You know that someone’s a player when they go out in 30 mile per hour wind gusts and don’t blow up. That’s because the only way you can do that is by hitting the ball flush on each shot. Just the slightest little off center hit or cut across the ball gets magnified by the incessant nature of big wind.
That’s what happened in the third round of the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Only it wasn’t the player everybody thought it was going to be.
Sweden’s, Karin Sjodin managed to shoot 4-under 68 Saturday to climb into a tie for the lead with Taiwan’s, Yani Tseng who shot 1-under. “I think playing in wind is more about just trusting the decision you made and hit it as solid as you can because the solid shots don’t move too much at least,” Sjodin said.
Sjodin is an interesting character. I first became aware of her at last year’s Founders Cup in Phoenix. I was strolling the range looking for something exceptional when I came across this young woman who was pounding the ball. By that I mean flying the ball way past where others’ balls were stopping. Ball after ball and she seemed very much in control of her swing. But her long driving ways were also a problem:
I think in college and amateur golf I lived off of my long drives. I never really realized what my weaknesses were because I could just bomb it up there and had such an advantage because of that. And coming out here all of a sudden there are a lot of people that hit it further.
It took me a while to first realize what I really needed to work on and I guess how to work on those things, to get a plan on how to work on putting when I’d never really dealt with it in the past and things like that. And I think now in every part of the game I know what I want to do and how to work on it, so that helps.
Very interesting that she had to amplify her strength to discover her weaknesses. Because she never knew she had to deal with them, she didn’t understand what it took to be a complete player. In college you can get away with that, but by the time you get to the professional level, everybody can play. Some better than others and some still working on their weaknesses, but they can play. And make no mistake, the gap between the average college player and the average LPGA Tour player sends many a coed off to pursue “life after golf.”
Sjodin has never won in seven years on Tour, but Sunday she definitely has a chance. In one of the on-the-fly post round interviews she did, she was asked how the wind affected her and she said, “Not very much. After the first couple of holes I noticed that the wind wasn’t affecting my ball.” So she just played. “You aim towards the direction the wind is coming from and see the ball fly.”
So she’s going to be very interesting to watch because she’ll be paired with Yani Tseng and Haeji Kang, who also had a solid round shooting even par. Kang is another under-the-radar player with less of a chance than Sjodin, but that could just free her up to go for it and become a factor.
But the reason to show up or tune in is World No. 1, Tseng. She shot 1-under in that wind without her best stuff. That’s what a player does.
So I mean I just hit lots of good shots today, but on the back 9 I think my emotions and I think I kind of little thinking too much, wasn’t trusting as much as I do on the front nine. On the Back 9 I kind of tried too hard to play better, and some of the shots just didn’t come in, and didn’t have a good communication with my caddie and just hitting some terrible shots out there, but I hung in there. I just tried to smile more and lots of fans out there and just really happy and thanks for coming to supporting us to give us the big crowd.
I’m happy that it happened today instead of tomorrow, so I know I’m learning.
Probably the best attribute to have in playing in severe wind is enjoying the challenge of it.
I like to play in the wind. I think it’s more fun and more challenge. You just need to be patient out there.
We’re hitting a lot of shots in 20 yards wind, 30 yards wind. So it’s kind of fun out there. That’s why golf is really challenge.
And where that attitude comes from is from experience.
I grew up in Taiwan. I mean Taiwan is a little island. It’s always very windy. I think all the players have that experience that played very windy, cold in Taiwan. So I think that’s why I’m pretty good with the wind player.
And when I’m in Florida I work on hitting the low shots and hitting kind of different shots. I think that’s why. And I love to play [in the wind]. I think I just need to be more positive to think in this wind.
So there you have it. The favorite is the favorite because she seems to be best equipped to deal with the same kind of winds on Sunday and she’s on a terrific run of winning tournaments.
And if she pulls this off, she will have won her sixth major…a full three years before Tiger Woods won his.
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