Unfair comparisons between men's and Women's US Open
Women’s professional golf is on a roll at the moment. For the first time since the early part of this century Americans are leading the way in the world rankings.
These aren’t just any Americans, they are players who could dominate women’s golf for the foreseeable future, who have huge appeal to the golfing world – Michelle Wie is challenging for Majors and, this is the really exciting bit, has become a consistent player.
Then we have Lexi Thompson who has recently become Major champion and is racing up the world rankings and, of course, Stacy Lewis, in the top three in the world rankings for nearly four years and the most consistent player on the LPGA Tour.
If this isn’t enough, New Zealand teenager, Lydia Ko, is threatening to spoil the American’s party and how can we forget England’s own Charley Hull, not to mention Inbee Park and the Koreans!
So why do I have an uneasy feeling about the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. This year for the first time in its history the championship will be played on the same course as the men’s U.S.Open – over the week following the men’s Championship.
My overriding concern is that for fans and commentators who don’t understand that we are not equal to the men physically and never will be in terms of the strength in depth that our respective Tours have, when the inevitable comparisons are made, we will appear to be second best.
Yes, the course will have a yardage difference of around 800 yards which to a large extent will mean that the longer hitters will be going into the greens with similar clubs to the men, but although I hate to admit it, contrary to what many people believe, the women’s short games are inferior to the men’s and that, plus the pure physical strength of the men in being able to hit out of the rough and waste bunkers, will make a massive difference.
Strange as it may sound, strength is a factor I have had many debates with golfers and teaching professionals as to why our short games aren’t as good and have come to believe that it is for a number of reasons. Strange as it may sound, strength is a factor. If you can produce more clubhead speed then you are using less power to play a particular shot so are more in control.
In general the technique of the women’s short games is inferior to the men’s. I haven’t really got an explanation as to why this is, but Tim Barter, one of the top British coaches, has come in from walking around with the players in practice rounds at the Solheim Cup almost pulling his hair out with concern that some of the Europeans do not have the technique to successfully execute shots out of thick rough off the edges of the greens.
The final contributing factor in my opinion is the difference in our mental make-up. Men are naturally more aggressive than women. You very seldom see male professionals leave makeable putts short of the hole, but you often see the women do so.
The other factor is the volume of men playing the game compared to women. This leads to far greater strength in depth the world over. Ultimately there is more money on the men’s Tours and many more men trying to win it. Competition improves standards, and whilst I and my colleagues within the golfing media are excited about what’s happening at the highest level of women’s golf, as you go down the rankings, the disparity in performance between women and men becomes evident. Two obvious examples are the variance of what the leading money winners on their respective Tours have earned.
Stacy Lewis currently has won $833.976 whilst her counterpart Bubba Watson has won $4,533,000. The other very telling statistic is that although Stacy and Matt Kuchar who top the scoring average are virtually the same on 69.47 and 69.49 respectively, as you go down the rankings, the 50th position on the men’s Tour, Erik Compton has an average of 70.64, whereas the 50th placed player on the LPGA Tour average is 72.25.
The disparity becomes even greater as you go down the rankings. Whilst I feel that the winning scores at the women’s and men’s US Opens won’t be too dissimilar, I feel that comparisons in the results as you go down the final scores will inevitably be very different.