If It’s Thursday…

…it must be Friday in Kuala Lumpur! 

Which comes as great news to the best of the LPGA’s players who flew half way around the world to get there for the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia tournament played this weekend at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Sime Darby Medical Centre is the title sponsor and the tournament benefits a local cancer research foundation. 

This was a very cleverly put together tournament. It invites the top 50 players in the world to compete in a no-cut field of 60 (that additionally includes sponsor’s exemptions for distinguished local and international players). If you’re going to fly that far, you don’t want the jet lag to put you back on a return flight before your body gets its bearings. 

They also made it financially rewarding for the players by putting together a large, $1.8 million purse for just 60 players rather than the normal low 70 and ties. This was good enough to get number 7 on the Rolex World Rankings, Michelle Wie, to leave her Stanford classes to make the trip. It didn’t hurt that her Asian heritage makes her very big in that part of the world. 

From a mastery point of view, all of this is interesting because some of the ladies were heard humming the lyrics from I Got Rhythm as they got off the plane. Circadian rhythm, of course, our 24-hour body clocks. But of more interest are the zeitgebers (I never knew they had a name)—light, temperature, social interaction, pharmacological manipulation and eating and drinking patterns—that help shift our body rhythm to where we find ourselves in the world. After light, I always thought that meals were the big one.

The people who are experts at this “shifting” are the pilots who flew the golfers into town. And the strategies seem to be a combination of a shower, a short power nap, followed by forcing yourself up to eat the appropriate meal at the appropriate time. It is a little easier for the players from a sharpness point of view because they will have been there for a few days for practice and pro-am rounds. 

But still, it’s very hard on the body. You find yourself way out in the fairway with a long shot to the green that’s all carry over water…and your body would rather be in bed sleeping. And the ability to quiet your mind so that you are in the moment—target, ball, club, body—is clouded by the sleep deprivation. 

Because there aren’t as many quality women players in the world compared to the men, the best are all concentrated on the LPGA Tour which has developed into a true international tour with twelve of its twenty-seven tournaments overseas and players from all over the world. Among the best known U.S. players this week are Christie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, Julie Inkster, Christina Kim and Brittany Lang. 

The women don’t play the power game of the men, but it’s the same game whose precision is no less demanding. It will be interesting to watch knowing what their bodies are going through. Everything looks so normal on the surface. Who can be clear minded in the clutch?

I suppose this is really no different than what we see from the men at the British Open each year, but many of them come in early because it’s a major (Tiger, famously, two weeks ahead of time). Even so, one of the enticements to play in the tournament right before the Open, the John Deere Classic, in the Quad Cities on the border of Iowa and Illinois, is that the tournament charters a plane to fly them all over Sunday night. Since they land as close to the tournament site as they can, it’s a huge benefit. It’s also an edge over players who took the week off and have to conventionally fumble their way through Heathrow.

Maybe it’s just that this tournament seems a little more exotic because it’s in Southeast Asia. Not to mention, of course, that it’s the ladies. Ladies who go through this twelve times a year.

The broadcast will be tape-delayed on the Golf Channel, Friday through Sunday at 12:00 to 2:00 PM (Eastern).

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