and don't really try to promote the tour here, the LPGA will continue to struggle. Thanks to the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I think the tour trying to schedule some Asian dates is a great idea. It can help the tour stay solvent awhile longer.

On a side note, when I put on my tinfoil hat, I can't help but wonder if there is a connection between the negotiations for Asian dates for the LPGA tour next season, the dearth of Asian names on the leaderboard after the third round, the softening/shortening of the course for Sunday's final round, and the subsequent subpar rounds on Sunday by a few Korean players. It may be coincidence, but I will give it three tinfoil hats out of five on my unofficial rating scale.

When the tinfoil hat comes back off, though, it seems to come down to an obvious but apparently taboo observation: the American LPGA players need to work as hard as Korean players do. Because, once you get around the cosmetic factors of a different language and a different facial structure, race doesn't matter, nor has it ever mattered. We're all equal on the inside and always have been.

The only difference between successful players and those who don't succeed is the amount of work they do on a daily basis. Koreans, as a culture, have apparently tapped into something Americans used to think they had copyrighted: work hard and succeed in the "Land of Opportunity." Sadly, Americans seem to take their "opportunity" for granted now, settling for a comfortable lifestyle, while those from other countries still percieve the US as the "Land of Opportunity."

Too many golfers nowadays remind me of a very famous golfer on the men's tour whose name I won't mention. He has won quite a few tournaments, a major or two, and had a couple of very good years. But he is seen as never having reached his potential. Those who know him from his hometown say that he prefers to practice one or two hours a day and make a very nice chunk of change on the tour. He is capable of winning majors and being in the top two or three in the world if he practices eight hours a day, but he would rather "have a life." In other words, he doesn't want to pay the price for the increment of improvement it takes to win majors and dominate the tour when he can make a great living having fun.

Sadly for the LPGA tour, it looks as though players in one country want to pay that price and players in most others don't. Until US players, starting on the junior level, work as hard as Korean players do, the leaderboards will continue to read like a Korean telephone book, with a few Japanese, European, and American names sprinkled in from time to time.

Sadly, though, for every Paula Creamer, Christie Kerr, or players with their work ethic, there are ten Americans out there who are failing to reach their full potential as players because they are being outworked. I guess it all comes down to this: Americans can bitch about the "Korean Invasion" all they want, but it is ultimately their fault for allowing themselves to be outworked.

In my next post, I will propose a solution for the US to help "us" get back on top.

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