Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vagaries of Golf Journalism

A few puzzlers for you all as we head into the pre-Masters frenzy that consistently overshadows the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Why is it that Jason Sobel knows how to write a great piece on the coming changing of the guard in the world of men's professional golf, as heralded by Rory McIlroy, Danny Lee, and Ryo Ishikawa, but nobody knows how to write about the exact same thing that's been happening on the LPGA over the last several years--except to whine about the lack of American dominance? Recent writing on the LPGA has felt like a bad flashback to the late '90s--anyone remember how golf journalists then were more anxious than excited at the fact that the international trio of Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, and Se Ri Pak was pushing a generation of great American stars down the leaderboard? Where's the journalist today to declare that the transnationalism of the LPGA's Young Guns and New Blood is something to be celebrated?

It stands to reason that Ron Sirak would be your man for the job. Why, then, didn't he save his column on the holes in the LPGA's schedule for next week and produce as good a preview of the competition then to come in the very strong field at the J Golf Phoenix International last week as good as his Kraft Nabisco Championship preview this one? (Although even in the recent one it would have been great to end with a look at the current contenders as searching as his look at the course and the ways past champions won on it. Is he worried about what Brent Kelley has recently noted--that the LPGA's 1st major has no clear favorite?) The irony here is that Jon Show, who's done as much as anyone to document the LPGA's financial crisis, came out with the most optimistic article in recent memory on the LPGA's prospects the very same week Sirak decided to write on the schedule rather than the players in Phoenix.

Look, Sirak is a talented writer, as his profile of twin sisters Aree and Naree Song shows. But when is he going to get comfortable with the fact that he can't just replicate his success with Annika Sorenstam today with Michelle Wie? With the rise of Ji-Yai Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, Seon Hwa Lee, and Angela Park, joined by another couple of dozen international golfers international players who are capable of winning any given week (and, yes, naturalized U.S. citizen Park is joined by Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang, Jane Park, Vicky Hurst, and, yes, Wie, to name a few Americans who have already excelled in this cohort), golf journalists who focus on the LPGA have to get a handle on more players and story lines than just the stuff that flies on the PGA: the awesomeness of Tiger's awesome awesomeness and the follow-the-will'o'wisp search for a legitimate rival for him. This is most definitely the Ochoa Era on the LPGA, but the PGA's future is the LPGA's present: that changing of the guard that Sobel wrote about coming in the next 10 years there is happening here right now. When will Sirak write about that?

Speaking of present and future PGA revolutionaries, I want to give credit to Jaime Diaz and Max Adler for writing fantastic profiles of Tiger's mom Tida (in the great Steve Elling tradition) and Danny Lee, respectively. Don't get me wrong, Corina Knoll got some great tidbits in her idiot's guide to identifying some of the top players of Korean descent on the LPGA (outdoing Matt Cooper's fine survey), but wouldn't it be nice for some of them to get the long-form treatment? Until then, we'll just have to endure more great American hope stories, I guess.

[Update 1 (4/3/09, 12:34 am): Hey, is Randall Mell a MH reader? Probably not, but nice job on the Ochoa-Shin pairing and its larger significance, Randall!]

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